Join us to participate in the upcoming 2019 City:One Challenge. 

Mobility information - bus, van, rideshare, bike, usage instructions, new options- via any convenient user interface- SMS, Web, voice, chat.

Signalpattern™ makes it easy to discover, use and share Internet-based mobility information (e.g. DDOT, MoGo data) via any UI.

Photo of Peter Semmelhack
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Our idea 

Improve access to mobility information, and create immediate benefit, by eliminating the friction and anxiety often associated with learning new technologies.  Allow residents to access relevant information and functions using whatever application or interface they prefer - mobile, web, chat, audio.

How it benefits the Opportunity Area - Improve access to mobility information: 

Residents gain secure access to a wealth of useful mobility information with little to no change to existing technology usage behaviors or expenditures.  This dramatically increases the chance of adoption, usage and project success.

Solution Overview

Signalpattern™ is a cloud-based, multi-modal UI platform that enables anyone to interact with Internet-based information via whatever user interface type they find most useful or convenient.  This approach helps municipalities avoid costly custom application and/or service development, support and maintenance.

For example, Signalpattern would allow a user to query bus location and timing information using SMS.  Below is an example user journey (see attachment for more).

Or - a user could, when at home, ask Alexa for a specific bus schedule and then, while waiting at the bus stop, use SMS to query when the next bus will arrive.

Or - John could use a mobile browser to access MoGo bike sharing usage instructions, while user Mary uses Facebook messenger to query the same information.

Signalpattern ensures that the mobility information needed by a user is available whenever and wherever it is required.

Solution Details

Signalpattern connects directly to internet-based data sources (via APIs) and organizes the information into searchable, combinable, interactive digital building blocks, called “patterns”, that can be accessed via any popular user interface type.  Users can easily share useful patterns, driving distribution and consumption.  

Importantly, Signalpattern is a platform designed to enable anyone, not just developers, to build, modify and use their own custom solutions.  Patterns are built in LEGO-like fashion, which makes its usage intuitive and fun.  This will allow residents and communities to tailor existing solutions to meet specific needs and/or create new ones to address any issue, large or small.  

The benefits to residents, non-residents and visitors:

  • Easy-to-learn access to relevant, previously unavailable/inaccessible mobility information
  • No additional costs
    1. 96% of US residents already have a cellphone of some kind
    2. All US carrier wireless plans include SMS messaging (no data plan is required for SMS)
  • Instant availability 
    1. Nothing to download
    2. Service is natively supported across all hardware types - feature phone to smartphone to audio devices (e.g. Alexa).
  • Easy customization
    1. Patterns can be easily individualized for specific use cases
    2. New versions can be quickly shared amongst communities

How will your solution benefit residents, workers, or visitors in the Michigan Central Station impact area? (1,000 characters)

The easy, cost-free availability of mobility-related information will enable residents, workers and visitors to travel more confidently, work more efficiently and improve their daily schedule planning. Providing this information via whatever interface users prefer, creates the added benefits of convenience and immediacy. The solution supports all types of users and naturally accommodates: - Multiple language options - Accessibility requirements - hands-free, type size/color, etc. Please see attached User Journeys PDF.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Prototype - you have built a prototype and tested it with potential users

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

Signalpattern was beta-launched in September. We have not yet had the opportunity to conduct a large scale pilot covering the ideas we propose here. However, based on our substantial experience with smart city user interface design, adoption and usage, we feel confident our approach will find an eager audience. In addition, we believe our work in community building and the insights it has provided, positions us well to understand the MCS environment, its residents and their respective needs.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

We are a small, NYC-based software company obsessed with making it easier for everyone to benefit from technology. The team that will be assigned to this project has successfully worked together on projects of all sizes for over ten years - and Ford specific projects for over five. In addition, we have worked on many smart city-focused projects, from air-quality monitoring bike systems, to AI-based parking optimization and management. We would be excited and honored to participate.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Team or Organization URL

Are you submitting as a student team?

  • No

Are you submitting as a team from the Impact Area?

  • No

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

The budget will cover the following activities: 1 - Hosting, maintenance and support costs for dedicated Signalpattern instance, 2 - Development of necessary data source API connectors (e.g., MoGo), 3 - Development of required patterns (workflows), 4 - In-person project support - in-field testing, user interviews/usage data collection, community activity support, 5 - Project documentation - signage, end user docs

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

We will dedicate internal resources to work closely with Ford and local community members to solicit volunteers (individuals and groups) to help us better understand neighborhood priorities and determine what mobility information is most critical/helpful. We will then take the following steps to set up the proposed pilot: 1 - Set up a secure, private instance of the Signalpattern platform on Amazon AWS, 2 - Develop the data connectors to the relevant internet based sources (APIs) - e.g. DDOT, 3 - Develop the patterns necessary to support documented end-user workflows, 4 - Test and launch, 5 - Provide on-going support. Once launched, we will develop a messaging/promotional plan to begin educating residents on the project and how to participate. We will dedicate on-going marketing and technical resources to support both the promotional outreach, and end-user Q&A for the duration of the pilot.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

We will use both quantitative and qualitative measurements to gauge the success of the pilot: 1 - We will collect and analyze Signalpattern usage and engagement metrics: -- Signups. -- Repeat visits, -- Engagement - time using the solution - individual and aggregate, -- Number of patterns accessed, created, cloned, modified, -- API traffic volume 2 - We will conduct detailed user interviews, across all classes of user - resident, worker, visitor: -- First impressions, -- Likes/dislikes, -- Suggestions, feedback, -- Would they recommend. Ultimately, project success will be determined by a simple question - can MCS area users live without the solution once they’ve started using.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

Technical-- Signalpattern is capable of scaling, seamlessly and securely, from pilot to production, with little to no change in the end-user solution(s). Commercial-- We believe that the services enabled by the Signalpattern platform could support both free and premium versions. For example, SMS-based interactions could include services like ticket sales, promotional purchases, donations, special alerts/notifications - all potential revenue generating options.

Social Media

Twitter - @signalpattern -


Join the conversation:

Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

Peter Semmelhack Thank you for sharing this proposal! I am a Michigan Central Station Challenge facilitator. Many community members have communicated to us that the public transportation system in Detroit is difficult to navigate. This solution seems like it would make navigating the system much easier! It sounds like it would be able to be utilized by people who do not have data plans as well. Can you tell me a little bit more about how someone without a data plan would be able to use this service? Also, it looks like this solution is dependent on the information taken from transportation websites. If the transportation website is not correct (for example the bus is 30 minutes behind schedule or operating on holiday hours), is there a way to ensure that the end user is getting the most accurate information? Thank you! I look forward to hearing more!

Photo of Peter Semmelhack

Hi Mackenzie,
Thanks for the comment/questions. You're right - the goal of our proposal is to make the Detroit public transport system easier to navigate. We are huge fans of SMS (texting) because everyone uses it, understands it, and, for the most part, likes it. The other advantage is that you don't need a data plan to use SMS. So, if you look at the "SMS User Journey" (in the attached PDF and also in the online version) you'll see that user interface in action (on a flip phone). So, for folks with a cell phone but no data plan, that approach would work well.

Regarding your second question - if I'm understanding it correctly - we can easily support both static and real-time data. So, in the case that the municipal transportation web site has a static, published bus schedule, we could augment that information with real-time location data from the actual buses - for example from this site - ( This would help address the disconnect you mention. A user could see "scheduled arrival" and "real time location" data points displayed. The other angle we have explored is a crowdsourced approach where people actually riding the buses contribute data on its status, location, traffic, etc. This is similar to how Waze works.

Hope this answers your questions!