Microjobbing by satnav smartphone

Small jobs on phone
5 June 2013

A novel smartphone app, already being used to monitor hundreds of railway stations in Germany, can earn you money as you go about your normal day.

The AppJobber phone app benefits from many people being online all the time as they move around their cities. Worldwide, 13% of all Internet traffic is to mobile phones and tablets.

With all these phones available and their locations pinpointed by satnav, Tobias Klug and Robert Lokaiczyk had the idea of a service doing ‘microjobs’ via crowdsourcing.

Tobias Klug and Robert Lokaiczyk

“Why not distribute small jobs to all these phones and get people out there to do them in return for a small payment? It’s cheaper than companies sending out their own employees and in the end often faster and more flexible,” says Dr Lokaiczyk.

Initially a spin-off from the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany, their start-up company “wer denkt was” (“who thinks what”) is now supported by the ESA Business Incubation Centre Darmstadt, one of seven centres across Europe.

800 rail stations monitored by AppJobber

Dresden Main Station

“We now have clients like Deutsche Bahn who would like to know when one of their ticket machines is out of order, a signboard is not working, a station light has failed or something has been vandalised,” says Dr Krug, CEO.

“This can easily be resolved by anyone with a smartphone passing the stations – just take a picture, write a few words and send it in. The images are location-tagged precisely with satellite navigation data. And the one doing the microjob gets paid a few euros.”

For their hundreds of car and bike rental facilities, Deutsche Bahn now use AppJobber for quality checks like “Pressure ok on bikes?” and “Is rental station clean and ready to use?”

“This saves them time and money, and reduces the company’s carbon footprint by cutting travel.”

The company agrees with their 100-plus clients on which jobs are distributed to the registered users’ smartphones on AppJobber.

Jobs reported by photos

Each jobs typically takes only a few minutes and is rewarded by at least one or two euros. Bigger jobs are paid more – all in proportion to the time they take to do.

“We also have many jobs on traffic signs and road conditions. Here, our users take pictures of speed limits, parking spaces, one-way roads, lorry restrictions and new roads.”

Advertised on maps, users can easily see jobs in their vicinity, each presented with a short description, what is required and the amount offered. Typically, a couple of pictures are required along with a completed questionnaire.

Microjobs reduce greenhouse gases

AppJobber is now available in English, German and Italian for smartphones with Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems, serving as the platform to advertise all the microjobs to registered users. The app has already been downloaded more than 100 000 times.

Reporting shop hours

The key advantage for customers is to eliminate the travel time and costs involved if they had to do the jobs by sending out their own staff.

Dr Lokaiczyk emphasises, “With our microjob service, less travel means less emission of greenhouse gases, thereby helping our environment.”

ESA’s incubation centres foster business 

“AppJobber is just one more of the numerous new services created by young inventors and entrepreneurs and made possible by today’s constant availability of satellite-provided information, in this case Galileo and GPS navigation data,” says Frank M. Salzgeber, head of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme Office, running the ESA Business Incubation Centres.

Galileo satnav system

“Today, with more and more people being online all the time, new start-ups are constantly presenting innovative app-based solutions made possible by use of satellite data which can help us all in our daily lives.

“Robert and Tobias’ AppJobber introduces a flexible and smart handling of microjobs that can help both companies to save money and people to earn a few extra euros.

“Like them, we help many entrepreneurs at our seven incubation centres to turn their innovative ideas into viable businesses, also creating new jobs in Europe.”

Deutsche Bahn microjob

Later this year two more centres in France and Spain will be added to those already operating in Germany, the Netherlands, England, Italy and Belgium. More than 150 new companies have so far been supported by the incubation centres.

“As in the case of “wer denkt was”, we provide financial support to get entrepreneurs started with office space and technical expertise from ESA engineers,” explains Frank Zimmermann, Managing Director for cesah GmbH Centrum für Satellitennavigation Hessen, the company managing the ESA Business Incubation CentreDarmstadt.

“We also help them to put together a successful and realistic business plan as well as networking to find partners.”

AppJobber is now available in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Finland, with thousands of microjobs offered in the five countries. The company has grown to 15 people, who all work out of the Darmstadt.

“In the future, AppJobber could be the platform for distributing microjobs throughout Europe, making it possible for companies and the jobbers to create real value, in a flexible, time- and cost-efficient way,” predicts Dr Klug.

Jobs in Rome: Each displayed on phone with instructions and questionnaire
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