Ever since the SETI@Home project took off, the idea of using `crowd power’ to help out with computing needs has been explored by many projects. The explosion of the smartphone market opened up a niche in this voluntary computing world. Suddenly, participatory sensing became a means to harness the power of the crowd in an almost-literal sense. Given enough enthusiastic participants, researchers could potentially get access to sensor measurements that could be statistically massaged to get a treasure-trove of GPS-tagged data. However, the excitement of such potential quickly waned as the number of enthusiastic participants dropped with each additional participatory sensing app, that arrived on the app-market.
We believe that more people can be motivated to contribute data to research, if this contribution can be linked to a tangible benefit that citizens can receive in turn, for volunteering their time and data. SmartHopper is a smart mobility platform, developed at TCD, that incorporates participatory sensing and combines it with an open-source routing engine, to enable citizens to generate smarter routes for themselves.
We collaborate with the good folks working on the NoiseTube Project at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and ask volunteers to walk around Dublin city, so that we get noise measurements from different streets. Given enough walkers, we are able to generate a
Noise Map of Dublin on a street-by-street basis. Then we transform this data, and insert it into a Redis store. We also forked the open-source GraphHopper project, to allow it to be deployed and queried using REST-based API. Now, when you query SmartHopper, it is able to combine a query for a route from (say) Trinity College to (say) Dundrum, with the noise information gathered from the volunteers and generate the `least noisy’ route between them. This can be useful for parents with infants, or elderly people wishing to take a walk, as it enables them to choose a route, that is least affected by noise pollution. For more information about the architecture of the system, check out our paper1, published at the Open Source Systems conference. Also, check out the SmartHopper UI page, where you can see screenshots of the system in action.
Noise is merely an exemplar of what is possible, by combining sensor data with other software. Smarter routes can be enabled, limited only by the availability of data. We are trying to get air pollution data of several kinds, which can be quite useful for sufferers of pollen allergies, asthma, etc. to generate routes that may not necessarily be the fastest or the shortest, but are more to their liking. We’re looking into tapping into Open Data from any source that is able to generate consistent and city-wide data, which can then be automatically turned into query-able routes! Smart Mobility is not merely about using technology to find taxis or public transport, but also being able to query the state-of-the-city, in a personalized manner. If you want to talk to us about data that you have, or ideas to increase the smartness of SmartHopper, get in touch