If the Computer Said It, It Must be True!

By on April 30th, 2016 in Human Impacts

Well, maybe not. “What Happens When GPS Can’t Find You?” is a commercial concern raised by a Wall Street Journal article. Needless to say a business in today’s world is at risk if the GPS location associated with it is wrong, or just if the path that is required to get there is not correct. These are situations that crowd-sourced feedback could correct.

Consumers at best are frustrated, and may simply write off that destination. In this case it is often not the business’s fault, but one in the GPS location service, or route mapping.

Behind this is a more pervasive and serious problem. Often there is no way to “fix” these problems from the perspective of the consumer or the affected business. The user may know the data is wrong, that the route doesn’t work, but correcting the error(s) is not a straightforward path, and certainly not easy enough that crowd-sourced feedback would work. That is, many people might find the error, and if there were a simple way to “report” the problem, after the “nth” report, an automated fix (or review) could be triggered.

This is not just  GPS problem. I’ve found many web sites are validating addresses against equally flawed sources (perhaps even the U.S. Postal Service).  I can send mail to my daughter (and she gets it)  — I’ve even seen the mailbox on the side of her street. But one of the web sites I used to deliver items to her location is rejecting the address as “not known”… and of course there is no way to report the error. A related problem is entering an address in “just the right way.” Am I in “Unit A101” or “Apt. A 101″ or maybe Apt A101.” Note that the delivery folks can handle all of these, but the online ordering system can’t.

Here is a technology design consideration:

Track these “failures,” and after some number, check the validation process, or better have a button such as “I know this is right, so please update the database.” The result could be crowd-sourced corrective feedback.

Online operations are losing business, as well as brick-and-mortar activities due to online “presumptions” of correctness, with no corrective processes available. It’s one thing when the word processor marks your spelling as “wrong,” but lets you keep it anyway. It is another when medications or essential services can’t reach your location because the GPS or delivery address is not in the database, or is listed incorrectly.

Image: By Tech. Sgt. Dan Neely , Public Domain