Camera verification is an important part of our service and it is this that makes our database stand out from the competition. We're often asked how the system works and who are these mysterious verifiers so just for you here is a little insight into the dark magic that is verification.
Who Are We?
First, there are over 40 of us, all volunteers, unpaid, doing the work on a part time basis. Because we're not employed by PGPSW, we Verify as an additional part of our lives. Generally, we prefer to be anonymous as it could be difficult if we were to get direct approaches from members. However, all the “Team” and “Moderators” are Verifiers too, so I'm “OUT” and can therefore offer some information...
My full time job is as a self employed white van man, which I became in 1999 when I suddenly discovered that being early retired is fine for those who get enormous pensions, but is quite difficult if you're on a low one! I'm “independent”, not working for any particular company, getting jobs from several of the larger companies when they run out of their own designated drivers.
Apparently a Verifier is chosen and approached after the PGPSW Team have seen evidence that the individual cares about the database, makes accurate and useful submissions and has no ulterior motive for reporting cameras - we've all obtained free lifetime membership by previous submissions, so we have nothing to gain by further reporting, yet we have continued to do so.
PGPSW provides us with an extra file of reported cameras and changes and we visit the sites to see the camera, the missing camera, the new speed limit etc and report back that it is a correct submission. So the submission is added into the main database. Simple. BUT ...
I'm already employed by someone else (myself in this case, by employers in the case of many other Verifiers) who pays for my time doing his work, not that of PGPSW. So I have to fit in the Verifying as and when - after I've served my master's business. Another part of “as and when” is that I have a life back home, so even when I'm willing, I have to consider whether today's verifying will get me home in time to see my family before bedtime!
A Sample Day
My usual working practice is to get a job to deliver from A to B. After doing the delivery I'm free as a bird. So I'll turn round and look to see if there are any camera report sites where I've delivered or between me and home, then I'll visit them to check them out. If you've ever browsed your device's map, you'll understand that doing a search for cameras is not entirely easy - generally you need to zoom down to a reasonably low level to get decent coverage, and that may be so low as to make your horizon quite close - don't see a camera just round the corner.
The best situation for me is to be given a job the night before, so that I know my destination well in advance. The file we get from PGPSW comes in several different formats, so I can load one into my PC using Microsoft's Autoroute Express.
On the night before, I can load up my route and see what cameras are within striking distance, print the details and take the printout with me next day. This is a very old picture, but it'll give you a sense of what I can do if I zoom in on it. The printout serves three purposes, firstly to show locations, secondly to act as a check sheet - tick or cross and scribble on it the whys and wherefores of the “Verification”, thirdly saves time listing cameras.
Verifying is not always an exact science. A new or removed fixed camera is easy - physically we can see the new camera, or that the camera is no more. Similarly, a change of speed limit is plain as day. And in each of these cases, the coordinates will show up on our devices as being where the camera is or is no longer, so the location is not in doubt. The real problem is mobile cameras, because, in their inevitable absence, we have to offer an opinion whether the location given by the coordinates is a feasible site for a mobile camera operation.
Recently, we've also been given a file containing the comments sent in with the submission and these can be of enormous help. We recognise that POI Capture has the potential to pick coordinates that are inaccurate by the amount of time it takes someone to press the relevant icon. Not everybody has POI Capture, so their coordinates depend on how well they can set the cross hairs on the site submission map. In all these circumstances, a brief description of the site can make all the difference between us being able to confirm or otherwise. The main value of the comments file is in regard to mobile camera reports.
This screen dump shows what I found when I looked at the file which I had loaded onto my TomTom GO720, which has the facility to read documents. Although the coordinates on the submission were not quite right, I was able to see the exact spot where the van would park and adjust them accordingly. Great comments - “Layby, The Boot, Horse Street, Roundabout”
A Community Speedwatch Group In Action
The chances of us seeing an actual mobile camera on site at the time we visit are very tiny - I myself have only once seen a camera van at a site I went to check and I once saw this local community speedwatch group (which is not a mobile camera).
Sorry it's not such a brilliant picture - I didn't fancy the full frontal approach to ask them to pose for the camera!
Every now and again, someone starts a thread on the cameras forum asking about ‘their' camera - why hasn't it appeared in the database, why has it disappeared, how are cameras verified, when are they verified, how long does it take to verify? It seems that every time we respond to these threads, we get into hot water over them. I suppose the main problems are the length of time it takes to verify some of the cameras and that we cannot go back to everybody when we do the checking (to say why we've rejected a submission). As I've said, my verifying is done after I've finished delivering. I never go out simply to do verifications - that's my own fuel and wear and tear which I can't afford! It depends on two factors - are there any cameras to be verified and do I have time to verify any?
As a whitevanman, I go wherever I'm sent and at 60,000 or more miles a year, that's a lot of places, at all points of the compass. There are very few places at the seaside where I haven't been. But it is often to the same area I went last week, where either I or another Verifier has already checked the cameras there, OR where there are cameras, but I simply haven't time to go checking them. If I've just driven 4 hours to Yorkshire, or 6 hours to Glasgow, it's not easy to find time for verifying when there are still the same hours to drive back home. It's easy enough to check some cameras - I'm driving right past them, so it's hardly any delay for me. But others are somewhere off to the side. I once did a delivery to Lymington and decided to run through a dozen or so checks in Bournemouth on the way home. I happened to have the time to do it, but it increased my return journey from 75 motorway miles to 125 cross-country-and-town-school-run miles and took 4 hours with the checking as opposed to the one and a half hours it took to get there. I did a run to Scotland and had to stay overnight because of the distance and time. But I didn't have chance to verify many cameras, only the odd ones which came up on my satnav as I bowled along the motorways for 10 hours or so. Maybe half a dozen checks in the space of two days - not the best of productivity.
And we simply don't have the time to be going back to every person whose camera submission we are rejecting (or not yet looking at). We have to hope that members will understand that we are doing the job with their best interests at heart - we have absolutely no intention of leaving submissions to rot in time, nor to reject submissions without due consideration. But we're only human. I've said there are over 40 of us, but like the general population, there are places where we are either plentiful or have time and facilities to pounce on every new submission before the ink's dry and there are other places which will see a verifier once a blue moon. Driving round London is a nightmare to me, so I don't envy the folk who try verifying there. The Welsh hills are beautiful, but checking just a couple of rural cameras could involve an awful lot of time and miles. Australia is new country to us, but we've got verifiers out there too - I just hope they are long-legged!
One thing I can say on behalf of all the verifiers is that we really are out there and giving it our best shot. We'll get some wrong, but it won't be for lack of trying and enthusiasm.