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Bear Essentials app provides data on campus traffic

By So Jung Ki

April 23, 2014 1:01 a.m.

Students who resent searching for empty seats in libraries and dining halls may not need to bother anymore.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council General Representative 2 office began promoting an iPhone app called Bear Essentials last week that monitors how crowded every UCLA library and dining hall is throughout the day.

Sunny Singh, USAC General Representative 2, said his office created the app in response to students’ need for a traffic tracking system. The app allows them to utilize campus facilities in a time-efficient way.

The traffic tracking feature of Bear Essentials operates on a self-input system that allows users to report the traffic in facilities on a five-point rating scale that ranges from empty to full. The more frequently students report on the facilities, the more up-to-date information the app will provide.

The app has received about 270 downloads since promotion began on April 14.

It provides lists of 17 study spaces and 14 printing locations, four of which offer free printing, including their hours, directions and contact information.

Heather Hourdequin, director of special projects in the USAC General Representative 2 office and a second-year psychology student, said she wanted to create a general version of GymFlow, an app that tracks current traffic in the John Wooden Center, as well as predicts future traffic throughout the rooms.

After discovering that the understaffed GymFlow team would not be able to provide programming support for Bear Essentials, Hourdequin’s team reached out to Bruin Mobile, a department of student media that creates and markets apps for free in exchange for advertising space within the app.

Albert Deng, the chief technology officer of Bruin Mobile and a second-year business economics student, said he built a traffic monitor last year for a different project.

He said integrating this feature for USAC’s compilation of locations expedited the process of creating Bear Essentials, which took about two quarters.

Even though the traffic tracker portion instantly updates with user input and rates the degree of traffic using a color scale, the information may not be accurate in real-time, Deng said.

Users should use their best judgement in determining the accuracy of the rating based on the time it was last updated.

Deng added that he plans to create an Android version of the app, since having more users will improve the accuracy of traffic monitoring.

Some students said they liked the “Places to Print” feature of the app, which lists 14 printing locations.

Miye Nakashima, a second-year neuroscience student who lives on the Hill, said she often hears people asking about printing locations in the dorms.

“Knowing which places are crowded would be useful, especially during finals because you don’t want to walk all the way down to the library and find out that there is no space,” Nakashima said.

Singh said members of the USAC General Representative 2 office are open to adding new features to the app to better account for resources that are already available or will be offered by the university in the future.

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