An easy-to-use smartphone app developed by Rutgers engineers will help keep the lights on in a heavily wooded New Jersey suburb that suffered widespread power outages during Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Business reports.
"Officials in Warren Township, a country-like community nestled in Somerset County’s Watchung Mountains, knew they could cut the risk of future power outages if they documented vulnerable spots in the utility network, such as branches dangling perilously close to wires or poles cracking and leaning. But sending police and municipal workers to sniff out these trouble spots would be expensive and disruptive to municipal services.
"Rutgers and the township committee agreed to a solution – crowdsource the task.
"Crowdsourcing, an information-age technique that parcels out a large job to a community of unrelated experts – looked like a promising approach to Warren’s task. But it would work only if gathering the data and organizing it could be simplified.
"Janne Lindqvist, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was up to the task. He had just received National Science Foundation funding to research crowdsourcing in local communities, and Warren Township’s challenge proved an ideal match for his concepts.
“The idea is basically simple,” Lindqvist said. “You have a smartphone app that walks you through documenting the hazard. Users are prompted to take a photo of the problem, classify it and verify the location provided by the phone’s location-sensing capability.”
"Hit “send,” and the hazard is catalogued in a server."