App for drivers detects and reports potholes automatically

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Springwise notes: It’s been two years since we wrote about Boston’s Citizen Connect app, and now we’ve spotted another civic-minded app from the very same city. Whereas Citizen Connect was designed to give Boston residents an easier way to file numerous types of civic complaints, Street Bump takes a more automated and focused approach to the ever-present problem of potholes.

Unlike Citizen Connect, Street Bump is not an app that citizens explicitly use — at least not to report anything themselves. Rather, this latest effort from Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s Office of New Urban Mechanics takes advantage of the sensors on smartphones to report potholes automatically. Developed in partnership with a local professor, the Android app uses the accelerometers and GPS technology in users’ phones to register when and where the user’s car has experienced a pothole.

It’s currently in prototype form, and focuses on simply recording and uploading data from those sensors. Next, the Office of New Urban Mechanics is relying on outside help to design the algorithms needed to convert that data into actionable information. Specifically, through a partnership with InnoCentive and Liberty Mutual, the city is now in the midst of a challenge toward just that end, with USD 25,000 in prizes for the best enhancements to the Street Bump design. The deadline for entries is July 29. Ultimately, the city’s goal is to use Street Bump data to determine where potholes and other dangerous street features are located so that steps can be taken to address them quickly.

Apps that involve users in collecting data are all very well and good, but those that can be run in the background — assuming privacy is protected — could prove even more effective. Governments around the world: Be inspired!

 

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