09 October 2012

A Confirmed Connection - Mobile Technology offers new opportunities

It’s impossible to ignore the mobile GIS revolution that has swept the consumer world. A large section of the population now regularly turns to apps to complete an array of day-to-day tasks, from navigating around town to locating their nearest store.

Mobile technology has also dramatically changed the face of highways maintenance in recent years. It has brought local government and their contracting partners closer together through the sharing of common systems, increasing workflow visibility and control over budgets. It has also enabled workers to spent longer ‘out in the field’, devoting a greater proportion of their time to actual maintenance as opposed to administration.

For example, it used to be commonplace for highways inspectors to have to take notes on site before returning back to the office to raise jobs via a paper or computer-based system. But now you’re more likely to see work orders, inspections and enquiries being input into a GIS-enabled mobile device which connects back to a central management database.

Not only has this significantly reduced unnecessary data duplication and the errors that often occur as a result, but it has also increased the speed with which defects can be repaired. North Lanarkshire Council’s graffiti management project offers a good example of the efficiencies that can be achieved.

Looking forward, technology will continue to be vital in driving operational efficiencies and improving the level of information available to citizens.

Ringway Jacobs and Essex County Council, which recently formed one of the UK’s largest integrated highways partnerships with a contract estimated to be worth over £1bn over the next 10 years, illustrates this trend.

The agreement includes stringent key performance indicators and both sides are clear about how they plan for these targets to be achieved; they are committed to using the latest technological advancements and expect this to deliver a planned £4m in annual revenue savings.

We’re delighted that our Confirm Connect mobile platform and cloud-based Confirm on demand asset management platform have been selected as two of these improvements. We’ve worked hard to deliver a solution that is equally as intuitive as a consumer application but which can also handle all of the complex requirements of a comprehensive system for integrated highways management.

As a result, inspectors will be able to update the condition of assets and inspect work that has been carried out directly from their mobile device.

Meanwhile, contractors will be provided with the precise GPS co-ordinates of an identified fault and use the inbuilt maps on their device to locate it. They will also be able to record the time spent and cost of the materials used. This means Ringway Jacobs and Essex always have an up-to-date record of their financial commitments.

Highways maintenance is an expensive public service but is also one of the most visible in citizens’ minds. As public sector budgets come under ever greater scrutiny, councils and their partners must continue to work smarter through the sharing of common systems and technology.

Mobile platforms, integrated with current IT infrastructure can deliver the operational efficiencies required to ensure citizen expectations are met.

Alex Mathieson is from Pitney Bowes Software

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