Collaborative Travel Apps, Reciprocity and the Internet of Things

Authors: Dickinson, J., Hibbert, J., Speed, C. and Cherrett, T.

Conference: UTSG

Dates: 5-8 January 2015

Source: Manual

Collaborative Travel Apps, Reciprocity and the Internet of Things

Authors: Dickinson, J.E., Hibbert, J.F., Speed, C. and Cherrett, T.

Conference: Universities Transport Study Group (UTSG)


As cities become increasingly connected, both people and objects can connect to the Internet to transmit and receive information. This is the Internet of Things. Smartphone technology can help identify current and anticipate future patterns of behaviour and, with its social networking capabilities, allow users to imagine collaborative opportunities. This has led to the development of collaborative travel apps designed to enable activities like lift sharing. However, two projects working with community based travel collaboration apps identify significant challenges to people accessing forms of travel assistance due to the imperative of reciprocity.

Collaborative travel apps depend on users to offer help, but they also need users to ask for or accept help. This paper analyses the fundamental challenges of reciprocity as facilitated by these apps and considers how the near future Internet of Things might alter practices.Trials of purpose built collaborative travel apps were conducted across four communities (a campsite, two rural villages and an urban fringe estate) during 2013 and 2014 involving 66 participants. Data were collected by in-depth interviews and all app activities (messages and transactions) were recorded through a linked database.Offers of help dominated in contrast to requests for and acceptance of help.Feelings of indebtedness inhibit app use since they threa ten a user’s status, power and freedom of action with respect to the donor of help. Other transport issues of flexibility and control were also apparent. The paper discusses how indebtedness might be addressed during the design and implementation of such apps. Also, the emergence of the Internet of Things, with its more anticipatory systems, prompts a reappraisal of current Internet based collaborative communities which raises questions about the human regulation of reciprocal arrangements and presents opportunities for parties who are less able to reciprocate such as the ageing population.

Source: BURO EPrints