Programmer designs app for South Shore commuters
By Matt Mikus firstname.lastname@example.org December 25, 2013 10:46AM
Gregory Koons developed an app that works on both Apple and Android phones to help commuters navigate the South Shore train line. | Matt Mikus/Post-Tribune
Updated: January 28, 2014 6:02AM
When Greg Koons, 31, of Hobart tried to think of a phone app to build, he thought a commuter app for the South Shore train line would find general appeal.
That led to his creation of the iSouthShore app, available on both Android and Apple phones.
“When they’re on the train, they’re working on their phones or playing games,” Koons said. “That trend is continuing, so why not check the status of the train?”
Shortly after that, he built the iMetra app for Illinois commuters on Apple phones.
He started developing phone applications in 2011, working with fellow graduates from Purdue University in a start-up company. The program, called Cravings, created a digital frequent customer card on a smart phone.
The project launched in St. Louis, but soon after, a rival competitor in California was bought out by Google.
“After that, we thought we kind of missed the boat,” he said.
It provided him the experience to shift from electrical engineering to mobile applications.
“Initially when I started, it was a side project. But now I’m an iOS engineer for a Fortune 500 company. I do a lot of these mobile applications.”
Koons’ iMetra app has a number of competitors on the Illinois side, but his app for Indiana is the only app specific to the SouthShore train available.
“A lot of developers, when they target transit systems, they target the larger systems,” he said, “like Long Island Railroad, the New York subway system. Compared to the South Shore, where you have a couple thousand.”
Neither app is directly affiliated with the transit system, but Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District Chief Information Officer Boris Matakovic took the opportunity to promote the app on the NICTD website.
Matakovic had heard about Koons app through a mutual acquaintance, and reached out to him.
“It gives updated schedule information,” Matakovic said, “and it also scrapes delay information from our website. We didn’t have to do any work to help get the app going, which is really nice.”
Northwest Indiana is not known as a hotspot for technology start-ups, but Koons wanted to focus on an app that could be used locally.
Opportunities as a mobile developer are everywhere, he said, and they won’t always come from software giants based in Silicon Valley.
“I think people are persuaded by their surroundings,” Koons said, “You may have an idea for an app in Chicago that someone in California would never think of. You can be a developer anywhere in the world. These jobs are often moving towards telecommuting.”
Both smartphone apps are available for 99 cents.
Koons said he’s thinking about other new apps that might help Northwest Indiana residents — but for now, he’s keeping those ideas to himself.