Capriza: It seems that every city is talking about being a Smart City. For the second largest city in the US, how are you becoming a Smart City?
Ted Ross: With a City of almost 4 million residents across 469 sq miles, technology and digital services are fundamental to improving the lives of Angelenos and businesses in LA. We have multiple Smart City initiatives. including a new MyLA 311 system for requesting City services, “smart meters” from our Department of Water & Power, and a collaboration with Google Waze to provide 1.5 million users with City data to improve their commute and reduce traffic. Within the City workforce, this has also meant the use of mobile devices to greatly improve how our City operates and how we serve the public.
C: When you think about a mobile workforce, ‘what should be’?
TR: The modern workforce should be able to perform their job efficiently and effectively… wherever and whenever. This means putting existing and new City apps into mobile form factors for employees that are accessible and secure. This is not about simple convenience, this is about field workers efficiently getting their work done while in the field, managers getting the information they need to make decisions, etc. The effective use of these technologies, helps make the City of Los Angeles a well-run government.
C: What are the challenges in achieving this vision?
TR: Traditionally, native built mobile apps can be very expensive and time consuming. Once built, you also have to consider the maintenance and integration with other applications, thus this is not a popular approach within government. My department alone supports over 100 applications and you can imagine the complexity. However, mobile web platforms, such as Capriza, allow existing staff to “mobilize” an application into HTML 5 and deliver securely through 256 bit encryption. Unlike a native mobile app, it will work on any type of device the employee is using. The process time has been quick too. What used to take months, has been delivered in days or weeks.
C: How did you begin the journey?
TR: We started by forming a Strike Team of web programmers that had a good grasp of mobile. We targeted key use cases and started with low hanging fruit. We push for responsive mobile web design of new apps and used tools like Capriza to mobilize existing applications for our users. For example, LA Fire Department asked us on April 1st for a Brush Inspection app by May 1st. We had a mobile brush inspection app to their inspectors by May 1st. This allows them to work directly in the field, use GPS, attach pictures from their iPads, and even use voice-to-text to ease data entry. Within the first two weeks, they completed 18,000 inspections using the app.
C: What advice would you give other CIOs trying to modernize their city?
TR: We live in both exciting and challenging times. Exciting because of the opportunities that rapid changes in mobile workforce management are providing us. Challenging because of the disruption caused by rapidly changing platforms and growing customer expectations. I believe we simply need to get back to the fundamental truth of IT service delivery. Technology is there to support and empower our users. Get to know your users, learn their behavior (e.g. operations), and use technologies to improve their daily lives. As our users are increasingly untethered from desktop computers, mobile technologies become a powerful tool to improve their lives and digitally engage them. This is the modern city.