Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Too Late Minister Gay, Open Source already did it free.

Today Duncan Gay MLC Minister for Roads and Ports issued a Press Release announcing a new free app for iPhone* that "alerts motorists are about to enter a school zone.
"Roads Minister Duncan Gay today announced the release of the NSW Government’s new smartphone app, that includes alerts motorists are about to enter a school zone. 
Minister Gay said "the best way to avoid a speeding fine was not to speed - but for those wanting additional reminders the new app would literally warn them with an audio alert. 
“It’s heartbreaking to hear of child fatalities or injuries around schools and we need motorists to understand that school zone speed limits are there to save lives,” Minister Gay said. 
“For those motorists who don’t notice school flashing lights or school zone signs there is now another means to understand you are entering a school zone. 
“It’s called our ‘Speed Adviser’ but I’ve dubbed it the ‘Last Chance’ app. 
All the above is great and I for one welcome another choice for consumers, but I take offence at the myopic view that this is the only app of its kind.
“It is the only app with information on every school zone in NSW and informs motorists they are approaching an operational school zone with a speed limit of 40 km/h. 
The above claim is arrogant, isn't that why we reformed transport in the first place. A search of the Apple app store or the Google play store returns a list of such apps - see Speed Alert or Speedzone NSW both are free and both are mature.
Speedzone NSW is even open source, creative commons and on GitHub. Duncan, its free, stop spending my tax dollar building solutions that already exist, just use what is there, its why it was built in the first place, to help save lives.
“The App also alerts drivers when a speed limit changes and warns drivers if they exceed the speed limit – repeating the warning continually until the legal limit is complied with. 
What will get real old real quick, this is an optional feature in the other apps. I believe drivers adhere to the speed limit when they are aware what it is through gentle reminders. As was mentioned in TV's Nine News Sydney motorists want the reminders, but the physiology is simple "advise me" but "DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO". doing that guarantees a fast trip to the uninstall basket.
“Motorists can set it before they leave home or work and it will provide audio alerts. There is no need to interact with the app at all while driving, in line with laws applying to mobile phones and GPS devices. 
Yep, we all have that. but  Speedzone NSW doesn't even require you to set it, it detects that you are driving and auto-starts, no getting 200m into traffic and remembering you have to start it. Which you would never do because you are driving and that is against the law.
“I caution drivers that this app doesn’t replace speed limit signage, judgment about conditions and vigilance which all drivers need to exercise. 
“Like all new apps, it will evolve as we further enhance it. As we trial the app, users can send us feedback at speedadviser.com.au or roadsafetytechnology@transport.nsw.gov.au
I admire the attempt to crowd source corrections for the speed zone database but the process chosen is flawed, I don't expect users will jump online and fill in the lengthy form provided, yes 9 data fields to be entered that is extreme even for benevolent humans, I got tired counting the fields for this blog, nevermind actually filling them in.

I am no expert, but I am a user who wants to help (provided its not too hard). My approach is to allow a passenger press anywhere on the screen if the speed is incorrect and this tags that length of road and queues a system message in the notification bar that the user can action at a later time. Giving then the option of sending an email or not with the error detail. One click now, two clicks later, done.

A message to Minister Gay

Duncan, someone need to be looked at with an angry eye, I suspect this app is a great piece of positive PR for the government and that is good. It is the advisors who allowed this app to be commissioned or continued without due diligence, that is letting you down and the people of NSW. The apps mentioned above have been around for a while. Why are we developing apps at all? We are bad at it, we have proven that beyond doubt! My solution, release the data sets in a sustainable way and the community will do the work for you, and better I might add. The open data policy launched by your colleague Andrew Constance was designed to allow data sets to be proactively shares and the synergies would amaze us all. When is this likely to happen? 

The Community is very clever let them surprise you, let then help you and every other citizen of NSW!

I will update you when I get a chance to try the app for now all I can find is a placeholder page

*Don't get me started on the choice to go with iPhone first. yes iPhone makes more revenue but for a free app you want penetration and Android has nearly 80% share, so why iPhone first, suppose the developer is more comfortable with iOS, is that cynical?

What you think
  1. will you use this app?
  2. Is it value at $150,000? - I am guessing here, but this is ball park for commercial apps
if you want to build your own app check out: