This concept has been developed by using a combination of PAN9420 and PAN1760A
Panvel is a 300 years old marketplace with a port. In the 1980s Panvel found itself in Navi Mumbai, a well-planned sister city of Mumbai. Since then several national and international projects have altered Panvel's marketplace. Being a taluka place for about 178 villages it has been both a wholesale and retail market. Gradually the wholesale has reduced and is shifting to larger markets. Various communities have traded on Tapal Naka together creating a harmonious whole developing a common trading practice.
Traditionally the practice of trade involves smaller tighter networks of coolies, shopkeepers and transport vehicles. These networks share a tighter social bond which is the driver of a smooth and reliable trade. In their own smaller pockets of shops, selling the same product next to each other, they build a homogeneous practice managing the local dynamics. One of the biggest challenges is traffic management in front of their shops. Their shops’ front part is a sales desk and a godown is in the back, owing to which loading and unloading of product takes place in front of their shops.
It is in the shopkeepers' interest to manoeuvre the traffic in front of his shop to achieve a faster and smoother service to his client. The customer coming from neighbouring villages has many tasks to fulfil in a day’s visit to Panvel and hence is looking for quick and easy parking options. A coolie’s earning depends upon how much he can work in a day, so he contributes heavily to the management of vehicle parking in front of the shops to reduce his downtime. The vehicle drivers have acquired the skill to manoeuvre through the dense and tricky vehicle movement, without making a fuss about it.
This seemingly intense traffic dynamic already has an aspect of gamification. The small niches of parking hunted down by an eager customer, quickly replaced by another is a game that is played every minute, while achieving individual goals. All of this is possible because of the social bonds developed in this market over the centuries. The intervention of IOT technology into this place should enforce these social bonds rather than replacing them. This article illustrates a design concept produced after a successfully conducted a design process. The two Panasonic devices ideal for IOT interventions are used in combination to develop the design concept. Our principal aim throughout the process was not losing this community dynamic but to enhance it with gamification.
We have been actively engaged with this marketplace for the last two years conducting a thorough ethnographic enquiry. We have observed the pattern of trade activities that seamlessly connect with the street from the shop space. Varied methods were used such as narrative interviews and photo documentation.
We conducted a user game using photos collected during our observations. The user game is aimed at bringing about the nuances about the traffic activity associated with the trading. Five participants were invited to construct a story using the printed photos of parking situation that we had collected during our fieldwork. Their passions related to the rules and regulations which are based on creating awareness among the people were more evident as they tried to narrate a story. The user game became more of a focus group, where they preferred to voice their concerns regarding many sundry issues of discipline and policing.
We analysed the feedback by synthesizing scenarios of parking situations. After making rough sketches of basic observations, we went again and observed to confirm them.
We finalised on three design drivers that we didn't want to compromise on, which are:
- does not participate in surveillance systems
- does not replace social bonds but rather helps them
- is decentralised, does not need any company to operate and maintain.
Based on these drivers we developed some preliminary design concepts and went back to the community to get feedback. One very strong feedback came which pointed out to the fact that the design should lie in the domain of the shopkeeper. They thought it can be beneficial for her/him in making business smoother. They were again insistent on making a stronger policing policy and argued that the traffic should be taken care by the police and not by them, which in practice they are very happy to do for their personal gains.
We decided to keep our commitment to our design drivers considering the field observations and arguing against the policing aspect of user feedback. We based our idea on the short time hacking of niche spaces on street for quick shopping of customers.
It was essential to validate the final design concept and we went back to the same users and checked their response. The users were thrilled to see that, something like this can be done but again insisted on the idea of stronger policing and the sensors used should inform police about incorrect behaviour. They wanted stronger punishments like large fines that the police should charge using this technology, even though some of them had experience of fines piled on his account without him being aware.
We designed a concept where PAN1760A and PAN9420 are used in combination with an LDR sensor. PAN1760A, the Bluetooth module is mounted with the LDR sensor in a small socket. The sheer small size will help in minimising the overall assembly. This unit is then embedded in the street in a grid layout in front of the shops. These sensor units detect the obstruction of light by a parked vehicle and periodically transmit a signal to a wall mounted master device. This master device has a combination of a PAN1760A and a PAN9420 WiFi unit and is mounted on the bottom of the signboards hung over the shops front. The signal being transmitted by PAN1760A is of two types, when the sensor is covered and when it is not. PAN9420 processes the signals for a data visualisation application, which then can be seen on the interface of a mobile phone. The interface shows the nodes of the grid as dots having two colours, red indicates that it is covered by a vehicle and grey colour indicates that it is not. Every shop has one of these master units owned by the shopkeeper and they are connected in a series. The shopkeeper gets to see the grid in front of each shop and then can interact with the incoming customer as to how she can manoeuvre her loading and unloading vehicles. He can guide his helpers and coolies to manage the vehicles as he sits on the cash counter and deals with his customers. All the shopkeepers together are much more aware of how the street is occupied and how smoothly they can help to create niches and hacking them at the same time. The aspect that one can create a niche and then allow it to be hacked brings in the gamification aspect.
Sharper management at the hand of the shopkeeper and his team can improve the loading and unloading times. The customer can be served faster and any idle vehicle causing a street blockage can be avoided. The interface is so minimal that it can trigger more informal discussions among shopkeepers rather than animosities about the occupation of space. It does not require any special central management. The application totally works on temporal processing of data and does not gather and store data. The devices put together and the visualisation of data does not act as a surveillance mechanism.
The design concept fulfils the three basic design drivers we set for ourselves. Our aim was to remain committed to the community in the marketplace which is the driving force behind the successful trade. The technology hence is a facilitator for the trade practice. Rather than the much discussed and debated IOT technology applications that can threaten privacy and replace social connections, we propose an embedded approach that strengthens the community.
As observed traffic in this market street is like a game, where one has to find an appropriate spot for a sufficient amount of time. This aspect is made more pleasurable through the application as the shopkeepers participate more willingly in the concerns of the customers. They take responsibility and contribute to traffic management. The police are doing their part quite well, where they are applying fines, locking idle vehicles and lifting the wrongly parked 2-wheelers. Our design concept ensures participation and dialogue which can solve the parking issues delightfully.
As the concept does not act as a surveillance tool or create development management dependencies nor does it collect data which helps conquer the negativity attached with IOT technologies.
We committed most of the available time for Phase 2 in field observations for user studies, as we insisted on their participation in the design process. We also insisted on the design drivers and the users' response to it. This process delayed the implementation of the concept in software and hardware prototype necessary to complete this part of the project. We are working on developing it and will soon be ready to share it.
As this is an extremely rich context and we have only started to explore its potential, we will continue the exploration perhaps making it a part of the doctoral research of one of the authors, Neha, which explores, "The meaning of a place", with specific reference to this market.