Thursday, March 4, 2010


Our latest project was featured in the Boston Globe a couple of days ago.  It's going to be called BUMP (Boston Urban Mechanics Profiler) and it's a good example of "subliminal" crowdsourcing...  BUMP will collect road condition information for free and without any human intervention (once it's turned on), using the accelerometers and GPS that are becoming more and more ubiquitous inside smartphones.
WPI's City Lab has been developing an automated Pothole Mapping Device since the year 2003.  Based on the concept of City Knowledge -- a municipal information infrastructure approach developed at MIT -- the Pothole Mapper was designed and built to automatically detect bumps and record their locations using GPS.  It was intended to be utilized in municipal vehicles that already roam the streets of a city to provide routine municipal services, like police patrols, garbage collection, street sweeping and plowing and the like.  The device will unobtrusively collect the bump data and several of these devices will, over time, produce a map containing clouds of dots around pothole locations, with the intensity of the bump providing a measure of the pothole's severity. Mayor Menino expressed serious interest for the device and plans were made to install the prototype in his SUV in 2006.  Logistical impediments conspired to canceling the planned installation and the device went back into the lab. Meanwhile, as City Lab explored a patent application for the device , other researchers (from MIT!) leveraged our idea to assess road conditions using additional sensors (see reference #1 in linked paper). Following up on several years of research projects which lead to the development of a prototype Pothole Mapping device, we have proposed to the City of Boston to explore a second-generation  device that will be built upon the Google Phone and the Android platform. Mayor Menino's office of New Urban Machanics has given us the green flag to develop an operational prototype that will establish the feasibility of the project. BUMP will be developed by City Knowledge LLC and the Santa Fe Complex and will initially be an Android app, despite the cool graphic that accompanied the article, which unfortunately shows an iPhone and has led to some of the misguided negative comments about the iPhone that can be found at the bottom of the online article...
Development will take place in Santa Fe in the next couple of months while I am down there with a group of 8 WPI students.  Since Nick and I are repeating our epic continental traverse in both directions, I hope we can use BUMP to profile historic route 66 from Santa Fe to Chicago this May, on our return trip.
Wouldn't that be cool?

Get your bumps on route sixtysix!

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