Daly City residents are making use of a location-aware smartphone app to report problems wherever they may find them. The app, Daly City iHelp, enables users to send instant reports to the city government when they notice issues such as safety hazards, illegally dumped trash, graffiti, potholes, streetlight outages or abandoned shopping carts.
The app allows users to supplement their reports by attaching pictures snapped on their phones. Thanks to GPS integration, users don’t have to manually enter the locations of the incidents they’re reporting; each report is automatically tagged with a street address and map point.
Reports appear instantly on the city’s website. All incidents, including open, unresolved ones, are publicly viewable, and users can easily see whether the city is responding to problems promptly.
On a recent night, The San Francisco Examiner tested the system by reporting illegally dumped furniture on Mission Street. Early the next morning, city staff posted a response, confirming that Allied Waste — the city’s sanitation provider — had been alerted to the problem.
City Manager Pat Martel said the city pays an annual maintenance fee to the app’s developer, New York-based PublicStuff, and the investment is paying for itself.
“It’s well worth it, because of the cost savings from not having every complaint phoned in,” Martel said.
Martel said PublicStuff made it easy for Daly City’s information technology staff to add custom widgets to the app’s dashboard. The app gives the city the ability to send notifications such as emergency alerts and community surveys to people’s phones.
Users also have the option of using their Facebook credentials to log in to the system. However, PublicStuff spokeswoman Gayatri Mohan said the company has no plans to monetize user data or expose users to advertising messages.
Mohan said the app developer is collaborating with Redwood City and Palo Alto on implementing similar apps. Redwood City’s app has not yet launched, but Palo Alto’s version, PaloAlto311, is up and running.
Daly City iHelp is available for iOS and Android devices, while BlackBerry users can submit service requests to Daly City via the generic PublicStuff app. Users of other operating systems can submit reports via the iHelp interface on Daly City’s website.
Martel said city residents have been quick to adopt the app and are pleased with the results. “It’s been a huge success,” Martel said. “People have emailed us and said it was very effective.”