A 20-YEAR-old Minnesota woman has come up with an innovative idea that would enable Irish public transport users to find out through their cell phone if their bus is running on schedule, the time of its arrival and the estimated time of drop off.

Tristin Hatch’s idea about being able to track buses via a cell phone using a smartcard has won her a prestigious award from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transportation in Ireland.

Hatch, a student of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Southern California, spent the past semester at the National University of Galway (NUI) in Ireland.

Hatch, who has no Irish roots, said she chose to continue her studies at NUI Galway because “I wanted to go to Europe, so it was between Galway in Ireland or England and I just decided to try Galway because I had already been to London.”

“I think study abroad is a great experience and did not want to miss out on the experience of living in a different country,” she said.

Hatch won the "Idea of the Year” award in the road category of an annual competition run by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transportation.

The challenge presented to the young American was to devise an object that would make a significant contribution to logistics and transportation in Ireland. After thinking long and hard about her project, Hatch came up with the idea of using smartcard technology to run a handheld bus-tracking device.

Hatch explains, “It would be a system where the user could either have it on their cellular phone or a separate device and it would track where the buses are using GPS.

“It would then tell you when your bus was going to arrive, whether it was on time or not, what your arrival time was factoring in traffic, the best route for you to take including bus companies and number, and so on.”

And that’s not all. “The device would also allow you to buy your ticket with your credit card, therefore helping the environment by eliminating the need for paper tickets,” she said.

Hatch explains that her idea is extremely possible. “All the technology for the device is available, this is just putting all the pieces together,” she said.

The Minnesota girl, who was entered into the competition by her professor, said, “I never thought I would have been one of the winners but I was very excited.”

Hatch, who had never been to Ireland before, described Galway “as an amazing city.”
“It is charming and quaint and had many aspects of more traditional Irish city,” she said.

While in Galway, Hatch not only received a great education, she said she also learned much about living with people different to her.

“The Irish, although speaking basically the same language, have a different culture and traditions. Living in a different country and traveling to many other countries opens your eyes to these differences and I hope that is something I can bring back with me to the United States,” she said.

Hatch also said she found “some mannerisms and traditions” different. And the play on words like “craic” (which means to have fun in Ireland) amused her.

Although Hatch thoroughly enjoyed her time in Ireland and would definitely be open to working there on a temporary basis, she said she could never live in Ireland because “it’s too rainy and cold.”

Hatch, who is now back in Minnesota for the summer and interning at Target headquarters in Minneapolis, looks forward to the day she gets to return to Ireland again.