Predicting when a Unitrans bus is coming and looking up courses is now as easy as looking at your phone, thanks to students Sunny Dhillon and Fei Li, developers of UC Davis Mobile for the iPhone.
UC Davis Mobile is an iPhone application tailored specifically to the UC Davis campus. It offers a variety of useful features for students and staff including a campus map with GPS, a real time Unitrans bus schedule and the entire school directory, all for free.
“We know it’s been difficult for students with the tuition increases,” said Dhillon, a senior computer engineering major. “We didn’t feel right selling [the application] for even a dollar.”
The idea for the application began with a class. Engineering Computer Science 198H, “Introduction to iPhone Application Development.” The class first opened its doors last quarter with a waitlist longer than the class itself. It was in that class Dhillon had the idea to develop an application relevant for UCD.
“Li at first wanted to develop a game,” Dhillon said. “But I wanted to make something that was useful for the students.”
Launched on Jan. 14, the application has already been downloaded 2,000 times, with that number rising each day.
Many student organizations and staff members have commented about the individual applications of UC Davis Mobile.
“A lot of people are giving us really good feedback about the bus and directory mini applications,” said Li, a senior computer science major.
Development of the application itself took both students nearly three months to write code for the program, at a rate of 10 to 20 hours per week each.
In order to tie in all the features for the application, the students needed the raw data, such as classes and the directory from the campus.
“The campus didn’t want to dedicate any resources [to this project],” Dhillon said. “So we had to do it ourselves.”
Currently only operating on the first version, the two students plan on releasing an update to the application in the near future. This update will include textbook price comparisons from multiple bookstores, schedules and menus of campus dining venues, the UC Davis Office of the Registrar’s open course list and a live streaming of the student-run radio station KDVS 90.3 FM, according to UC Davis Mobile’s web site.
For those who do not have an iPhone, developers also plan on releasing an Android version of this application.
“It’s not as easy as flipping a switch [from the iPhone] to the Android. We have to rewrite the entire code base,” Dhillon said. “But, it should probably be out next quarter.”
The Android application will have the same features as the iPhone version but will include a background application. A background application is an Android-specific characteristic that allows people to be using a different application but still have another one open.
“For example, if a Unitrans bus is arriving and you’re in a different application, your phone will buzz to tell you that it is arriving,” Dhillon said. “That can’t be done with the iPhone right now.”
Andrew Yee, a junior communication and psychology double major, is one of the students who currently uses the application daily. UC Davis Mobile has made his life easier, especially in regards to Unitrans, he said.
“I think it’s a great application,” Yee said. “I don’t have to stand waiting for the bus – I know exactly when it’s arriving.”
NICK MARKWITH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.