Boston, Massachusetts was founded in 1630, and as such is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Parts of the city are definitely showing their age, too, as harsh winters and heavy traffic take their toll, so the city government in this high-tech region - home to corporation like Digital and Raytheon - is looking to the 21st century to help keep the 18th century maze of streets in shape. The city's high-level geek squad is currently working with a researcher at Worcester Polytechnic Institute to create an app that will allow city residents to pinpoint potholes and other road hazards.
The app, which will be called Boston Urban Mechanic Profiler or BUMP (though the devs behind the popular contacts-sharing app
may have something to say about that before they're done) is being developed by Chris Osgood and Nigel Jacob. The two, who are now technology advisors to the mayor of Boston, first got involved in city government through the Boston Urban Mechanics Program (yes, we can see what that spells), a fellowship for people interested in municipal jobs.
Osgood and Jacob started by creating Citizens Connect
, which lets iPhone users point the camera at something that needs fixing - a broken streetlight, for example, or a graffitied wall -and the image is tagged with the phone's GPS coordinates and sent to the nearest public works office. Other cities have similar iPhone programs, according to the Boston Globe
, but Citizens Connect is the only one where data goes right from the citizens to the city employees responsible for fixing the problem.
BUMP (or whatever the city attorneys eventually allow them to call it) will work much the same way. The city's Department of Public Works will receive the reports and will dispatch crews to assess and repair the problems. A concern, though, is that most of the city neighborhoods with the worst maintenance problems are ones where people generally don't carry iPhones. The government is mulling the possibility of giving iPhones to city workers who live in the worse neighborhoods so that they can report on problems themselves.
Using modern technology to fix old problems is certainly an innovative use of city resources. And now that AT&T has done millions of dollars of infrastructure upgrades
in Boston, it might actually work!