Making data count
The rapid pace of technology seems to produce new applications on a weekly basis. No area is exploding faster than location-based services, powered by Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Multiple points of data are integrated to provide sophisticated webs of information that can be searched, monitored, classified, categorized and reported in an unlimited number of ways. It all sounds futuristic, but the future is now. Location technology offers applications useful to government agencies as well as individuals and businesses.

  • Resource management: Location-based systems can track employee location relative to work needs, allowing efficient and timely response to events and emergencies. Critical utility failures or disasters, for example, can be addressed by the closest responders. Make sure responders can get through crowds by outfitting them with agency-branded shirts. Managers can easily direct employees to sites and provide directions from employees’ current locations instantly.
  • Public safety: Location technology offers the ability to provide exact and timely information to citizens in the event of an emergency. Disaster kits (filled with flashlights, water, whistles and more) can be customized with phone numbers and websites that homeowners should contact in the event of an emergency situation. Individuals in a danger zone can be notified to evacuate, directed to the best route from their current location, and provided with directions to the nearest emergency shelter or health care service. Location-based apps also aid crews conducting search and rescue operations.
  • Collaboration: Government plays a crucial role in the development of location-based technology by making the wealth of information collected by agencies available to developers. Street closures, business names, public transportation, and other bits of data are goldmines for entrepreneurs and app creators. Some local governments sponsor meet-ups to connect the people who have data with the people who need it, as well as discussing the future of location technology and how it can be used to benefit the community. Hand out notepads and pens with your agency’s contact info to ensure that busy, creative developers can find you again.
  • Mapping: “A density map lets you measure the number of features using a uniform areal unit so you can clearly see the distribution,” notes GIS.com. “This is especially useful when mapping areas, such as census tracts or counties, which vary greatly in size.” Use GIS maps in city planning. Mapping also has law enforcement applications. A Crown Attorney might monitor drug-related arrests to find out how close an arrest is to a school, as the location has implications for the penalty range.

Need a real life example? Australia’s Parramatta City Council has worked to engage the community in creating useful location-based services. One project tracks the locations of the city’s shuttle buses. Another directs drivers to available parking spaces. That’s a technological boon we could all get behind. Keep up with their groundbreaking work at Parraconnect or remind your constituents about the location-based services your agency offers in a memorable way, like a customized magnet.

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