Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Crowd-Sourcing as a solution for traffic problems

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"It's simpler to tackle problems with divide and conquer - Crowd Sourcing is the next big thing"

When a very large problem has to be solved, and I mean one that involves a very large number of people, it is often simpler to use the people themselves to solve the problem. While this can have a very wide range of scope, let me limit myself to a simple problem that we see everyday... Traffic.

Everyday, while commuting, we see scores of people breaking traffic rules - Some times, we ourselves do it, but for the sake of simplicity, let us assume that everyone around us are rule breakers while we are law abiding citizens.

It is physically impossible for traffic policemen to be everywhere or to catch everyone. Putting up video cameras is a possible solution, but needs expenditure, approval etc.

Mobile phones have become ubiquitous - From rich businessmen through professionals, from auto rickshaw drivers to vegetable vendors and maids, everyone has one, at least a basic model. Now, a very large number of people have mobile phones with cameras of some kind - Be it 8 mega pixel or a simple VGA one.

Now, imagine a situation where you are walking on the road, and you see that someone has parked a car right next to a No Parking board - We have seen this very often. Take a photo of this, and send it by email or upload it to a site maintained by the police, of course, such that you capture the vehicle number and the violation... (or you can also take a small video if it is not possible to catch it in one shot.)

The police now have adequate proof to fine these people - A part of the fine is given to the people who submit it as a reward.

We can catch violations which include, but are not limited to, riding on pavement, jumping signal, parking violations, driving on wrong side of the road, etc.

Some rules
  • Two or more people may take photos of same violations - So, money can be shared among them
  • People who submit these photos can provide some metadata while submitting, along with locations, etc. This way, sorting, etc. can become easier.
  • Privacy needs to be maintained so that violators cannot trace submitters

Advantages
  • Citizens are happy because they get rewarded
  • Police are happy because their cash registers will be "ka-chhiinngg" everyday
  • Money is saved in terms of putting up cameras, etc.
  • Violations will decrease
Disadvantages
  • Photoshoppers
  • Fights among citizens if someone sees them getting caught

What are your opinions? Do you see problems in this system? I believe crowd-sourcing is a pretty interesting approach to solve this issue

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