InTrans / Feb 05, 2021
Smart Work Zone Activity App (SWiZAPP) makes work zones work
With the increase in the computing power of portable electronic devices such as smartphones, smart work-zone information can be exchanged simply and cost-effectively.
But that’s only one reason why Dr. Yaw Adu-Gyamfi, an assistant professor from the University of Missouri-Columbia, spearheaded a research project aimed to design, develop, and deploy a cross-platform mobile application for collecting and reporting real-time work-zone activity information.
Another reason is that the accurate and timely communication of work-zone activities improves work-zone safety by alerting DOT staff, traffic management centers (TMCs), contractors, and the traveling public that a work zone has become active or inactive.
According to Dr. Adu-Gyamfi, such information also facilitates ongoing work-zone safety analysis by enabling the synchronization of work-zone and incident data.
The research, sponsored by the Smart Work Zone Deployment Initiative (SWZDI), was completed in June 2019. Developed using React Native, currently the most popular open-source, mobile application development framework, Dr. Adu-Gyamfi and his team followed a design approach that would allow for future expansion of the app by other agencies.
During the completion of the research, a prototype of the app was built and field-tested at four work-zone sites in Columbia, Missouri. The key metrics to success included geolocation accuracy, user-friendliness, and scalability. In field tests, the accuracy of the app’s geolocation module was fairly high overall. SWiZAPP currently supports automatic work-zone geolocation and mapping via on-board global positioning system (GPS) sensors and Google Maps, respectively.
The key components of SWiZAPP include a log-in; Projects, which lists all the work zones added by the user; Map View, which displays the locations of the work zones on a map; and Tracker, which reports all work zone-related activities from all users of SWiZAPP.
App users can post live activities from construction sites by capturing and uploading images, using buttons within the app to indicate traffic conditions and lane activities, and/or using text messaging via the app.
The app also enables users to view both real-time and historical activities of all work zones in SWZDI states, which includes Iowa.
Dr. Adu-Gyamfi notes that due to its scalable design, the app is theoretically capable of managing an unlimited number of construction work zones.
As with many apps, SWiZAPP could undergo various future updates. The largest, and perhaps most important, is to overcome the obstacle of reliance on internet access. Numerous work zones are in dead zones where internet access is limited and SWiZAPP thus cannot function. In future updates, the app could be designed to store work-zone activity information locally on the phone when there is no internet access and then upload the data when the user regains internet access.
The app is currently available to download for free on Google Play here, as well as the Apple Store.
“We designed the app with safety and the user in mind,” said Dr. Adu-Gyamfi. “Contractors and work-zone managers could use the app for data collection, tracking, and archiving.”