Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Monday, October 10, 2011

A bright idea for PSE&G?

Utility poles have unique identifier numbers.
Who knows how many of Plainfield's PSE&G streetlights are burned out at any one given moment?

TJ's human mommy complained
when she brought him over this morning that last night when she took him for a walk a streetlight in her block was out, leaving a dark and scary stretch.

I have seen PSE&G crews out after dark replacing burnt out bulbs in the downtown shopping district, but how do the ones in the neighborhoods get replaced? Some people no doubt call PSE&G or go to their online form, and many also call Plainfield's Division of Public Works.

But I wonder if the outages could be reported more quickly and more accurately if PSE&G took advantage of two technologies -- cellphones and QR codes.

These days, nearly everyone is on a cellphone and carries it with them at all times (I myself finally cancelled my AT&T landline this past week, and am now totally on cell).

So, how to make it easy for residents to use cellphones to report burnt out streetlights?

It still wouldn't help if the resident had to remember to look up a phone number for PSE&G or search for their online outage report form (see here) with its 24 input lines.

Though PSE&G has an online method, it is anything but user-friendly.
But the other new technology might make it easy to report the EXACT LOCATION of burnt out streetlights -- by using QR codes.

These little graphic squares are beginning to turn up on everything from junk mail to ads in magazines and newspapers to the sides of buildings and on billboards.

Example of a cellphone-scannable QR code.

QR codes can range from tiny (in an ad) to huge
(on the side of a building or billboard, as here).

How do they work?

Smartphones such as the iPhone and Android-powered cellphones have 'apps' that read the code using the cellphone's camera and take the caller to a website where information can be viewed or downloaded.

What I am suggesting is for that pathway to be activated in the other direction: taking the caller to a web page where info on the burnt out streetlight can be input.

Each utility pole already has a unique identifier number in the form of an embossed metal tag mounted on the pole somewhat above eye level.

If each pole had a QR tag mounted to it, the tag could take the caller to a web page where the pole's unique ID number could be entered from the tag on the pole.

Or, even better, if each QR tag were to identify only the individual pole, the caller would have to do nothing more than use the app. A smart webpage would gather the information it needed from the photo.

Gone is the need for the caller to remember anything, or even to be a customer.

PSE&G could also use such tags to keep track of other useful information regarding the utility pole, such as when it was put in the ground, whether it has been damaged by an accident and what repairs were made, whether it hosts a transformer and when that was installed and/or maintained, and whether other services utiliize the pole and for what purpose (cable TV, etc.)

Is this a bright idea for PSE&G?

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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olddoc said...

A simple answer would be for the police on their patrol to report to their dispatcher for transmission to PS&G.