Yet Another “Stupid Phone Trick”

Buzz this week about an amazingly pointless app from Connected Signals, EnlLighten®.

EnLighten solves the incredible important and difficult problem of figuring out when the traffic light sill turn green.   This appears to be for real, not a joke.

“Stopped at a red light, you may be hoping you have time for that desperately-needed sip of coffee, or you may be fretting about how long you’re going to be sitting there. Not knowing can be one of those tiny stresses that make up your day.”

 A few seconds warning from this app can save you all that unendurable tension, and possibly save your life!

The company web site indicates that the app basically models the black box logic inside the traffic system, which it does better than the informal modeling done by feeble carbon based intelligences.

The company apparently spends a lot of effort statistically studying different traffic systems to infer their internal logic. I would think it would be easier to work with the city to connect directly to their data system—but what do I know? Actually, I’m pretty sure that Connected Signals is, in fact, working with municipalities to sort out all the issues of data standards and safe, timely data access.

I don’t understand the business model–if any–of this “free” app.  How are they making money? Is there advertising in the app? Are they collecting and selling your geolocation and travel data? Or is this just a gimmick to attract attention to their consultancy?  (Probably the last one is true.)

As far as I’m concerned, this app itself is yet another case for the “inappropriate touch screen” file.  Not only is this an app that no one needs, it depends on network connectivity (good luck with that where I live), and tracks your position at all times.

Bear in mind that this app is an interface to an interface—which is a dead give away that it should not be needed at all.

Philosophically, I would point out that one of the pleasures of living in a city is paying attention, learning, and participating in the rhythms and patterns and pulse of the place. Delegating this pleasure to a silly app is another step to depersonalizing your city, and impoverishing your mental life.

I would also suggest that if your life is so much on the edge that waiting for a traffic signal is a gigantic stressor, you should seriously think about changing what you do and how you live. If this app actually makes a difference for you, you probably need a whole lot more of a reboot than this app gives you.

In any case, stop fiddling with you phone and pay attention to the road. My life depends on it.

Bottom line:  Connected Signals is doing some potentially interesting data intensive work, but this app is silly and misguided and probably just a toy anyway.

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