Street Bump app detects potholes, tells city officials
February 16th, 2012
09:51 AM ET

Street Bump app detects potholes, tells city officials

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) - Here's the problem with the whole Gov 2.0 movement: People are lazy.

Plenty of apps - SeeClickFix among them - allow diligent, digitally minded citizens to snap photos of potholes and send them to city hall. But that takes effort and, let's be honest, it's not something many people will follow through with.

Further, the pothole data that comes from these apps can be haphazard and, by definition, is subjective. One person's pothole could be another's divot.

Perhaps the digital sensors in smartphones can do a better job all by themselves.

That's the idea behind Street Bump, an Android app piloted by the City of Boston. The app, which should be available to the public this summer, makes the smartphone's accelerometer do the job of sensing potholes. If you're driving and you hit a pothole while the app is loaded, Street Bump pairs up data about the size of the bump with a GPS coordinate - and sends that to a city database.

The hope, said Nigel Jacob, co-chair of the mayor's office of New Urban Mechanics, which is managing this project, is that Boston and other cities soon will have a "real-time" map of road conditions, allowing them to catch potholes - "pre-potholes," as the city says - earlier and to prioritize road repairs more broadly.

Ultimately, that will save the city money, he said. (For the curious, the city does have enough money to fix the potholes it finds with this app, he said. I'd wondered if ignorance might be bliss.)
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Filed under: Politics • Smartphones • Social change • Tech