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Trapster: Document Speed Traps On The Go

trapster-speed-traps - Share on OviI admit that I gave the folks at JotYou a bad time. Turns out they also are doing this thing called Trapster that lets people with GPS-enabled phones document the exact location a speed trap or red light camera is.

The application, which works with many different phone models, including Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry, makes use of both GPS and WiFi information to locate you (model-dependent). Obviously you won’t find much information on a highway with only WiFi, but when driving through a residential neighborhood, all it takes is for someone with GPS to also be listening to WiFi to correlate WiFi access points to a physical location. It’s clever, but GPS is really needed for this application to work right.

There is also a way to use this service with a non-smart phone. Subscribe to Jott, which will allow to you to speak your speed trap information into the phone. Or, of course, there’s going on the website and reporting it, but it’s not immediate.

Trapster - Share on OviTrapster - Share on OviWhen you come near a speed trap, you are notified with audio. If you click on the alert, you can get more details about it, including the GPS coordinates of the location it was reported.

Supposedly, you can change the audio alerts, but there’s no way to do this in the Symbian UI (Edit: new version supports it). The audio alert can’t be disabled except by quitting the app or driving out of the area of the (reported) speed traps. (Edit: The sounds themselves as well as a mute function have been added)

From a usability point of view, while driving, the Symbian app fails. Reporting a speed trap should require minimal keypresses. A single keypress would be ideal. (Edit: I was wrong. Read the directions. Allow the end user to choose which numeric key reports, say, a “Police Often Hide Here” versus a “Speed Camera.” The audio alert should be silencable with a single key as well. Ideally, the keypresses could be changed by the user. (Edit: Ok, it’s two. See Instructions.).

Apparently, it’s possible to do report traps using a couple of keypresses while the app is in the background, which I later found out after talking with the Trapster folks. It’s also on their help page. Also, they will allow easier adjustment of the audio settings in a future release of the Symbian app.

The website should allow you to look at the traps you’ve previously reported and either update them or delete them if, perhaps, they were reported erroneously. Having a small amount of text to go with each trap might also be helpful. It would allow me to, when I get home, explain that the radar gun is sitting on the overpass and a cop that will pull you over is waiting there just out of sight under the overpass as you drive by

I think this service has great potential. However, I also think it has a ways to go before the masses will start using it. GPS in mobile phones is still relatively uncommon. The User Interface for this app–at least on the Symbian version–clearly needs some work.

If you have a phone that is capable of reaching the Internet, you should be able to hit http://www.trapster.com/m and get a mobile version of the trapster site to report speed traps.

Edit:  Shortly after this article was posted, the folks at Trapster updated their Symbian and Windows Mobile app. They did make it possible to mute/unmute the alerts with a couple of keypresses (#9).


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