The neighboring cities of Kannapolis and Concord, North Carolina, have been using Cityworks for more than 10 years combined and both utilize Technologies Edge (Tech Edge) for their IT services. Over the years, Tech Edge helped them extend Cityworks from the office to the field on ruggedized laptops. However, few employees had computer experience and were somewhat overwhelmed with the technology. In addition, the high costs of the ruggedized laptops limited the number of employees who could have access to Cityworks in the field.
A solution became evident after seeing a demonstration by Mobile311 at Cary, North Carolina. Mobile311 is a GIS-based, downloadable application (app) that allows service orders to be created on a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone. Tech Edge felt that combining Cityworks and Mobile311 would be a perfect solution to enable field staff with easy-to-use, inexpensive tools.
The intent was to create a more efficient means for field staff to interact with service requests. The existing situation required field crews to load their trucks each day with a computer running Cityworks, a camera, cell phone, and any other devices they may need for the day. The integration would create a bi-directional data-flow between the field and the office using only a smartphone or tablet device.
Creating a service request in Mobile311 is easy. Easy-to-use buttons are displayed on the mobile device showing the various city departments. Just like in Cityworks, the employee can choose the department where the service request is to be created and the problem type, such as a missing manhole cover. Comments can be entered by typing or using voice recognition. Since most all smartphones and tablets have a built-in camera, pictures can easily be attached to the request. Once complete, they simply click accept and the service request is sent to Cityworks.
When the service request is uploaded to Cityworks, the call is simultaneously geo-located. The specific location is mapped in ArcGIS with the address, asset ID, attachments, notes, status, and other pertinent details. Cityworks then alerts the appropriate staff, letting them know that a service request has been generated, triggering any necessary actions to resolve the issue.
Conversely, if a request is created in Cityworks in the office, a field employee can bring it up on their device in a map or list view, complete with notes and related attachments. Field staff can view requests by specific types, those assigned to them, or by area using GPS to determine their current location. The service request can be completed in the field with the option to add comments, audio recordings, video, and/or photographs.
The Mobile311/Cityworks integration has proven very successful at Concord and Kannapolis. The use of common, touch-screen devices such as smartphones and tablets together with voice recognition, built-in cameras, and GPS created a more simplified environment. Field staff had little trouble assimilating the workflow on these inexpensive devices.
The service request process is now much faster and far less costly. The previous ruggedized laptops were costing upwards of $3,000, while most mobile devices cost less than $500. Lower hardware and training costs have helped put Cityworks into the hands of more employees. It took 15 minutes to train crews on how to use the system.
Agencies today strive to get more done with less money and more efficiently. The Mobile311/Cityworks solution certainly meets that goal. Armed with inexpensive, useful devices, and easy-to-use applications, meter readers and inspectors are able to travel about the cities of Concord and Kannapolis resolving infrastructure related issues. In essence, Tech Edge created an interactive call center on wheels!
For more information on Mobile311/Cityworks integration, contact Jerry Laliberte at firstname.lastname@example.org.