The weather outside is frightful, but new civic technology can help governments make managing snow cleaning operations delightful. Every New England government maintains fleets of large snowplows, mountains of salt, and grit dispersing vehicles at the ready for the inevitable flurries and blizzards. Typically, government managers augment their own fleets with contract labor, bringing privately owned pick-up trucks with mounted plows, front loaders, and other pieces of equipment to assist in clearing smaller roads, neighborhoods, and other non-emergency routes. These vehicles often clear much more linear mileage than city-owned plows, which need to focus on critical thoroughfares like major roads and emergency routes.
Civic technology aims to make citizens’ daily lives easier and more manageable. It’s not surprising, then, to find a new civic technology that leverages weather data, government activity, and traffic to help solve wintry woes. This new solution from EastBanc Technologies is a great example of this: SnowTrax utilizes cloud-based data to allow cities and their contractors to monitor the location and work of all their fleet vehicles. By taking big data and compressing it into a small-scale scenario, EastBanc can send out this data to the community in a relevant fashion — for example, to track snowplows.
EastBanc has developed an easy-to-use app that can report and visualize in real time what’s happening in the field during a snow event. This cloud-based monitoring system, which runs on Microsoft Azure, can be used in a variety of scenarios, but right now it is being deployed to manage the road clearing function in the dead of winter.
Whenever there is a heavy snowfall, people want to know when it will be safe to travel again. They are concerned, of course, about the condition of emergency routes and major highways, but they are just as eager to know when they can expect their own neighborhood to be plowed. Many governments have information on the location, speed, and operating capacity of the vehicles they own, provided by embedded GPS technology. However, cities typically have little information on the whereabouts and capacity of contractor vehicles.
Deploying traditional, real-time GPS tracking systems on every contractor vehicle would be prohibitive in terms of cost, hardware, and integration services. The EastBanc solution solves this problem by leveraging a GPS device already in almost every moving vehicle: the smartphone of the driver. To use the solution, drivers working under contract log into an application on their smartphone when they begin plowing and log out when they finish plowing. And of course, for governments that don’t have GPS capacity for their fleet, SnowTrax could be used as a solution as most if not all employees possess smartphones.
As contractors work through the storm, the application reports the physical location of their vehicles, speed and direction every three seconds. This information is aggregated by the fleet vehicle intelligence module and provides government managers with a complete view of the location, speed, and direction of their own vehicles as well as of the contractor vehicles.
All of this data is analyzed in real time and made available for display on a map-based dashboard and mobile applications that can be made available to the public. The analysis shows what roads have been cleared, when they were plowed (to accommodate the need for multi-pass plowing during extended and heavy snow events), and when, based upon current conditions, the public can expect plows to reach specific locations. Furthermore, having the information on ALL plow locations enables response managers to redirect plows to support the passage of emergency vehicles.
Being able to easily add and remove vehicles from the operational picture empowers the government to address proactively the realities on the ground as they happen and to provide information to reduce citizen anxiety and set clear expectations.
It’s winter in New England. It’s going to snow, maybe a lot. And we’re picturing SnowTrax enabling tracking and visualization of snow clean-up operations on a big flat screen near you, managing the process more effectively and providing citizens and government with real time information.
Jeff Friedman is the Director of eGovernment Business Development in the State and Local Government Solutions Group, was most recently the Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Previously, Jeff was the Manager of Civic Innovation & Participation in the Mayor’s Office. Jeff led various initiatives to make City government (and urban governance generally) more open, participatory, transparent, entrepreneurial and innovative. Prior, Jeff was Chief of Staff to the Chief Technology Officer in the Division of Technology and before that Deputy Director of Performance Management/Implementation Manager for Philly311 in the Managing Director’s Office. Prior to joining City government, Jeff consulted to state, local and county governments across the nation. Jeff earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Temple University.
Tags: app, Big Data, Civic Tech, Civic Technology, cloud, EastBanc Technologies, Government, Jeff Friedman, microsoft, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft New England, New Urban Mechanics, smartphone, Snowplow, SnowTrax, technology