Chicago inspectors embrace BlackBerry to electronically record field notes, ticket violators
Chicago, Ill.-based ObjectWave Corp. announced that the city of Chicago installed its Mobile Electronic Ticketing (MET) system, which will be used by more than 125 Department of Streets and Sanitation ward superintendents and refuse collection coordinators that inspect the city’s vacant lots. The cost-cutting move helped the city replace expensive laptops used by field officers with BlackBerry smart phones already assigned to city workers in order to gather information and ticket violators, said Sam Cinquegrani, CEO.
“Laptops are not cheap, especially the Panasonic Toughbooks they were using,” Cinquegrani said. “In addition, they weren’t able to take pictures using the laptops and send the data seamlessly back to the ticketing database.”
Cinquegrani said that field staff now can identify violations using a Blackberry, while code enforcement staff offsite use a website to determine lot ownership and issue tickets. Specifically, mobile inspectors identify violations using a custom MET mobile application developed specifically for a BlackBerry to record field notes, to take pictures and to pinpoint GPS coordinates — all of which are sent to the city’s e-ticket database. Once the property owner has been identified, an electronic ticket is issued and an electronic record of the violation and supporting documentation is created in the system. A hearing then is scheduled and enforcement action begins.
According to Cinquegrani, several Web services are used, including a reverse geocode service that provides an address used to validate GPS coordinates. “The inspector takes a photo of the property and the picture and GPS location automatically are submitted to the server,” he said. “Instead of this lengthy process of filling out forms and hitting the submit button, with a couple of clicks using the Blackberry, the inspector is done.”
Cinquegrani said that by retiring laptops and embracing smart phones, field inspectors reduce the amount of paperwork used to complete inspections. In addition, he said that leveraging smart phones enhances the ability of inspectors to complete their inspections, assign tickets and create revenue for the city.
“We are able to process something to the tune of 10 times more violations, because we’ve leveraged the capability of the smart phones,” Cinquegrani said. “That’s a big win for the city to generate revenue.”