One of the marvels of the decade is crowdsourcing. This month I look at crowdsourcing for indoor-location positioning and report findings on GPS in smartphones that provide reliable earthquake warnings. Google has had some issues with mapping crowdsourcing, leading to the temporary suspension of MapMaker. If Google can’t block inappropriate content, it does give pause. Next, I look at connected cars. Since this fall, four out of nearly 50 self-driving cars driving throughout California have gotten into accidents. With connected vehicles about to start popping out of dealerships, the legality of hands-free driving is belatedly being examined. And, last, INRIX has released an analytics platform that will use the massive data coming from connected vehicles.
Crowdsourcing has worked for mapping, but what about for indoor location? Sensewhere thinks it can work. The company’s indoor positioning technology learns Wi-Fi mapping through crowdsourcing. The premise is that it gets better over time, with each user’s device adding to the Sensewhere database. For instance, Sensewhere’s ability to determine the location of an office door from the building’s lobby will improve with each trip down the corridor. Although other systems may be more accurate, Sensewhere requires no infrastructure. The company claims accuracy of 10 meters or better.
Sensewhere’s solution doesn’t require the Wi-Fi mapping labor that companies like Skyhook initially undertook. Skyhook engaged in “wardriving,” a peculiar term defined by Wikipedia as “the act of searching for Wi-Fi wireless networks by a person in a moving vehicle, using a portable computer, smartphone or personal digital assistant (PDA).” The term “wardriving” originated from “wardialing,” popularized by the 1983 film War Games in which the lead character, played by Matthew Broderick, has his computer automatically dial phone numbers in search of modems, perhaps the precursor to robocalling.
Crowdsourcing for Earthquakes? The GPS in smartphones can detect the earliest signs of a quake with at least a magnitude of 7. The challenge is to distinguish an earthquake from the usual bouncing and jarring every cell phone encounters. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey found that if 103 phones in a defined vicinity record the same displacement, there is an overwhelming likelihood that a quake is occurring. The amount of forewarning is very small and maybe only a few seconds, but it could be enough time for a surgeon to retract a scalpel or a person to take cover.
Is Automated Hands-Free Driving Legal? Given the batch of vehicles with automated driving about to land this year and next, you’d think that the answer would be a resounding yes. But it isn’t clear. Only one state, New York, requires drivers to have one hand on the wheel at all times. The law was enacted in 1967 without the impetus of connected vehicles. A handful of states have legalized automated driving in certain instances. It would be more practical for the federal government to step in to avoid a patchwork of regulation. The automotive industry and other boosters would argue that if automated driving isn’t specifically prohibited, it is legal. However, “drivers” of automated vehicles could find themselves ticketed by police, who could deem hands-free driving as “reckless driving.”
Tapping Big Data from Connected Vehicles. Where you go in your car and what you do in it will be used by INRIX in its new Insights analytics platform. Over the years, INRIX has transformed itself from a purveyor of traffic data to a sophisticated driving and traffic analytics player. The platform will use data from connected vehicles for urban planning, retail site selection and advertising usage, leveraging real-time GPS from a network of 250 million vehicles and devices. INRIX introduced InsightsTrips, a data-as-a-service application for understanding population movement across a metropolitan area. InsightsVolume provides information on how many vehicles typically pass a location.
Android Mascot Defacing Apple’s Logo. Not even Google is impervious to spam attacks and obscene edits. Google has temporarily disabled its crowdsourcing map editing tool, Map Maker. The tool, especially important in countries that lack detailed maps, allows maps to be updated with new geographical features and roads. In April, Google improved its spam detection system in response to escalating hacking, but the company’s efforts were not enough. One recent misdeed was the renaming of a business located near the White House to “Edwards Snow Den,” a play on Edward Snowden. However, the prank that seemed to precipitate Google taking Map Maker offline was an image of the Android mascot urinating on an Apple logo that appeared on a map. The Android mascot could have used the crowdsourced app “Sit or Squat” to find a more appropriate venue. Crowdsourcing knows few boundaries.