Traffic app alerts Edmonton motorists to photo-radar locations

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A photo radar operator monitors traffic on Saskatchewan Drive near 86 Avenue on Wednesday May 17, 2017.
Larry Wong / POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Let your smartphone guide you through photo-radar traps.

Katla Labs, a Toronto-based startup, is uploading weekly locations provided by the City of Edmonton to its free dash-cam and navigational app, Sidekick, to let drivers know when they get near photo radar.

“What my app has been doing is called proactive alerts for drivers so they have a little bit more time to react to things happening on the road,” Katla Labs CEO Billy Lo said Thursday.

Lo puts open data portals from different cities to use. For Edmonton’s photo-radar locations, which change every week, he’s written a program to pull the information out of the Portable Document Format (PDF) files the city publishes and geocodes the street corners to the app’s map.

When a driver approaches the location, they’re notified about a nearby possible photo-radar device, similar to popular driving app Waze. Everything is hands-free, designed to be safe for drivers.

“Most of the functionality actually runs in the background,” said Lo. “One of the things I’ve noticed is (other driving apps) have to restart and sometimes you can’t … but you still want to be alerted if bad things happen in front of you.”

Sidekick doesn’t need to be restarted. It wakes up when it detects you’re driving and pauses while you’re walking.

Still, the current process to get the locations into the app is a workaround, a result of the city publishing the information in a PDF file. That is expected to change.

Wanting to get the information online quickly, the city uploaded what they could as a first step, said Gary Dyck, a traffic safety spokesperson with the city. The plan is to provide locations in a more usable format through an open data portal sometime in August.

Dyck said getting the information in a more usable format means more people will use it, but notes that “always the best bet is to look at your speedometer, go the speed limit and you don’t get a ticket.”

The Edmonton photo-radar alerts are expected to be ready by next week for Mac iOS, said Lo. He isn’t yet working on a version for Google Android, but said if there is enough demand from Edmontonians, he would add it. He’s looking for feedback from Edmontonians — since he lives in Toronto, he can’t personally test how accurate the locations are.

“I applaud the Edmonton government doing this simply because the whole objective is to keep the road safe, not to issue more tickets to people,” said Lo. “The fact that they publish the locations will actually achieve that.”



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July 16, 2017 |

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