Turning cell-phones into speed-trap detectors

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Tenereillo Inc makes location-based services and software for web, mobile phones and otherdevices. So far, the company has released Trapster®, JotYouTM and AwareSpotTM services.

Trapster is a crowd-sourcing or suveillance application. "Not ‘surveillance', which is like being watched Big Brother-style," emphasises Pete Tenereillo, "but ‘suveillance', where people work together on things they see and report. The source of the data is the community, and members of the community rate each other."

One common misconception is that you must download the app to your phone to use Trapster, but Tenereillo says this is not the case.

Trapster can be used in many ways:

  • Voice reporting – the user calls a toll-free number to report the location of a speed trap
  • Text message alerts
  • A GPS/WiFi app that the user downloads to a mobile phone or nav device or a PC with GPRS/3G card. "Literally a laptop in the front seat that squawks ‘live police, live police' as you approach a speedtrap," says Tenereillo.

The company will release quite a few more such crowd-sourcing apps. However, in crowd-sourcing, you only partially trust the source of the data.

JotYou is a location-based messaging app for a mobile phone that uses GPS/WiFi location. It's designed for:

  • Messages between friends or business associates
  • Location-based reminders (e.g. the user can press #9 on his phone for a geo-reminder next time he drives past that same location
  • Games such as geocaching and scavenger hunts

"But in order to receive messages, you must run the app, so it's for focused usage," says Tenereillo. "For instance, while driving around town you'd get your errand reminders, or messages from friends, or for participating in a road rally or scavenger hunt."

He pointed out that while the police could use JotYou to send out alerts about a traffic jam, no-one is going to drive around all the time running the app on the off chance that such an alert is sent. JotYou is the wrong tool for that particular job.

AwareSpot is a ‘trusted source' location-based alert system, designed to be very lightweight, with infrequent mass-market messages sent by public safety or community services, law enforcement authorities, TV and radio stations, interest groups, or even trusted clubs, friends or family. So you would trust the source that generates the data.

Again, no app is required; AwareSpot works on any phone that can use text messaging. Users simply subscribe to trusted sources and then set days/times/routes/areas that are relevant to them.

With AwareSpot, an entity creates a new distribution list and chooses permissions for the list:

  • Published: the list can be joined by anyone, and the list name is published in the AwareSpot directory
  • Non-published: the list can be joined by anyone, and the list name is not published in the AwareSpot directory
  • Private: by invitation only. The list can only be joined by users specifically invited by the list owner, and the list name is not published in the AwareSpot directory

The distribution list owner either publishes the list name in the AwareSpot directory or advertises the name of the list by other means (e.g. newspapers, websites, e-mail, etc.) or both.

Users subscribe to text message alerts by joining a distribution list and specifying their desired locations of interest on a map, and (optional) the days and times that they want to receive alerts. Locations of interest can be areas around a city or a route, and users can subscribe to multiple areas and routes, all with different days and times of interest.

The distribution list owner creates alerts by specifying an alert location on the map, and time to send the message (usually immediately, but he can specify a later time or day). Only users who are subscribed to that list and also to alerts in that area for that day and time will get the alert via text message to their mobile phone or via e-mail. Users who are subscribed to that list and but not to alerts in that area or not for that day or time will not receive that message.

With Trapster, users can report a speedtrap by pressing a button on their mobile phone or calling a toll-free number. Other user's phones will alert them as they approach that trap. Trapster learns the credibility of traps based on how many users agree. Over time, it also learns the credibility of each user.


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