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City launching mobile app for potholes, other problems

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Troubled by potholes, high weeds or stray dogs? Soon, there will be an app for that.

The city of Indianapolis plans to launch a free application for Apple devices such as iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches that will allow residents to report problems as they spot them.

City information technology staffers are working with an infrastructure management firm, Dayton, Ohio-based Woolpert Inc., to put the finishing touches on the mobile app. The goal is to make it available by the end of this month, said Sarah Taylor, the city’s director of constituent services.

The app is an extension of RequestIndy, a Web-based service launched last June to allow residents to report problems ranging from illegal dumping to malfunctioning traffic signals, 24 hours a day.

The new Apple tool, like RequestIndy, allows residents to detail specifics about the issues they spot – the color of a stray dog, for instance, or whether a pothole has caused property damage. It also includes a GPS mapping feature and enables problem-spotters to take pictures of the nuisances and include them with their requests.

“You have another mechanism to communicate with us and share your issue or service request,” said Taylor, who emphasized the city was not encouraging residents to text while driving. “The idea is, you have it when you get to your stop. It makes it extremely convenient and allows us to get your immediate feedback.”

The idea for the app emerged as the city was developing RequestIndy as a supplement to the Mayor’s Action Center help line, which residents can use to report problems to city employees.

Taylor said her office has seen some shift in people who would have made requests through the help line instead using the Web-based service. RequestIndy and mobile apps aren’t expected to replace the call function, but generate new users.

The number of requests to the MAC was up 13 percent last year, to 282,162, compared with 249,309 in 2009. Of those requests, 91 percent were telephone calls and 9 percent were made via online resources such as e-mail and RequestIndy, which was available for about six months of the year. The number of online requests more than doubled from 2009 to last year.

“It’s extremely important for us to develop these tools to manage our capacity and growth, and what will be keeping up with newer generations as they use our services,” Taylor said.

The city spent $45,000 on developing the app, which was handled mostly by Woolpert. Since January, a handful of city employees have been testing it, and the city recently recruited a group of about a dozen residents to try it out before it goes public.

Those working on the app are still in discussions with Apple to get a spot for the app at the iTunes store, and those talks must be finalized before it launches.
After that, the city will look to its next mobile endeavor: an app for the Android and possibly other smart phones.


 
 

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  • You are simply wrong
    Your groove must not be very deep. The city response time for potholes in our neighborhood has been excellent. You're simply a complainer without facts.
  • Why waste money on the app the city will take weeks to respond
    So the city will have the issue in it's QUE sooner. they will still move at a slugs pace.

    Could the city move any slower on the wash St and capital ave project.

    Mayor Marine and company is totally inept.
    • Maye we should get a mayor from Ohio
      When the mayor cares so little about local economic development that he goes outside the city to find someone to write a program like this, maybe we should reciprocate, and hire a mayor from Ohio?
    • Not quite correct
      Despite my strong distrust/disgust of most aspects of government, I feel compelled to make a correction. My brother is employed by this firm, right here on the northwest side. Although he was not involved in this particular project, some of his co-workers were and have been doing work for the City for quite a few years.
    • Where's the larger strategy?
      I agree with all of the commenters who are crying foul on the $45,000 price tag and the outside dev firm, but I also have another question:

      Where's the larger city IT strategy?

      If we have to keep waiting for the city to commission someone to build a useful technology, we're always going to be behind the curve. Instead, we should figure out a way to empower individuals to build apps like these themselves.

      What I'm talking about is something like NYC's Data Mine and their Big Apps 2.0 Competition. http://nyc.gov/html/datamine/html/home/home.shtml

      The city could have spent $45,000 organizing a weekend "hackday" event and killed two birds with one stone. I'm sure at least one team would have had an idea like this and you'd have the added benefit of promoting the city's increasingly important technology sector.

      Furthermore, the city is using this app to brag about all the ways residents can communicate with the city, but if no one from the city responds to the objections raised in the comments of this post, we'll know it's just lip service.
    • Sad
      This is really disheartening to read. IBJ just wrote a great piece about a Hackers & Founders/Verge Indy, a group of developers and entrepreneurs, who are breathing gusts of life into the Indy tech/startup scene with the awesome products they are building, and now we read about the city spending $45K for an app that could have been built locally for a couple of grand?

      The city needs to wake up. We bail out the Pacers to the tune of millions of tax payer dollars, throw money away on outside firms to build a product that could be made, most likely faster and cheaper here, and we wonder why the city is in such dire straits? The IBJ really needs to do a follow up story on why this happened. It's maddening and sad in the same breath.
    • Check Out Town of Fishers app - in iTunes since Mar 2010.
      Check out the Town of Fishers ... they have an iPhone app that includes the same functionality along with other features - and they got it FREE from an Indy-area software company (list price is around $4k). This is about as ridiculous as spending $90k for a simple website design (another non-competed city IT project).
    • Out of State Again?
      This is EXACTLY what's wrong with our city. The real story here is WHY did we go out of state for these resources? We have Expected Behavior, Fastest Forward, Developer Town, and Mantid Interactive - all successful at building mobile applications for national firms. Track down WHY this money left our city and hold those accountable!!!
    • Not again!
      They say there's a certain road paved with good intentions and despite our best intentions as a city we seem to keep ending up there. We've got tons of great local developers who would have done this project for the actual market value which is probably half of what was spent. How do we expect own our start ups and businesses to succeed when our government officials can't even seem to support local firms?
    • Ohio-based Developer?
      Why are projects like this being awarded to out-of-state firms? This isn't that big of a project, but Indy has plenty of local software companies who can handle projects like this... and for $45K ? This is a pretty simple app that could have been made platform-independent for half of the cost. Next, they (we... the tax payers) will have to send another $45K to Ohio for the Android version.
    • Freudian Slip!
      The error in my spelling of See Click Fix answers my own question of why use Woolpert!
    • Missed the boat w/out Android
      Why make the first development effort to a smaller customer base. Only gov't would make that kind of move.
    • Reinventing the Wheel
      This technology already exists. See Click Fee (www.seeclickfix.com) is an Android, iPhone and Bberry app (web-based also) that pioneered this concept. It allows users to submit photos, locations (including GPS) and descriptions of issues, then forwards the report to the appropriate authorities. I've reported multiple issues that were forwarded to the MAC and received timely responses. Why spend $45K on Woolpert's clone of See Click Fix's existing solution?
      • kenyon
        It's a nice idea, but it seems odd that the app wouldn't also be available on Android phones since more people now use that than iPhones.
        • iTouch
          An iTouch is nothing. It does not exist.

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