VOL. 127 | NO. 134 | Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Free App Connects Memphians, Government
By Bill Dries
Ashley Mooney was stuck in traffic about a year ago when he heard Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. on the “Drake and Zeke” morning radio show on 98.1 The Max and decided to call in.
Mooney, the CEO and founder of GeoSpace LLC, a computer software firm, had an idea and Mooney pitched the basic idea to Wharton live on the air.
The two later talked off air and the result – a year after conquering security concerns and Mooney, along with his employees working in their off time – is the Smart Government app.
The app, now available free through the iTunes store courtesy of GeoSpace, allows for two-way communication between citizens and city government.
“It’s free. They’ve never paid me one dime,” Mooney said Monday, July 9, as he, Wharton and city Information Services Director Brent Nair unveiled the new technology.
“I pay the monthly costs. My employees and I take care of it all. It’s all been done just because I wanted to make a difference. As corny as that may sound, that’s exactly what I wanted to do.”
Wharton said the app will force the city to respond quicker. It also affects the city’s position in court if someone files a claim for damages from the problem.
“When people run in potholes and tear the front ends of their cars up, it’s a defense for us if we don’t have notice of it,” said Wharton, an attorney and former University of Mississippi School of Law professor. “They have to show we knew about it. But now we can’t say we didn’t know about that hole. It will be date stamped electronically.”
With one of eight buttons in the app called “point, click and fix,” someone can photograph a pothole or overgrown lot and send it to the city through the app, which will then place the photograph on a map showing its location and channel it to the right department.
The location is shown on a city digital map if the app user allows the app to access the user’s GPS system.
If several people report and send photos of the same problem, the software stacks the pictures so those responding know there are multiple reports of the same problem.
There are buttons for police and fire as well as a mayor’s office button. And users of the app will be asked if they want “push notifications” for things like holiday garbage pick up, AMBER alerts and separate non-emergency notifications on other less urgent items from the city.
An app for Android phones is still being developed and there is the possibility of a Windows version. City Council member Myron Lowery asked if he could get the app on his Blackberry as he held up his device.
“They are no longer doing consumer products so it’s just hard for us to do that,” Mooney said.