Archive for April, 2011


Monday, April 25th, 2011

San Francisco launches iPhone parking app

Sunday, April 24th, 2011
A necessary part of Anywhere is consulting services; one such engagement has just gone extremely well. A former colleague from the DeBabelizer days afforded me the opportunity to work on the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s pilot SFpark program. My role was limited to one iPhone detail view and general release engineering, but it was a great experience working with a true n-tier application service provider.

Starting from the ground up, the vendor Streetline Networks provided low power sensors that are embedded into a monitored parking spot. The devices contain an ultralow-power transceiver operating at either 2.4 to 2.5 GHz or 902 to 928 MHz, and are powered by a battery sufficient for five to 10 years of operation (from RFID Journal.)

The sensors provide a mesh network with a proprietary networking layer to communicate to end of block base stations. Cellular backhaul from the base stations transfers data to the application servers. The parking meters in the program are similarly connected to the application server, which calculates dynamic pricing options and stores credit card transactions. This smart parking system like others is guided by the work on Donald Shoup, who has provided the first comprehensive window into 70 years of parking data. His 730 page book The High Cost of Free Parking is the seminal work of the oeuvre.

SFpark is a pilot program, and this is the first time all the working parts have been put to the test. There are some issues to be worked out, especially the impact of San Francisco’s 52,000 handicapped parking placards on the demand pricing algorithms. Finding a parking spot is a very real time experience. The passage of data from the sensors, through the layers of the system to the smart phone is near real time, though results may vary around the city and during the day. No other city in the world is better positioned, with access to so much software and hardware engineering talent, to get this right.

It would seem the use of a smartphone app to find a parking spot from a moving car is contraindicated, but the application has a “speed curtain” that obscures the screen if moving over 10mph, also similar to some in car navigation systems, it provides a warning on launch. Pulling over to use a phone is far more common and recognized now, and with a friend or partner in the car, this chore can be a new experience. The introduction of the web service to the public provided an opportunity to remind everyone of the relevant section of the California vehicle code, the launch event at San Francisco’s City Hall was a great debut of the application. The app is available now for iOS devices, enjoy.


Unexpected synergy

Sunday, April 24th, 2011
I’ve been using the HP TouchSmart with various smartphone emulators. The touch screen of this all-in-one PC lets you use your finger instead of a mouse. It is a little awkward, reaching up to the screen, but a nice to have feature. So much daily device interaction is touch screen, I just wanted it to be there. But with the smartphone development environment, using the touch screen, you just touch the screen of the emulated phone as you would with the actual device. Of course the mapping has to round trip through the regular Windows messaging, but it was a pretty nice situation!

Return to Xcode 4

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
It was dramatic but worth it. Running Xcode 4.1 Developer Preview on OS X Lion Preview 2. Its a return to the single window of Microsoft Visual Studio, so its going to be helpful when moving to Windows Mobile. The developer tools are slightly broken, Safari and Chrome are a mess, and I couldn’t download from at all to get Firefox!
I ran Eclipse and the Android developer environment on it, Java is 50% faster – it feels like everything is 64 bit to the kernel finally. Installing all the builds involved getting a redemption code via my Mac developer account, then downloading from the Mac App Store. The inverted scroll wheel was a hindrance until I figured out how to switch it back, but I’m looking forward to the final release of it now that I have tried it out.