Twice, Max Liu's forgetful ways caused panic in his home and at school.
The first time, he forgot to get on the school bus to go home. He was found playing in the garden of his school, Anglo-Chinese Primary. He was seven.
The second time, just months later, he got on the bus when he had been told his mother would take him home.
Today, the nine-year-old's absence or presence on the school bus is easy to detect, thanks to a smartphone app called BusBuzz.
The two incidents, which saw the school's teachers joining in the frantic search, drove Max's father, Mr Henry Low, 40, to develop the app that lets school bus drivers and parents track whether their children are on board.
"Miscommunication and misinformation between parents and the drivers are more common than we think, but it is something parents don't think about until it happens to them," said Mr Low, a former product marketing manager.
The app took eight months to develop, with help from his Shanghai-based business partner. The app runs on iPhone and Android mobile devices, with one version for drivers and another for parents.
This is how it works: It generates a daily attendance sheet based on the children's bus schedules. The driver takes attendance by tapping against the child's name.
A notification is sent to his parent's phone instantly. Parents will also be notified if their child is not on the bus, or is on the bus when he is not supposed to be. This extra feature is a precaution.
"Drivers sometimes assume parents have gone to pick a child up when they don't see the child. Some parents don't have the habit of informing the drivers, too," said Mr Low, who studied business at the University of Tasmania and human factors engineering at Nanyang Technological University.
The app is available free on Apple and Google app stores. Users can also visit www.busbuzz.com to learn how to use the app.
Available in English, Chinese, Malay, Hindi and Thai, it has been downloaded by users in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand, said Mr Low. There are plans to have it done in Tagalog and Japanese.
Some bus companies, like Century Bus Services, have started using the app. Said its owner, Ms Susan Lee: "My buses also ferry students from Johor Baru to Singapore schools and back.
"Each day I handle more than 100 phone calls from parents who ask me if their kid is on the bus, or why their kid is not home yet. If parents use the app too, it would really save time for us."
This article was first published on June 8, 2014.
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