What BAQON Enables: Public Services Applications

Thanks to many readers for providing offline feedback on the slate of recent posts (and traffic) related to BAQON, I’m acting on the suggestion to describe applications that BAQON will enable.

As I wrote last week, the first way in which we want to help organize experiences is around fixed physical locations: things in physical space that don’t move (much).

Let me start with a potential application for public service.

We know going back the last several years that there’s a huge need in the US for infrastructure improvement.  This means fixing bridges, filling potholes, greening our tall buildings, expanding pedways to be more accessible.  Local, State and even Federal municipalities are responsible for this, in partnership with private citizens, small and large companies – but the resources to apply to the myriad of problems are scarce (like lots of resources these days).  One way we all could save money, accelerate improvements and help allocate proper resources scaled to critical needs is by opening up the information gathering and helping organize user-identified issues through aggregation means we already know how to employ.  Then, municipalities could apply experts in architecture, civil engineering and/or environmental science to determine a course of action instead of expend resources in just finding out where the problems are to begin with.

Ideally, mobile phone users could take pictures or video encoded with geo-location metadata of visible issues on their streets, bridges, buildings, etc into a shared repository on the Internet.  That repository could be made publicly available for a number of different purposes:

  • Mapping services (like Google Maps, Yahoo, etc) could use the information to provide some visual information on where clusters of issues might be.
  • Color-coding and shading to identify types and severity of issues, which might help identify related concerns.
  • An application could export tagged structures and descriptive data related to them into a variety of formats (RSS, MS Project, ???) to aggregate that information into something else.
  • Watchdog groups could use the same data set that Local, State and Federal resources use cross-agency to monitor the status of improvement efforts, promoting transparency and reducing wasteful redundancies that come from multiple data stores.
  • Mashups with other available datastores (perhaps a visual mashup to highlight to what extent identified infrastructure needs may correlate with degrees of air quality, water quality, etc)

What the services on the back-end would help with would be in terms of:

  • Organizing the information in terms of proximal location and granular details within a fixed location (what building, which floor of a building, what room, where in a room, etc).
  • Make the data available and interoperable.
  • Support the need to aggregate and filter all that user-generated metadata.
  • Enable multiple points of entry to the data pool.

That last point is really important – not necessarily more important than the others, but pretty huge.  In my mind, we don’t want one application for mobile or web-enabled users to enter such information – we want to cast a wider net to empower more end-users to easily support and accelerate data collection and, thusly, infrastructure improvement.  Building a straight-up tagging application is one use, but what if someone wanted to create a scavenger hunt game to flesh out details about infrastructure improvement?  What if yet another game was a massively multiplayer game where discovery of infrastructure defects acted as multipliers or Mana in-game?

By abstracting the data collection aspect from the application, but making that data set widely available across applications, you enable more than one type of user activity while solving a larger problem.

In the case of collecting information for infrastructure improvements, it’s not that there aren’t people trying to do this already, or that there aren’t pockets of applications to help make this easier for our municipalities – it’s that many of the data stores aren’t well known, widely available and more critically shared.  By opening up the collection, filtering and aggregation of the data, we hopefully save time and money to accelerate solving a very big issue.

This is one way in which BAQON can be used.  In the coming weeks, I’ll highlight many more.

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