Buck-e: the system that rewards students with virtual coins for going to school by bike. March 12, 2019
What started as a small local project in the Flemish city of Bonheiden rapidly grew into a full- scale collaboration between Flow Pilots, The Studio by Belfius and various local organizations. Together we built a digital system that rewards students for choosing sustainable alternatives to get to school. We don’t want to sound too excited but it might be a step closer to a solution for traffic problems around school areas.
Safety, sustainability and digital development are the three main pillars of modern society. While most cities try their best to invest time and money into projects to support these three things, a lot of citizens still go out into the streets to show the government their dissatisfaction. There is still a lot of work to do and fundamental problems to tackle before society will meet its modern citizens’ needs.
As a company we believe we should be part of the solution. That’s why we decided to join forces with The Studio by Belfius and Cipal Schaubroeck to bring digital answers to some of the questions a small city has to conquer nowadays.
The digitalisation of project Bonheiden
It all started back in 2016 when the city of Bonheiden launched a campaign to encourage its citizens to use sustainable transport. Students would get coins every time they went to school by foot or by bike. Project Bonheiden was the first one in Belgium to introduce this kind of rewarding system.
By involving students in the process, the parents would leave their car at home and join as well. Afterwards, the coins could be used for local events, such as fun fairs or markets, which gave the local economy a boost.
The initiative became an absolute success. Before the campaign, only 12% of the students would go to school by bike, after it went up to 60%.
As a company, driven by digital development, we saw an opportunity for a great collaboration that would not only digitalize the project for Bonheiden but also encourage other cities to be part of it. We partnered up with The Studio by Belfius and Cipal Schaubroeck and introduced the idea to the virtual world. While Bonheiden gave its students physical coins, a much more efficient way was to build a platform where students would earn digital coins. That way the process became easier for everyone involved.
The platform in reality: how does it work?
When a school or municipality decides to take part they will be given access to an online platform, an RFID scanner and instruction envelopes with tags. The online platform is used to register the students and link the tags to their profile. The RFID scanner will be installed at the entrance of the school so it can scan the students when they enter.
The participants will get three different tags, a bike tag, a helmet tag and a safety vest tag. The safer they get to school, the more points they will get. Ten points are one virtual buck. The bucks can later be spent at local shops and events.
11 schools in 7 different cities are already being part of this amazing initiative, and many more are planned for this year.
While the project is in its first stage and still a work in progress, there is no denying that it already has a tangible impact.
Data translation: IOT by Cipal Schaubroeck
An IoT platform (internet of things) is a technology that allows a multi-layer of connected devices within the Internet universe. In other words, a network of physical objects uses sensors to connect data to the Internet. The objects “talk” to a cloud and the cloud transfers that information to the digital world.
In this case, the RFID-reader collects data and sends it to a digital platform. That platform has a list of all the registered students, so the data can now be connected to the right student. Students get points, points become bucks.
To do all that we needed a helping hand from our parent company Cipal Schaubroeck, who gave us access to their IoT platform.
Our partner in crime: Blockchain technology by The Studio
Blockchain : a system in which a record of transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency is maintained across several computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network. – Google dictionary ©
To give the platform a solid backbone we used the token platform build upon blockchain technology provided by The Studio Belfius. With this system, we could transfer, receive and store the digital currency. In other words students got a virtual wallet.
The use of Blockchain has a lot of benefits :
- You do not have to trust one party to store your value
Once you are migrating valuable, paper-based vouchers to digital vouchers on a database, this database gets value. If one party is controlling this database, you have to trust this party to safeguard this value. In a blockchain solution, you do not have to trust one party, but you can trust upon the ecosystem of participants.
- Transparency and one source of truth
The different participants (cities, The Studio and Flow Pilots) in the ecosystem can all see the same data and can only change the data according to pre-defined rules. You can compare it to a Google drive document where all the changes you made are visible for the other users, and on top of that, the previous changes are trackable in a back-up. Because of the same principle, all the different parties know that they are looking to the same data, which makes our solution more consistent and accurate than when data is shared through e-mails or even paper-
Because there is not one database, but multiple databases, the system is more robust. If one of the databases goes down, the system will keep running. Additionally, the blockchain set-up is less prone to internal or external corruption.
Vision: Smart city
Project Buck-e is a step towards the bigger picture Smart Cities. Smart Cities provides smart digital solutions in order to give its citizens a decent life quality. As a mobile company that believes in modernization Flow Pilots wants to contribute to that idea. We are excited yet very curious to what the future will bring.
For more information about Blockchain technology read : Press Release Belfius
We want to thank all the schools, city councils, local organizations, parents and students who are part of Buck-e.