Friday August 22, 2014





Find a pothole? There's an app for that

A year after its release, smartphone app for reporting problems considered a success

A screenshot from the app.

One year after the City began testing an app for reporting problems around town, the man who drove the initiative said he's happy with the response it has had.

Adam Chadwick, City geographic information systems manager, said Wednesday the myKamloops app has had 1,400 downloads, 163 submitters and 438 issues raised for staff to tackle.

The app was tested out by staff for the first few months, then went to the public on May 11, 2012.

Some people have submitted one problem they've spotted, like a pothole or graffiti, while others have sent in 20.

"People are really interested in the things in their neighbourhood or on their walk or in their park," said Chadwick.

The first photo to come in from the public was of a pizza box containing one last slice. That might not seem useful, but the question was whether the submitter could recycle the box, which was valid, he said.

The application pinpoints the location of the photo and gives the City GPS co-ordinates so staff don't have to search around to find the problem, Chadwick said.

That beats some information they get over the phone, which can be as vague as, "There's a pothole at the end of my driveway in Valleyview."

There are some who feel the app creates more work for City staff, but Chadwick pointed out that the problems already exist.

"It's a bit of a misconception to think it creates more work. Before the app was introduced, the work was there, we just didn't know about it."

Catching problems earlier can reduce work in the long run, he said. For example, if someone sends in a photo of a 30-centimetre pothole, it can be repaired before it grows to one metre.

The right crew can be sent out with the right equipment to the exact location, all of which makes the fix more efficient.

The citizen reports have found three catchbasins that were crumbling or in danger of collapsing, so there is a definite benefit, he said.

The beauty of the app is people can send something in with a photo, video or voice recording. They don't have to go home and look up City contact information — by that time, most people will have forgotten about that pothole or broken sign.

"It's literally a 30-second activity and you're onto something else."

While the technology could be used by people to rat on their neighbour or embarrass someone, that hasn't happened, he said.

The app software costs $9,000 a year — an amount he figured is offset by efficiency and catching problems in early stages or solving an issue before it leads to an injury or lawsuit.

"It's very low cost from a staffing perspective. It doesn't take extra staff to run it."

Kamloops is the first B.C. municipality to try the app and Chadwick has had calls from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland, asking for his feedback.

"This is the City's first mobile app. We're learning as we go."

myKamloops is available on all app stores, just do a search for Kamloops or myKamloops. Or go to www.kamloops.ca/mobileapp for more information and links.


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