Google StreetView just saved me hours…

Much has been said about Google Streetview; it’s an invasion of privacy, it’s utterly pointless etc etc.  Well today we used it at work and it saved us a huge number of man hours.

We are currently working with a UK council to digitise their waste collection service, starting from entirely manual systems.  Before we can do the really clever bits we need to get a firm grip on the basic layout of the territory, who has what bins etc etc.  It sounds real easy, but you soon realise that whilst the great majority of premises are straightforward (house with 1 black bin and 1 green bin) there are lots of exceptions which don’t follow the norm

  • blocks of flats where dozens of ‘dwellings’ share a communal bin store
  • premises above shops
  • sub-divided houses
  • commercial premises

and the list goes on…

Asphaltic concrete road in Thailand

Today we were looking at these exceptions and trying to get a grip on exactly how many of these exceptions there are, and what the actual situation was.  It was a planning meeting to work out exactly what data was available and what needed to be done to get the computer systems to reflect reality.

This time last year, one or more of us would have spent half a day plotting some representative locations on a map then another day visiting each one and taking photographs.  Then a few hours documenting it all and presenting it back to the team.

Today, we gathered around the laptop and used Streetview to look around a few locations and survey how the bins were stored.  We found some in the middle of the road (!), some where several blocks of flats shared one or more different bin stores etc.  We did the whole thing in about 30 minutes and cut the ‘decision time’ from a week to an hour.  Pretty cool.