*** All Rights Reserved Alex Weir 2011 ***
Online or Quasi Online check using Smartphone
Zenara Project and a means of handling this problem in Third World Countries
The problem is that faced by Zenara in Zimbabwe – to provide a means of – throughout the country and on isolated roads – giving police and other regulatory bureaucrats the means of determining has the owner of a vehicle paid the radio licence for that vehicle.
The numbers are approximately 700,000 total vehicle fleet and about 400,000 currently licensed. It is expected that at least 90% of vehicles will have a radio.
Conventional technology tells one to set up an online database, which is accessed by GPRS (or Edge or 3G) wireless data through a PC or smartphone. The input will be the vehicle registration, and the output will be a yes or no – paid or unpaid – with possibly a date of expiry if paid (especially if the date of expiry is near).
– A working data connection wherever the roadblock, toll or other operation is conducted
– A positive balance in the data account of the smartphone holder
– A working database at HQ
It is not always possible to guarantee 24×7 and nationwide geographic mobile phone and/or data coverage, so some less ideal (or more ideal) solution might be better:
Let us consider using a smartphone which downloads every day or every week a new word processing file of the data, and where the word processing application has a search facility. If the registration number appears then it means the licence is paid. If it has been paid after the last download or master file publication, then the driver should have the original licence in his or her possession. If neither, then a spot payment or spot fine should be levied, or the radio or radio front confiscated against suitable paperwork.
The technology for this I have determined with a few experiments over 30 minutes are:
– A pdf file
– With the registration numbers being typically 9 per line (auto ordered of course) with a single space between each
– On an android smartphone the application ‘PDF to Go’ seems suitable, since it can easily read and load the file generated by a listing of 400,000 registrations of 7 characters (e.g. AAO6347). Such a file takes space of about 750k bytes
– I could not check the speed of the search since searching requires the Pro version which retails at US$15-00. That test should also be done somewhere, with a true file of random registrations and the desired seek being at or close to the end. Using typically a cheaper 600 MHz smartphone like the ZTE Blade – which retails at about US$ 150-00
– The new pdf file can be published on a normal webserver with a normal http address. The pdf file can be downloaded using the normal android browser. If necessary the free utility ‘download all files’ can be installed. The pdf file can be saved on the sdcard of the smartphone and can be accessed whenever necessary throughout the period of its shelflife (i.e. 1 – 7 days), before it is superceded.
– The pdf file can be created even using Microsoft word or some equivalent. This would enable probably the data to be produced by a mini or mainframe.
As a bonus, various characters such as *, %, $, @ can be appended to the registration number. They may signify things like Stolen Vehicle, Belongs to Dangerous Criminal – arrest, Belongs to Criminal too dangerous to arrest, etc.. Information from neighbouring countries can even be incorporated, in case thieves try to drive on the original number plates.
This kind of system can also be used even with serial numbers of electronic goods, and with serial numbers of engine and chassis for vehicles, thus enabling quasi-online checks without online facilities.
What would be the technological limit for number of records which can be handled in this primitive but effective way? Because we are talking a low population country (12 million) with low car ownership (5%)? I can browse a pdf file of 2.5 mb, which would be equivalent to 1.4 million number plates. The best tests would be done with searching also to determine search speed, and are therefore outside my remit at the moment. Maybe pdf-to-go could assist? ***
Alex Weir, Gaborone, Tuesday 21 June 2011
*** All Rights Reserved Alex Weir 2011 ***