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Taking The Pulse Of The City Of Pittsburgh

Creating a real-time map of where a city fails its users

“I better take a different route to work today. The collective driver stress at Routes 51 and 88 is pretty high today.”

One day, in the not-so-distant future, you may be looking at your phone screen or computer screen and saying those same words. A company based out of Boston called Neumitra is developing a wearable that will attempt to mine new ground in data research — taking the stress level of an individual at a specific location identified by GPS. Then by aggregating a whole group of people using these wearables, a “stress map” can be generated to show how a city is performing, or not performing, based on these readouts.

In this article from The Daily Dot, Neumitra’s founder, Rob Goldberg, explains how the wearable device will obtain four separate signals — galvanic skin response (moisture), temperature, motion, and heart rate. Once integrated with a GPS map, a real-time response can be compiled that may influence decision-making on travel behaviors. The plot map could show engineers, planners, and government officials where to properly allocate resources to rectify problems.

Here’s a theoretical view of the heatmap from Neumitra, using a portion of downtown Boston as the test area. I’m not an expert on Boston, but to me this looks like I would steer clear of the Dock Square and Financial District areas, if I could help it.

Driver stress levels, pinpointed by GPS, in downtown Boston. Photo via Neumitra

Driver stress levels, pinpointed by GPS, in downtown Boston.
Photo via Neumitra

Something like this is right up the alley of Pittsburgh’s Innovation and Performance Department, headed by TPOP interview subject Debra Lam. Besides being used for a traffic/transportation perspective, an application of Neumitra’s device could be applied to crime. If a series of individual pedestrians are shown to have elevated stress levels when walking through a certain neighborhood, the police could be activated to investigate if a criminal element is making things uncomfortable.

At TPOP, we recently discussed the need for Pittsburgh to become a “smarter city”. This device, or other wearables like it, could help Pittsburgh become more of a living, dynamic city that has response patterns to be analyzed and potentially resolved. As of now, nearly every city is a “batch process” city — if something is wrong, it manifests itself, then it is fixed. Neumitra is attempting to create a “real-time process” where problems can be fixed on the fly.

Currently, the devices are being used in certain test cases in the Boston area, but Neumitra plans to take the wearable devices public in early 2016. The estimated retail price will be $250. And to all the guys out there…if you’re able to see that your wife or girlfriend is having a stressful commute or stressful day, maybe pour that glass of wine and have it waiting for her when she gets home.

About Kevin Creagh (130 Articles)
Nerd engineer by day, nerd writer at night. Kevin is the co-founder of The Point of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Creating Christ, a sci-fi novel available on Amazon.

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