Back when it was still legal, I always played on my phone while I sat in traffic.
I did it so often, I even changed my phone’s e-mail signature from "Sent from my iPhone" to "Sent while sitting in H-1 traffic."
Then I got to daydreaming. How nice would it be to have a phone app that displayed traffic camera images around the island? You could see the real-time image and plan your route accordingly.
Turns out, there’s an app for that.
Jordan Chang had the same idea, and he had the chops to turn it into reality. The 28-year-old software developer lives in Kapolei but works in town. Traffic drives him batty every day, so he took matters into his own hands.
Chang created the free "Hawaii Traffic Cams" app for Android smart phones (it’s cheaper to develop for Androids). It launched in May. Telling a few Facebook friends and his co-workers was the extent of his marketing effort. To date, it’s been downloaded more than 10,000 times.
It’s been kind of a saga for Chang. It took him three weekends to develop the app. When it launched, it downloaded images from the city’s traffic website to be uploaded through the app. Android users can see what traffic looks like, only minutes behind the actual time.
"I took an aging product and improved on it by making the information easier to use and, more importantly, on a mobile device," he says.
But sometime last summer the app yielded only blank images. Apparently, the app had been blocked from picking up the images from the city. "I don’t know if it was intentional on (the city’s) part," Chang says. "Maybe it was a security issue."
Chang wasn’t sure what to do, and for a while he focused on his day job and his wife. But people expressed their displeasure on the review section of the Android marketplace. "Sad to see it go," wrote Tracy. "Who do we contact to get this app back?
Chang now feeds images via the state Department of Transportation’s goakamai.org, which launched in August.
"I enjoyed working on this app because it gave me a chance to flex my new skills in developing software for cell phones," he says. "What I hope to gain out of this project is to collaborate with talented people and eventually create a solution to Hawaii’s traffic problem."
Of course, he still has that wife and day job, which is why he plans to work with others in the local tech community. "My vision is to keep the information technology talent in Hawaii," he says. "A lot of them go to the mainland, but my intent is to start a project we could all collaborate on."
Until that happens, Android users are happy with the app. It’s gotten dozens of five-star reviews.
"Awesome brah! Props to u!" says one comment.
"This is by far the most useful Android app," says another.
"Buggah working now, right on! Thanks 4 da great app!" says another review. "Now can you work your magic and fix the actual traffic?"
If only there was an app for that.