Over in Boston USA, theyâ€ve figured out a way to report potholes in their city without all the tedious manual labour of, you know, typing and stuff. Through a collaboration by the city of Boston, The New Urban Mechanics and crowdsourcing platform Innocentive, Street Bump uses a smart phoneâ€s accelerometer and GPS to automatically detect and report potholes to the city.
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The app came to be when the city of Boston collaborated with Innocentive to crowdsource solutions for enhancements to its existing app. With a $25,000 prize incentive, the city of Boston challenged participants to analyze user-reported app data and create algorithms to determine the location and severity of potholes in the city.
The app is still in alpha and Android only for now, but hereâ€s how it will work. A good Samaritan using the app would open it before driving. If the driver hits a pothole, the phoneâ€s accelerometer and GPS will detect the hit and automatically send the data back to the mothership with the potholeâ€s location. When enough people hit a pothole in the location, the Street Bump system flags it for attention.
In its early development phase, Street Bump is being tested by municipal workers and needs quite a bit of work before itâ€s ready for public use. The app faces a few problems. For one, accelerometer accuracy differs by phone manufacturer — HTC and Samsung got the best results so far. Another problem is that the app is a battery drain, so the user would have to remember to switch it on and off. A car charger would be a good thing have around if you want to help out your city. The biggest problem that I see here is that you actually have to drive into the pothole for it to work. Iâ€m trained to avoid them at all cost. Itâ€s great if the app is always on, out of sight, out of mind, but if I have to be constantly cognisant of it to save my battery, well, itâ€s a nuisance.
The city of Boston is trying to figure out how to incentivise users to use the app, but I think an easy solution would be to have a one tap button that sends out the location of the pothole without needing to drive into it. It wonâ€t be as accurate, but it would be close enough, cooler than having to type a message to your cityâ€s municipality and certainly easier on your tyres/spine. Alternatively, how about building this into cars?
People are excited about Street Bump though. “Weâ€ve gotten hundreds of requests from other cities wanting to partner with us on Street Bump. The goal was always to make this a platform for collaboration across cities,” says Nigel Jacob, a spokesman for the city of Boston. Jacob imagines a future version of Street Bump tailored to wheelchair users that could record the quality of wheelchair ramps so that city workers know which ones need repair. The app could guide a person from point A to B using the least jarring wheelchair ramps.