Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How’s My Street? Crowdsourcing app lets you know

Blighted by the blizzard of 2010, Carnegie Mellon researchers hunkered down and created a crowdsourcing app for road conditions

As Mother Nature unleashed her fury on the Mid-Atlantic early this month, like most of the region’s residents, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Priya Narasimhan hunkered down for the duration. But cuddled up with a hot cup of cocoa and a good book, she wasn’t.

The quintessential social being, Narasimhan twittered away while she watched the snow pile up outside her Pittsburgh window. Monday evening, Feb. 8, as she read tweets from people who had braved the blizzard and were sharing information on passable and impassable roads, Narasimhan had an a-ha! moment.

“With Twitter, this information is shared only among friends and the people who are following each other, so it’s kind of an exclusive club from that viewpoint. It seemed like a natural extension to get people to share the information more publically,” says Narasimhan, who is an associate professor at in CMU’s Electrical & Computer Engineering Department and director of the university’s CyLab Mobility Research Center.

How's My Street?

So with crowdsourcing in mind, Narasimhan marshaled volunteers and set to work on a Google Maps-based application that would let anybody share road conditions. From their respective residences, Narasimhan, a fellow CMU faculty member, a PhD candidate and two undergraduate students holed up for the next 36 hours straight and cranked out a crowdsourcing site, How’s My Street? Like many a modern work team, they communicated via e-mail and Skype, Narasimhan says.
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