A handy app for finding the best way forward when travelling on subways

Navigating through the maze of complex modern public transport networks can be quite a challenge. Travelers can easily choose the wrong direction and waste precious time, if not become lost among a labyrinth of platforms and stations.

HKSTP incubatee Pokeguide has made a name for itself with a mobile app to point the way for passengers. As more functions are continuously added, it is a vital app to have on mobile devices.

A design idea arising from personal needs

The app, also named Pokeguide, is the brainchild of brothers Brian and Andre Hui and a friend. They planned the app as a result of their own personal experience of rushing to meetings and struggling to find the right exit at multi-exit stations.

The app started with the single function of helping MTR passengers find the train car and door nearest to the exits so that users could take the shortest possible route from a station to their destination. Since then, the trio have been adding more functions, such as point-to-point directions and where to change trains, to meet a wider range of passengers’ needs.

Gathering station information

Brian says that in the process of designing the app, they had the developing team refine the routing engine, gather detailed station information such as how many exits there were, as well as map the human traffic flow. They had to collect open data, such as the exact arrival time of a train at a specific station, in order to ensure the app provided accurate and comprehensive information.

Advertising as the main income stream

At this stage, Pokeguide is covering most of the vital information about stations. Augmented Reality has been added to offer a virtual guide to help users find the quickest routes to their destinations.

Income is obviously important to sustain the business and the addition of rich features. Pokeguide makes money by selling in-app banner ads. Brian says that the advertising message is closely related to the location of a user. This explains why it has achieved enviable results of registering more than 1 million clicks in three and a half years, and it has a portfolio of more than 2,000 advertisers. In the future, they will explore more advertising formats, such as introducing promotions in the AR environment, in a way that users will find interesting rather than intrusive.

Moving forward to big cities around the world

Pokeguide has already ventured out of Hong Kong and landed in Taiwan. In late 2018, the Japan version was added. That version covered the railway stations of Tokyo and selected suburbs, extending to Tokyo Disneyland, Hakone and Mt Fuji. The AR function is available for the Tokyo urban area, so there will be no getting lost while navigating through complex stations such as Shinjuku and Tokyo. The company has Seoul and Paris in its sights. This is good news for travellers who wish to explore these big cities using their subways.

Brian says that the founding team wanted to create the best app to help users find their way around in cities and places they are not familiar with. They will continue to pursue this mission as the company carries on its research on routing engines, machine learning, natural language processing and image recognition to strengthen the performance of the app.

HKSTP offers family-like support

Since setting up at Science Park, the team has received a diverse range of support and mentorship in business management. They get to connect with the business development programmes of various organisations, as well as potential investors, and tap into the open data pool and media communication channels, according to Brian.

He thinks Science Park is like a big family, and he can feel the HKSTP team’s passion for innovation. He hopes that the collaboration with HKSTP will be stepped up, in the areas of human resources and funding, to strengthen the company’s business development, as it contributes to enhancing transportation service quality in Hong Kong’s smart city progress.

The founding team wants to make Pokeguide a one-of-a-kind public transport navigation guide. From right: Andre, Brian and fellow founder, Ian Fung.

The founding team wants to make Pokeguide a one-of-a-kind public transport navigation guide. From right: Andre, Brian and fellow founder, Ian Fung.

The AR function makes Pokeguide more effective as a guide app.

The AR function makes Pokeguide more effective as a guide app.

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