Crowdsourcing Gets Pedestrian

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
crowdsourcing innovation

IT leaders should take a page from the crowdsourcing playbook—used by companies like AT&T and IBM—to spur new ideas and rapid innovation in many industries.

The widespread adoption of mobile devices has changed the way people act … and interact. Although it's possible to see the evidence everywhere—including restaurants, airports and in the home—the intersection of driving and walking presents unique challenges.

A new study conducted by the New York City Media Lab and Integrated Digital Media program at the Polytechnic School of Engineering of New York University, found that developers of mobile devices and software need to consider risks while they 'redeveloping products. They also must look for ways to make conditions safer.

The report, "Exploring How Mobile Technologies Impact Pedestrian Safety," found that about one-third of all automobile collisions result from driver inattention—double any other category. However, in major cities, such as New York City, pedestrian safety is also a critical issue.

About 8 percent of pedestrian and cycling injuries in New York between 2008 and 2011 occurred while the individual was using an electronic device such as a mobile phone or portable music player. Younger victims, between the ages of 7 and 17, accounted for more than 10 percent of the pedestrians injured and 30 percent of the cyclists, according to a separate study conducted by researchers at New York's Bellevue Hospital Center.

As a result, New York City has focused on a number of improvements: better left-turn visibility, installing countdown signals, using specialized barriers and adding messaging at crosswalks, including "LOOK!" warnings painted on the asphalt.

However, engineers and designers don't have all the answers. And that's where technology and innovation come into focus. Recently, AT&T introduced a three-month challenge to increase awareness for pedestrians.

The Connected Intersections initiative features $50,000 in prizes for smartphone apps and wearable solutions that reduce distraction and boost awareness. These apps can incorporate Natural User Interfaces (NUI), sensor-based technology and device-to-device communication.

By now, it's apparent that crowdsourcing initiatives are a growing force in the government, business and technology sectors. Clearly, IT leaders should take a page from the crowdsourcing playbook—increasingly used by companies like AT&T and IBM—to spur new ideas and rapid innovation in many industries and areas. What's more, the use of incentives and rewards, whether internally and externally, can produce exponentially better results.

In this case, let's hope technology can save us from ourselves. Introducing better traffic safety solutions for motorists and pedestrians is definitely a step in the right direction.

This article was originally published on 2014-06-12

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for Baseline.

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