This version of the help file is for the latest release (v2.0.2) of PhantomAlerts
If you are installing PhantomAlerts (PA) for the very first time, the install process will be a new install with the following steps that will be required for only the very first time you run the program:
It is highly recommended that the first time you run the application, that you ensure you are using a stable Internet connection. If the internet connection is weak, it could take quite a long time or possibly fail to load all of the relevant data.
1) Request to load the 3rd party Text-To-Speech (TTS) software
2) Acceptance of the terms & conditions;
3) Loading of the traffic camera and PhantomAlerts POI databases;
Please note that the above steps can take up to 1 minute, but will be required only on the very first use of the software (or if you elect to reload the databases). Thereafter, the start-up time is much faster (e.g. a few seconds).
- I highly recommend that you install the TTS software option. This truly “augments” the hands-free tracking mode when driving. The software should still operate without the TTS installed if you so wish;
- Note that all real-time data access is very internal memory via internal data structures. Access to the database is only for persistence of data. This application is designed for high performance (hence the higher than normal start-up logistics).
- You must accept the terms and conditions.
- For those of you (in the marketplace) upgrading from a prior release to this latest release, the process should be quite smooth and quick.
User Interface Options
PhantomAlerts using Augmented Traffic Views aggregates and displays data from the following sources:
- PhantomAlerts unique database of speed traps, red light cameras, etc that auto-alert when predicted to be nearby in your current direction;
- Support is for all of North America
- Highway Traffic camera real-time views;
- Predictive Auto-Tracking – Predicts and presents traffic camera views based on your current location and direction to automatically show the traffic cameras in your upcoming trip;
- SmartMode feature learns your often-travelled paths and uses that information to filter/select cameras to show in a more optimal manner
- SmartAlerts provides real-time traffic construction/maintenance information based on your location so that you are warned ahead of time (e.g., before arriving at a traffic jam or a closed ramp);
– Note SmartAlert and Real-Time traffic map features are not available in all cities yet;
- Real-time traffic data using Google Maps;
- Location-based, real-time (traffic/accident related) tweets from Twitter users in your current location
An Augmented Reality (AR) view of traffic cameras and their views to see the traffic before you drive;
Traffic Cameras are supported for more than 40+ cities/regions across North America and over 4800+ cameras;
Traffic Cameras for Cities/Areas supported:
Ontario Canada (Ottawa/Toronto), Florida, Manhattan/Long Island, Buffalo, Denver, St Louis, Chicago, Washington DC,
New Jersey, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Vancouver, Baltimore, Seattle
Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Milwaukee, Utah
Kansas City, Louisville, Phoenix, Portland, San Fran Bay Area
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Tennessee, Columbus
Hartford and North Carolina (added 2.0.2)
- Designed for performance, stability and reliability – triple buffering techniques and advance predictive algorithms are employed to ensure these design goals.
- Support for Text-To-Speech, audio cues and touch-screen short-cuts are designed to ensure a 100% hands-free operation.
- Highly configurable.
- For DROID/Milestone (or any Android with a resolution greater than 480×320), there is optimized support when starting PA in landscape mode:
There are four main options from the main screen:
Option 1: Driving Mode – press the icon at the bottom/left of the screen to invoke auto-tracking of current location/direction (or enable Auto Start option);
Option 2: Traffic Cameras – touch the screen to show the closest traffic camera based on current location;
Option 3: Augmented Reality – press the tab at the bottom/right of the screen to invoke (in non-Driving mode);
Option 4: Menu button for settings and other options;
Option 1: Auto-Tracking:
This mode is designed to be used when driving in the car. It is truly designed to be a 100% hands-free mode:
– I recommend that it be used in landscape mode to maximize the quality of the camera images.
– I use this mount in my car which allows for portrait and landscape orientations: http://canadagps.com/Mounkit_Arkon_Vent.html.
Auto-Tracking mode does the following:
1) Determine the current location and direction heading and the closest traffic camera to your current location/direction heading;
2) If Smart Mode is disabled (default), it will determine the next 10 traffic cameras that are closest to you that are in the general direction that the software has automatically determined that you are moving towards:
3) This predictive mode will present cameras that may be in your future direction as there may be cases where you may elect to turn in a different direction (such as the 4-way cross highways 401 and DVP in Toronto). The software will automatically adapt to your new direction and present the cameras accordingly.
4) After every 10 images the real-time traffic using Google Maps centered around your current location is presented;
5) As camera locations are passed, the name of the location is emitted via Text to Speech (a useful guide while driving hands-free); The TTS is tuned to account for unusual names and/or localized nuances. Please let me know if a name is not pronounced properly in your city so I can tune this.
6) PhantomAlert POI proximity alerts (red-light cameras, etc) are shown using a “radar” screen overlaid on the traffic camera views/real-time traffic maps. Alerts that are close by automatically pops-up showing the relative direction and distance of the alert target along with audible and visible cues. Once the target has passed, the radar screen automatically disappears and the image sequence of the future near-by cameras is resumed. Alternatively, the user can touch the screen (or press the back button) to immediately return to the auto-tracking image sequences.
7) Note the software currently uses several advanced techniques to optimize the user experience in this mode.
9) There is a SmartMode option available
This is disabled by default. You can enable under menu->settings->Enable Traffic Cameras Smart Mode
- Smart mode learns regular driving patterns and is meant for those that drive daily along a regular route which passes by a series of cameras and proximity alerts. Smart mode optimizes the presentation of such data to minimize the driver distractions and showing only the relevant cameras; I recommend enabling this if you drive regular patterns. It will take about 4 one-way trips to “fully learn” your route.
- Optimizes the cameras shown to be only the ones that you drive by in your normal driving patterns in auto-tracking mode;
- Once you drive by a camera that is not normally encountered, the smart mode is disabled for the rest of the session (and all cameras ahead and all POIs will be shown/alerted on as it would in the normal auto-tracking mode);
- When fully enabled, a green status bar (the one on top of the compass green bar status on the bottom of the screen) will show solid green bars as follows;
One bar – smart mode has been temporarily disabled as a new camera not previously in the learned path has been detected very close by;
Two bars – ready for learning mode – nothing learned as yet;
Four bars – all learning has been completed and smart mode is being applied in real-time;
10) The Radarmode showing the PhantomAlerts POIs can be enabled/disabled by touching the toggle on/off icon that is shown in auto-tracking mode towards the bottom right of the display.
– Icons within 0.5km and are directly in the current direction of the car movement are circled in red;
– Icons within 1km and are a bit to the side of the current direction of the car movement are circled in blue (in case you decide to turn);
– All other POIs are shown as red dots;
A radar sweep line moves clockwise. As the sweep line moves over the proximity POI that are shown as red dots, the type of POI is displayed via an icon.
There are 2 circles in this view. The 1st inner circle represents a 0.5km border and the 2nd outer circle denotes 1km;
As a proximity alert comes within 300 meters (configurable via menu->settings), the auto radar view (if enabled) will take over until the proximity POI moves away.
11) Smart Alerts:
Construction maintenance events are spoken to the user when close by;
Events are obtained in real-time;
One can touch the radar center in auto tracking mode to listen to the closest alert;
SmartAlerts will show up on the radar screen if within 1-2 km;
SmartAlerts are obtained when first starting auto-tracking mode, in the background (not radar showing mode needs to be on);
SmartAlerts only work in Toronto for now;
SmartAlerts are disabled by default and can be enabled under Menu->Settings
12) On-demand 680 News latest Traffic report:
In Toronto, the latest 680 News traffic report (which is refreshed every 10 minutes) can be played back by selecting menu->680News Traffic Report (this option is only shown if Toronto is the city selected for traffic cameras).
This audio clip is typically 1-2 minutes. It can be stopped early by exiting the application.
While this option is fully automated (hands-free), there are a few options available that makes can further enrich the experience:
- Swiping UP or DOWN will toggle the auto-radar mode on/off
- Touch anywhere on the display to bring up a selection of one-touch ICONs to choose from:
- Touching on the volume icon in the top right will toggle the sounds – the TTS and Audio alerts are either both set to on, or both set to off. These settings are persistent.
- Touching on the traffic camera icon in the middle right will toggle showing the traffic camera images.
- Touching on the radar icon towards the bottom/right will enable/disable the real time PhantomAlert POI proximity alert radar view. Note this icon will only be shown when auto-tracking is enabled.
- Touching on the Auto-Tracking tab (bottom/left) will disable the auto tracking and the closest traffic camera options are now available.
The ICONs are display for @ 10 seconds or so. Re-touching the display will re-enable their display for another 10 (or so) seconds;
Option 2: Favourites and Maps:
This option is enabled by default when starting the application.
Touching the display will show the real-time image from the closest traffic camera. Swiping up/down will show the next/previous views from other traffic cameras, in sequence.
User Configurable Settings
The menu options are as follows:
Show Detailed Info – shows information on location, internal POI details, favourites, software version and user privileges. This is a good option to select to confirm that POI databases got loaded properly.
Settings – allows the following settings to be configured on/off or changed
Local Area of Interest – to select the city of interest for the traffic cameras.
Speech Prompts – Text to speech
Audio Alerts – Various audible cues are used to aid the user.
Auto-Flashing Alerts – Enables/disables the automatic single POI view (in Auto-Tracking mode) when proximity alerts are close by.
Auto-Start – Enables the Auto-Tracking mode automatically upon start of the application for a “one-touch” start up user experience.
Enable Screen Disable Timeout – if set on, will force screen to never timeout (useful in auto tracking mode). Previous setting is restored on exit.
Enable Radar View (Scope) – Used to enable the PhantomAlerts POIs proximity alerts radar, real time view when in auto-tracking mode;
Enable Traffic Cameras Smart Mode – if set on, this will NOT display proximity alerts along the routes travelled before and DISPLAY ONLY cameras along the route travelled before. This mode will automatically turn off (for the rest of the application session if a new area is detected). This is disabled by default and it is recommended to only enabled this option if you truly travel a route every day and want the presentation of information to be optimized. There is also an icon (that is displayed in auto-tracking mode towards the bottom left of the display that will also toggle this mode.
Use Metric (Meters) – uses meters when enables (miles when disabled);
Enable Smart Alerts (Toronto Only) – Used to enable the SmartAlerts feature when in auto-tracking mode; Note Enable Radar View in Tracking also needs to be enabled for this option to work fully.
Enable Location-Based Twitter Alerts – Used to enable the real-time, location based tweets when in auto-tracking mode; Note Enable Radar View in Tracking also needs to be enabled for this option to work fully.
- when driving, tweets are filtered to contain eithe “traffic” or ‘accident”;
Phantom Alert POI Specific Options:
The POIs can be individually enabled. This affects the loading of the PhantomAlert data only. There are current 9 types of PhantomAlert POIs:
Speed traps, Red Light Cameras, Speed Cameras Fixed, Speed Cameras Mobile;
DUI checkpoints, Railroad crossings, Dangerour Intersections; Dangerous curves;
Radius to load PhantomAlert data – the distance (radius) to load POIs based on current location
POI Distance Tolerance – Non School Zones – the distance from when to start alerting for the none School Zones POI types (audio and visual alerts).
POI Distance Tolerance – School Zones– the distance from when to start alerting for the School zone POI type (audio and visual alerts).
# times to play Alert per POI instance – the # of times to play (using audio) the POI type when the POI is detected to be closeby.
Frequency to refresh PhantomAlerts POIs – data is loaded automatically if one moves outside of the radius of the data previously loaded. In addition data can be automatically loaded regularly based on this option (to pick up data changes).
Inter-Image time when tracking – the amount of time that the Auto-Tracking mode will display one image for.
Detailed Help– brings up this detailed help information in the browser. Press the back button to return to the application.
Exit – to purposely exit the program (as much as the Android OS allows for an exit).
Load PhantomAlert POIs – allows the user to manually refresh the PhantomAlerts proximity alerts POIs.
Show Demo Video–short-cut to the youtube video showing an overview of this application.
Enter Premium Access Code – option to allow your PhantomAlert Premium access code to register;
Selecting a menu option will disable auto-tracking if it was on;
Option 3: Augmented Reality:
The Augmented Reality (AR) view provides for a real-time overlay of information over the local camera’s preview view. This information includes several modes:
1) Local traffic cameras – the cameras shown on the AR view will depend on their relative distance and bearing to the phones current location. The blips representing the cameras will move as the camera moves. The bearing and distance is used to compute each camera’s blip position, within the AR view, during each refresh of the AR view.
Note the mini compass view in the top right of the display. The orientation of the compass view (as denoted by the N, S, W and E markers) changes in real time. Within the display there are colour coded points which represent the POIs that are in scope for viewing. The narrower “V” like markings denote the POIs that are within the current AR’s view. Rotating the phone accordingly allows the user to select the other POIs for the AR view. The compass allows the user to see where these POIs are in respect to the current phone’s orientation. The color coded POIs are as follows:
Black – Traffic Cameras;
There is a mini status line along the bottom of the view which displays context sensitive information:
- GPS accuracy;
- # of traffic cameras that are local;
The compass status is displayed in the bottom right corner. There are four states:
One bar – basically no valid input from the compass available;
Two bars – Low signal;
Three bars – Medium signal;
Four bars – High signal
Note the other modes, also shows the compass status in a similar manner.
The overlay view is updated when in states: low, medium and high. Shaking the compass vigorously (and turning over and over) will help to get the compass into a usable state.
- Press the radar/compass overlay area in the top right corner to enable/disable the overlay updating. This is useful to freeze the overlay while the camera image continues to be updated so that the information on the overlay can be read at one’s pace. Note the touch screen is still active in this mode and is quite useful to not be so “position” dependent in the AR mode;
- The radar/compass is shown in red when the overlay is “frozen”.
- It is shown in green otherwise.
Traffic AR View
- The location of the camera is displayed next to the blip for each camera once the blip (camera position) is within a range on the camera display (e.g. it is not displayed if the blip is on the far left or far right on the display. This avoids some clutter on the AR view;
- One can touch each blip/name to show the actual camera view from the selected camera. The selected camera’s blip is colour coded to denote that it has been selected and that its image is in view.
- Each touch triggers a 5 seconds timer – the display will revert to the original default AR view after 5 seconds. If one touches another camera on the screen, the image from that camera is shown (and the timer is reset to 5 seconds). The user can keep selecting between the various camera blip’s images. Only when the screen is not touched for 5 seconds, will the default AR view be shown.
- Along the right edge of the AR view, there is a vertical slider with a top bar and a bottom bar:
- The top bar represents the maximum distance and the bottom bar represents the minimum distance;
- The user can slide each bar up/down within limits to adjust the min and max. The cameras in view are adjusted to be within the bars;
- Note to use the slider press and hold down and slide then press up at the new position to set. The slider should move in distinct increments while being moved.
- The distance shown within each slider shows the actual distances that are used to filter the view;
- The full range of the slider covers the max and min of all of the local cameras in range (that would be in the AR view).
It is expected that the normal position of the phone in the car that it is in a car holder on the dash/vent area somewhere vertically or horizontally positioned.
The application does have an option to modify the screen time out parameter (menu->settings), if it is set too short and you use auto-tracking mode, the screen will go dim and must be “touched” to brighten back the display. You may adjust your screen timeout parameters accordingly or enable this option. The application will restore the original settings if properly terminated.
Note that the Android compass sometimes needs to be re-calibrated. This will result in the augmented reality view to be sticky (i.e. not moving 360 degrees). To correct this, please shake the phone vigorously and move away from magnetic sources if in the area Also, avoid cases with magnetic flaps.
Haptic feedback is provided for several input requests where haptic feedback can help confirm input has been received. It is not in every input field nor is it configurable. In general if it is not a swipe input, haptic feedback is provided.
Note the application is only meant to be run when needed and is not meant to be running all of the time. Please consider this from a battery drain perspective. The application does not query the GPS when it is not in foreground mode. As long as you move the application to background mode when not using the application, then the battery drain should not be an issue.
It is expected that the user has already enabled GPS. The application will detect this, and issue a warning alert, but will continue. Key features will not work completely until the user properly enables GPS.