This blog post is part of my continuing series on how government workforces around the world are using BlackBerry® solutions to help enhance services and reduce costs. This week, I want to focus on mapping solutions. Most BlackBerry® smartphones have a built-in GPS, which many application developers use to provide location-based applications or services. The three stories I’m focusing on today use the Freeance™ Mobile app created by TDC Group, Inc. for BlackBerry smartphones. This application is designed to send GIS data from the field to back-end mapping software.
In government, this kind of tool can be really effective – especially for people who do inspections for large organizations. Getting reports that are time and location -stamped with GPS coordinates helps decision-makers get a big picture view of the services they manage. It’s a vast improvement over having to wade through mountains of spreadsheets.
The US National Weather Service is a good example of a service that uses the Freeance Mobile app with BlackBerry smartphones. They collect data on storms and tornadoes, for use by scientists, academics, insurance companies and the public. Storm damage can be spread out over many miles, and inspectors use to have to take manual GPS readings and write them down. Can you imagine having to hand-map those coordinates to get a real picture of the disaster area?
But with the Freeance Mobile app on their BlackBerry smartphones, all the data collected at a site is now automatically stamped with GPS coordinates and sent to the back-end database. Back at the US National Weather Service headquarters, this data is mapped so decision-makers can get a quick, easy-to-understand view of how a storm affected the surrounding area.
For Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI), collecting GIS information using a BlackBerry smartphone with the Freeance Mobile app is about efficiency. NSPI monitors the electrical grid for customers in Nova Scotia, Canada. This means that field service reps must travel long distances between power stations and lines and having to come back to an office at the end of the day to upload information was far too time consuming. So when they started using BlackBerry smartphones with the Freeance Mobile app to automatically report the data collected with GPS coordinates, their inspectors found that they saved travel time. NSPI also found it gained accurate information about the health of the power grid, so they could better predict outages and deploy crews.
For the Canadian City of Vaughan, GPS mapping with the BlackBerry smartphone and Freeance Mobile app is about delivering better customer service. The City of Vaughan sends inspectors to help ensure businesses – such as restaurants, stores and even taxis – are meeting local by-laws. With the Freeance Mobile app, they discovered that seeing dots mapped on a screen enabled them to understand trouble spots better than they could before. A series of inspection reports, mapped together, gave them a unique perspective on areas of the city that weren’t meeting by-laws. Knowing this helped them deal with the issues, often before the public complained.
What makes all these solutions impressive is the volume of information that can be presented on a map without excessive work on the part of the inspector. Since data is already being collected, these BlackBerry solutions show just how easy it is to get more value from the data coming from the field.
Does your organization use GPS-enabled BlackBerry devices? Do you have apps that take advantage of geographic context? Tell us how you’re integrating location into your mobile application strategy.