Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Future Trends: Crowdsourcing Municipal Maintenance

Let’s say you’re driving home from work when all of a sudden your front left tire drops into a massive pothole causing you to swerve right. Luckily, there are no cars in the right lane, but regardless you’ve narrowly avoided an accident, and with good reason, you’re upset.

So what?

Well, a few years ago, you might have complained to your friend in the passenger seat and just kept on driving. But now, people have the power to report local issues with the click of a few buttons and the power of GPS.

City residents can now use an app like SeeClickFix, a mobile application that allows its users to take a photo of a pothole, a burnt out street light, fresh graffiti—basically anything that needs to be fixed by the local government—and report it using a mobile GPS device. Along with a photo and GPS location, users can add notes and track progress, as well as receive and view alerts on nearby city issues. Then, users can see how many other people have reported the same issue and monitor the most reported, a.k.a “hot issues” in the selected city.

Just one app out of the many that have been dubbed “Gov 2.0” by the tech community, SeeClickFix is utilizing GPS location in an attempt to make local government more efficient and responsive—and the app supports a trend that we’ve watched develop over the last decade called “Track Me, Help Me.”

The “Track Me, Help Me” trend was sparked by recognition of not only the popularity and functionality of GPS navigational systems on-board mobile devices, but also by the recognition of consumer willingness to offer up a very valuable piece of the puzzle:

Location, location, location.

Many people with smart phones have come to depend on apps like Google Maps, but now, as demonstrated by apps like SeeClickFix, people are ready to take location to the next level. Whether it be the power to innovate local government operations or the pleasure of playing virtual put-put, consumers are receiving relevant benefits when they give this information away—more evidence of not only “Track Me, Help Me,” but also of the evolving consumer-driven market.

But the GPS centric apps currently available are just the tip of the ice burg. As app developers begin working in tighter conjunction with the government, corporations and organizations, GPS innovation will be streamlined and even more integrated into our daily lives. In fact, many industries have just now recognized this trend and are developing applications to catch up to this unmet consumer need, meaning that even more people will be saying “Track Me, Help Me” while being enabled to accomplish tasks—no matter how big—with efficiency.

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