Design Competition Entry: MoDist – a MObile DISTance tracker


The problem is that small business owners and others need to log all of their business miles for tax deductions and employees/owners frequently forget to write down any business miles. Even if a log book exists, it is frequently forgotten and trip mileage is forgotten or fabricated/ guestimated. This is especially difficult for small businesses where employees use their personal vehicle for both business and personal driving (only the business miles can be claimed on the tax returns in the US).

The solution is an easily implementable application that could run natively or through the phone browser. The solution would use available technology to measure distance at all times and chunk it up into trips. When requested by the user, the distanced is recorded separately for use in logging. The application could run on a GPS navigation system, or ideally – any mobile phone. The main control is a simple ON / OFF to activate the logging function.

In the simple function use case, the user clicks the button associated with ON when they enter the car for a business trip. The app makes note of the date,time, and location. When the user arrives at the destination, they click the button associated with OFF. Now that this single business trip is complete, the app makes note of the end location and computes the distance between the start and end. This distance is entered in the system for this user, saved for use later.

The distance information could be found in several ways:
1. By the GPS in any GPS-equipped phone or navigation system
2. By noting the nearest cell phone tower in the network, for an estimation of the start and end points (within a small but acceptable window of error). This is available for any non-GPS-equipped phone.
3. By prompting the user for the ZIP code of the start and end location, at the respective time
4. By prompting the user for total distance driven at the end of the trip.

In the advanced form, the app could also account for a common problem with log books and one that is also possible with the simple app: Forgetting to turn on the app, thereby losing the starting location information. The advanced mode gives the user an option to click a button associated with RETRACK CURRENT TRIP. The app would then look back to the last time that the cell phone (or other device) was stationary for 1 hour. It would then capture that point as the start location and put the app in the simple mode, waiting for the user to click OFF/END TRIP.

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