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Beat the traffic jam

SOORAJ RAJMOHAN
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TECHNOLOGY City-based techies have come up with android apps that will help you wriggle out of the incessant traffic blocks

Tasting successCreators of Blockout, from left, Nithin Bose, Rohit R.K., Mahesh Mohan and Pratheeksha A.K.Photo: K. K. Mustafah
Tasting successCreators of Blockout, from left, Nithin Bose, Rohit R.K., Mahesh Mohan and Pratheeksha A.K.Photo: K. K. Mustafah

One of the most annoying things a person can experience nowadays is getting stuck in traffic. If the person in question is in a hurry, say to attend an important meeting, the situation gets compounded. But fear not, the fairies inside your smartphone are always hard at work and now your handheld device may be able to get you out of yet another pickle.

The fairies in this situation are created by Amidray Technologies. Their new Android app, Blockout Traffic, which released last week, draws upon the power of the community to help users avoid traffic jams and reach their destinations in peace. By providing users with a simple interface and a large button that says ‘I’m Stuck’, the app collects GPS data from the phones of stuck users and relays the site of the block to the other users of the app. Blocks are listed according to time, with the latest showing up first, and the number of people who reported a block is also mentioned. While this may seem like a hindrance to the people posting about the block as a result of being stuck in it, the internet has demonstrated in recent years how many good Samaritans are willing to post reviews and opinions without receiving any thanks in return. Besides, taking a hit for the team one day could result in some other user forewarning you about a block and saving you another day. Karma, as they say.

Pratheeksha A.K., CEO and one of the founders of Amidray Technologies, says, “Though we started out focusing on web development, we feel that we need to give back to the community and use technology to help people. Blockout is an effort to do this. We use the power of the community to render a service that can benefit almost everyone.”

While traffic data is something Google’s near infallible Maps app does provide, in India it is only available in major metropolitan cities as of now. This is where Blockout aims to step in and use the only chink in the search giant’s armour. Users of Blockout are alerted about blocks in a 25 to 30 kilometre radius, and the app claims to have the same level of efficiency throughout the country.

Amidray Technolgies was founded in 2011 by Pratheeksha, Nithin Bose and Rohit R.K, with Mahesh Mohan joining the partnership soon after. They are based at Kadavanthra in Kochi and also have a presence at Startup Village and the Technology Business Incubator at Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram.

This is not the first innovation from Amidray . During Onam last year, it introduced an app called mPayasam, which allowed residents of Kochi to order payasam online through the app and have it delivered to their homes during the course of the festival. This move was met with massive success and Amidray plans to bring back the popular favourite this year as well, claims Pratheeksha. “mPayasam was more or less an experiment on our part. We just wanted to see if something like it would be feasible and the accolades it received were beyond our expectations. We even got calls from other cities asking if they could avail the facility,” she says.

The team have also released ZimZim, an augmented reality app along the lines of Nokia City Lens and Layar that lets users use their camera to identify points of interest in the surroundings and even locate friends and call them from within the app itself. ZimZim was among the apps chosen to be presented at the Startup Festival at Bangalore last month.

Despite having tasted success, the Amidray team is in no hurry to jump the gun and release a flurry of apps. “Right now we’re working on perfecting Blockout and making it more intuitive and user friendly. We plan to update it to display blocks on an actual map rather that rely on listing out its location. There is also a plan to be able to alert users about traffic snarls through our own servers instead of having to depend on other users alone. We want our apps to perform up to the expectations of those who use them ,” says Pratheeksha.

Blockout is only available for Android at the moment but work on an iOS version is set to begin soon, according to Nithin Bose, Chief Technology Officer at Amidray. “We decided to start off with Android because of the penetration it has in the Indian market. Also, being open source it is easier and cheaper to develop for. Being a startup, cost is always a factor for us. That said, we do intend to start work on iOS next and eventually move on to other platforms as well,” he explains.

From getting payasam to your doorstep to getting you to work on time, Amidray Technologies has the interests of the community in mind. With home grown apps now boasting levels of sophistication to compete with the best in the business, it is safe to say, ‘where there’s a smartphone, there’s a way.’

SOORAJ RAJMOHAN

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