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GVSU Student, Prof Help Develop Pothole App

ALLENDALE -- That advanced math class can come in handy. Officials with the city of Boston, Mass., are now testing a new app designed to detect potholes, and a Grand Valley State University math professor and student had a hand in its design.

It's called Street Bump and it works through a driver's smartphone. The smartphone is placed on the dashboard or in a cup holder, continually collecting data on phone movement, location and speed. Street Bump transmits this data to remote servers.

Ed Aboufadel, chair of the mathematics department, worked with students from Grand Valley's mathematics Research Experiences for Undergraduates program during the summer of 2011 to analyze data for the app. The group worked to figure out a way for the system to detect potholes while filtering out things like manhole covers and speed bumps. Aboufadel said if at least 30 percent of drivers hit a bump in the same spot, the system recognizes it as some sort of road anomaly, and further calculation determines whether or not it is a pothole.

"The challenge was to figure out how to use the data given to us to find the potholes," said Aboufadel. "City officials developed the app to collect the data but needed people with a math background to create methods to detect the potholes in the data. We used matrices and linear algebra to track rotation of the data and wavelet filters to identify spikes or road anomaly in the data."

The students met daily with Aboufadel for eight weeks before submitting their findings. Boston city officials presented the challenge as a contest and the Grand Valley team was one of three winners.

The app is currently being tested in Massachusetts and Zurich, Switzerland.

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