Brussels Fixes Potholes with Mobile App
Client:The Brussels Regional Informatics Center
- Deliver a mobile app for residents to report potholes, broken streetlights and other issues.
- Create a new development platform for future applications development and testing.
- The FixMyStreet mobile app allows residents to report problems quickly.
- A new Mobile Software Technical Center provides a platform for future app development.
- The free mobile app is easy to use; problems can be reported with just a few clicks
- The development platform streamlines the planning, development and execution of new mobile apps.
Potholes. Broken streetlights. Blocked cycling paths. Nobody likes these kinds of roadway obstacles. But now, with help from CSC, residents of Brussels, Belgium, can use their mobile phones to report these and other related street problems. To create the app, CSC also developed a cloud-based execution and development platform that it can reuse to create mobile-first solutions for other regions and industries.
The mobile app, known as FixMyStreet, was developed by CSC and the Brussels Regional Informatics Center. Better known by its acronym, BRIC, the center promotes IT solutions to local authorities, helps them plan new IT systems, trains local staff, and provides inventories and audits of local IT resources.
The FixMyStreet app comprises both Web and mobile platforms to let Brussels residents report incidents on nearly any type of public space, including roads, sidewalks, cycling paths, bridges, tunnels, parks and playgrounds. Residents can enter the incident’s address and describe its location on a map, then sign up to get updates on the problem’s resolution.
The mobile app is quick and easy to use; problems can be reported with just a few clicks, and the app is available as a free download from online stores run by both Apple and Google. As for the website, it is offered in separate versions for speakers of French and Flemish, Belgium’s two official languages.
FixMyStreet was launched in early 2013; thus far, adoption of the platform has been robust, and early feedback, positive. To date, 14 of Brussels 19 districts (known locally as communes) are participating, with the remaining five planning to join by year’s end. As of midsummer, more than 913 incidents had been reported in the last 30 days, according to the app’s official website. During that same 30-day period, another 660 incidents were being addressed, and more than 400 had been resolved.
Rather than simply build the mobile app as a one-off project, CSC consultants decided to instead create a development platform. The idea was that the platform — called the Mobile Software Technical Center (MSTC) — could then be used to create BRIC’s mobile app for reporting street problems for other projects BRIC might want to take on, and for CSC’s own mobile-first solutions in other regions and industries.
“CSC came and said, ‘Okay, you can’t only develop one, a sole application. You have to think really how you will do it in the future,’” says Eric Auquière, BRIC’s service head of information systems.
That kind of thinking went into MSTC’s design and implementation. The platform is reusable and cloud-based, and it supports end-to-end application life-cycle management. The platform streamlines the planning, development and execution of new mobile apps, slashing development times by up to 65 percent and lowering development costs by up to 75 percent.
There were many challenges,” says Robert Herzeele, deputy manager at BRIC, “but working with CSC allowed us to lower the risk and to proceed faster to market.”
The platform also supports cross-platform development, version control and mobile SOA (service-oriented architecture). Further, it can be integrated with a wide variety of databases, documentation systems, device testing and app-store distribution. “It’s a platform that can be set up in a few hours,” says Grégory Provost, a senior consultant with CSC in Brussels, “so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time.”
MSTC was built with HTML 5 and other open source components, including the CSC Cloud, which makes it modular, clonable, elastic and available on a pay-as-you-go basis. “We also provide reusable libraries to the MSTC platform to make mobile application development much easier,” says Vincent Van Mol, a CSC consultant who helped develop the platform.
Testing is among the most innovative aspects of MSTC. The platform can be used with any of 1,500 types of mobile devices for testing in the cloud. To ensure cross-device compatibility, the platform also provides best-practices design, usability testing and architectures for Apple, Bada, BlackBerry, Google, Symbian, WebOS and Windows Phone environments. Similarly, the website works with all four main browsers: Chrome, Firebox, Internet Explorer and Safari.
Thanks to MSTC’s use of developer templates, any type of app can be created using the platform — native, Web or hybrid. MSTC also includes a management dashboard that provides daily reports of any technical issues that arise during an app’s development. Later, after an app’s development is completed, MSTC can tag and sign the app, then ready it in an archive repository for publication on vendor-run app stores.
The idea for MSTC was conceived during an after-work meeting, reports Thibaut de Sany, manager of key service offerings with CSC. “I was sitting with a colleague … and we were discussing how we had seen the same types of recurring problems on several projects,” he recounts. “So we decided to provide a set of modules, delivered by experts, that would deliver a set of best practices in the cloud.”
The approach worked so well, CSC is now using MSTC for some of its own mobile projects. CSC is also proposing the platform’s use for other clients as a way to make development projects — and possibly a few more roads — a great deal smoother.