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We have the technology. Now how to put it to work for cops, buses, and so much more?

Motorola photo of a smartphone screen showing a

Motorola photo of a smartphone screen showing a barcode and numerical identifier Credit: Motorola

My column on Monday was about why people waiting for a bus can't tell when -- if ever -- the next one will come, even though the necessary technology is built into the smartphones used by millions of consumers. But it's not just buses.

Look around and you'll find glaring examples of technology going unused all over the place. Police cruisers in Nassau County are equipped with computers, for instance, and when cops make a traffic stop they're supposed to key in various information such as license plate number, make and model.

Of course, this info already exists in a database; it's crazy to have police pecking out B-U-I-C-K when they should be busy fighting crime. Now imagine if every driver's license and auto registration came with a QR code (like the one that appears on P. A2 of Newsday). Officers could simply scan this with an iPhone or other such device and harvest all the necessary data without hitting a single key. Or motor vehicle documents could be issued as cards with a magnetic stripe, allowing officers to swipe them. Same outcome.

I'm reminded of the bad old days in publishing. You'd write a book on a computer, print it out, and mail it to your publisher -- who would pay somebody to type the thing back into a computer, verbatim except for all the additional errors introduced by the typist. Then various editors, along with the author, would labor mightily to restore the text to what it was supposed to be in the first place.

PS -- A loyal reader reports that in Cuba buses are called "aspirinas" because they come every four hours (and presumably relieve the headache of waiting). I haven't been to Cuba, but I'll take her word for it.


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