Archive for September, 2010

Over The Air 2010 : Hole Mapper

September 25th, 2010

Over the air is both a mobile development conference and a hack day back for it’s third year. One of the problems with such a vast conference is that there is just no enough time to do everything so this year I decided to skip most of the sessions to concentrate on the hacking side of the event.

I started off with the desire to work with location services in some way and came up with the idea of creating an app to crowd source the locations of post boxes and cash machines. In the end I got side tracked by playing with open data from Ordnance Survey and the Direct Gov web site and created Hole Mapper, an application to report pot holes in the road.

The concept was simply to work out where the user is and to direct them to the relevant council web page to report the problem pot hole. I was very keen to have a simple interface with the minimum interaction. The final solution has a single screen and single button but these are only required for demonstration and the app could take you direct without even this page. In a perfect world the app would tie in to FixMy Street but currently they do not have an API.

The solution is written in HTML and Java Script (or HTML 5 if you want the buzz words) and asks the browser for the users current location. This location Is then used to do a search against the Ordnance Survey open postcode data. The complicated part of the project was converting the millions of postcodes to a geometry system that I could do a simple search on using WGS84 lat long coordinates. I then simply ask the direct gov web site for the relevant local authority web page using the postcode and redirect the user to it. Later on I also added a check to see if we were in the UK that was so I could use another API and enter the hack in another category for some prizes.

On the Sunday morning I asked my followers on Twitter to test the code where they were. This worked really well as I had lots of valuable test data in but a few minutes. Thank you all. The down side of this is that when people started to use it and come the demo my servers IP address was being denied access to the Direct Gov web site but luckily I was able to demo from my laptop and it is working again now.

The good news is I won something and somthing big at that. I won the Orange Mobilise Challenge for helping transform volunteering in the UK and the prize was a shiny new iPhone 4. :-)

My twitter followers will know I have had a few, well a lot of problems with Orange Mobile getting the phone up and running. The good news is that it is running on wifi (I am writing this on it now) and GPSR, and dream of one day being able to use 3G. I really really appreciate the prize Orange, honestly I do, but I would also like to use it.

Anyway… It was a good couple of days, I have a shiny new iPhone, and am quite pleased that Hole Mapper is working and will undoubtedly form the base of some interesting projects in the future.