App challenge to take on societal woes

Considering potholes are a major challenge for riders on city roads, a team of students have come up with a mobile or web application that uses location-based or Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to enable pothole monitoring. The app uses a map to track the potholes on a road and suggest diversions for riders while rendering the data to government authorities to take appropriate measures. The app developed by the students of IIT Bombay as part of ‘mApp Your Way’ mobile or web application development challenge fetched them the first prize at the 16 th annual Esri India User Conference, recently held in the city.

Explaining how extensive location mapping applications “similar to Google Maps but at a more detailed level” can enable a “transformation” in taking appropriate decisions, Agendra Kumar, president, Esri India told Metrolife, “GIS is a platform on which a lot of apps are built and is a go-to-technology for making better decisions about location which is critical to the success of any service that relies on analysis and visualisation like real estate site selection, route/corridor selection, evacuation planning, conservation and natural resource extraction.”

Organised by software provider Esri India, many undergraduates, postgraduates and research scholars associated with institutions that are users of geospatial technology participated in the challenge that began in June 2015. Five finalists, selected from IIT Bombay; Anna University, Chennai; and two teams each from Central University Karnataka and University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES), Dehradun presented their apps at the user conference on the company’s cloud computing platform ‘ArcGIS’. Though the apps are yet to have “public access and be commercially available”, Kumar mentions, “The idea was to make the technology more popular among students and provide an opportunity for them to gain experience, learn, grow and develop socially relevant and meaningful GIS-enabled applications.”

Through regular webinars and review sessions from the host enterprise, the teams were constantly developing the apps over a period of five months.

The best three “innovative and impactful applications” on topics like route navigation and pothole monitoring using crowd sourced pothole mapping, web application to combat the case of Bio war and disease outbreak in India and post crisis rescue web app which helps in emergency responses were chosen as the winners.

Associate professor, Pankaj Kumar Srivastava from College of Engineering Studies, UPES which stood third in the competition mentioned the opportunity as “satisfying” and said, “Students from across disciplines like geospatial sciences and computer science exhibited tremendous excitement towards this challenge, formed teams and even got their exams rescheduled. The exposure to Esri’s licensed software led to the enhancement of their knowledge of programming skills while allowing them to put across their innovative and revolutionary ideas to use.”

The team from IIT Bombay comprising of PratyushTalreja, Abhishek Potnis and Pankaj Randhe mentored by Surya Durbha won a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh for their application idea on ‘Pothole reporting, monitoring and navigation using crowd sourced data’. Randhe points out, “We only knew about Esri’s popular software – ArcGIS. Now we have had a chance to work with other SDK’s (Software Development Kit) from Esri’s vast variety of databases as well, which in all was a thrilling experience.”

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