2011 Best In Mobilizing Business Applications

— November 09, 2011

Citizen Apps

The City of Charlotte developed mobile applications to provide real-time bus schedule updates and track citizens' service requests.

As a way to improve service to its citizens while also save money for taxpayers, the City of Charlotte (N.C.) set three goals: 1) Reduce costs associated with staffing the call center. 2) Create a citywide application that can track citizen interaction. 3) Give bus riders up-to-the-minute information on bus arrival times.

To this end, Charlotte created two new programs for its citizens: MyCharlotte and RideCATS, using EidoServe’s GetABBY. “GetABBY is a platform that we use for MyCharlotte, RideCATS, and our IVR product,” explains Bellverie Ross, senior program manager. “We selected GetABBY because it offers the ability to include multiple service request types, the back-end tracking customer relationship management application, and the ability to integrate with current city systems.”

With the MyCharlotte mobile application, rather than having to place phone calls to various city offices to request specific services, citizens now have the ability to electronically submit citizen service requests involving multiple business lines, including potholes, neighborhood nuisances, found animals, and more. The process allows citizens to submit service requests directly to the responsible staff member. What's more, the app lets users check the status of the request.

The RideCATS application for CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System) tells users when the next bus is coming. It provides information for all bus, train, and specialty transportation in the city.

The RideCATS app is available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and other devices.

Total cost of implementation was $120,000 and includes development across the iPhone, Android, Blackberry platforms plus English and Spanish functionality and back-end integration into other city applications, such as the Emerald tracking system (the city’s in-house name for its CRM), and the AVL (automatic vehicle location) that tracks bus locations via GPS.

“We haven’t actively publicized the apps yet,” reports Ross. “So far, all of the publicity has been through a couple of press releases that the city media have picked up on. However, we estimate that we are already at about 20,000 downloads for MyCharlotte and RideCATS.” In addition, the solution has already reduced call center costs from $4.91 per call to less than $0.75 per call (based on the reduced number of employees now required to work in the call center). It has also reduced the cost of printing bus schedules for CATS.

Tracking IT Assets With an App

Software firm develops a cross-platform application that enables IT pros to manage their assets via smartphone and tablet.

AlphaPoint Technology, based in Bradenton, Fla., is an IT asset management software company. “In order to have an accurate and precise count of your IT assets, the data collection and inventory management procedures should be as efficient as possible,” explains Gary Macleod, CEO. In the past, data collection and inventory management procedures were a very manual process. “We would have on-site audit teams, which would take physical inventories of data centers,” he continues.

AlphaPoint worked with the Warshaw Group to develop a front-end mobile software solution to integrate with AssetCentral, AlphaPoint’s flagship product, which makes it easy to track and manage IT assets.

AlphaPoint selected the mobile inventory functionality of Mobile Validity, Warshaw’s mobile app development platform, to enhance the overall user experience of AssetCentral. The app is compatible with iPad, BlackBerry, and Motion Computing’s F5 tablet. It was rolled out in November 2010.

“Now, it is more of a one-person process, where a technician goes up to a server and inputs the information into an application, using a form that is built onto the device,” explains Macleod. “The device also takes photos. It is a more advanced way of tracking the data.”

Mobilization of the data collection process has provided a number of benefits, including an increase in the accuracy of the data, which reduced the need for re-inventory by more than 75%. There's been a 55% reduction in time spent on initial inventory, and reporting capabilities have improved and allowed for better decision-making.

Post Office Delivers Real-Time Results

Canada Post configured its handheld devices to enable on-route real-time capability, introduced a full suite of messaging capabilities, and now offers same-day quality control reporting.

Canada Post, based in Ottawa, Ontario, is Canada’s primary postal operator. It has 72,000 employees. To provide better communication capabilities to its delivery agents, Canada Post purchased 14,000 Motorola devices in 2006. While the devices initially worked well, Canada Post eventually wanted to convert all handheld devices to enable on-route real-time capability; to launch a full suite of messaging capabilities; and to introduce same-day quality control reporting.

In 2010, Canada Post purchased 8,500 Intermec CN50 mobile computers and worked with Sybase Afaria and Sybase SQL Anywhere for remote management and client database synchronization.

By November 2011, every delivery agent (driver and carrier) in a large town who works out of a delivery depot will have access to the technology. “We will have about 22,500 mobile devices out there,” explains Peter Duncan, director, scanning systems and processes. About 4,500 of these are being used internally by depot clerks and in-plant. “The remaining 18,000 are being used by delivery agents.”

Total cost of the 8,500 CN50s, application porting and testing, ongoing support for five years, deployment, and training costs was about CA$20 million.

All Canada Post customers now receive delivery scan information in real time, significantly reducing the volume of calls to the help desk. And before, with just the two-way radios, drivers could communicate only with their dispatchers. “Now, with messaging capabilities, they can talk to their dispatchers, their supervisors, and any other carriers,” explains Duncan.

Another benefit is that prior to 2010, Canada Post would produce driver compliance reports in the evening and then make them available to supervisors in the morning. Now, this information is automatically available at the close of the business day.

User reaction? "About 80% of our agents love it, and about 20% are technically challenged, but none of them want to go back," says Duncan.


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