How This Vancouver Company Makes Money by Telling You When the Next Bus is Coming

With record-setting adoption of QR Codes, users all across North America demonstrate growing willingness to receive advertisements, coupons and information on their phones. While QR Codes may be all the rage, text-to-short code campaigns, while traditionally popular among advertisers and marketers, are now increasingly seeing novel adaptations.

Although new startups are popping up all over the map to innovate in this space, 8-year old Upside Wireless Inc., a veteran in Canadian SMS messaging, appears to be having success in trying their hand at just such a novel implementation.

I had the opportunity to speak with Upside’s co-founder Branko Zurkovic recently and here is what he had to say about Upside’s new product TransitSMS.

TransitSMS is a text messaging and advertising platform created and supported by Upside Wireless that answers the question “When is my bus coming?” This innovative service connects the needs of participating transit authorities, commuters and local advertisers, providing real-time bus scheduling or location information to mobile phones.

Modern cities are increasingly promoting the use of public transportation to reduce traffic congestion, reduce use of carbon fuel and to increase quality of living for its citizens. One of the most common reasons for reluctance of citizens to switch from driving to using public transit is lack of scheduling information – most people would rather drive then wait at the bus stop, not knowing when the next bus will arrive.

TransitSMS eliminates this problem because relevant and timely information is always available to anyone with a cell phone. The person sends a text message with the bus stop number to a short code and in seconds receives schedule of next 6 bus arrivals at that location.

Upside Wireless’ service also includes an ad bidding platform that allows local merchants to include short text advertisements into the outgoing bus schedules. The bidding platform maximizes the value or advertiser (they only bid on the bus locations that are relevant to them and can bid different amounts based on day of week, hour of day and demographic of the phone user). Transit authorities maximize revenue they collect in this way as the highest bid always wins.

Transit SMS was first deployed in Vancouver in 2008 and quickly reached 20,000 bus scheduling requests per day. In Edmonton, Transit SMS was first offered in January of 2011 and by the end of the year served over 3 million bus scheduling request.