In my previous article, our team set out to build our first IoT product called Raqib (formerly named Favorwatch). We also make another IoT product not so “IoT” in the proper definition because it involves humans to trigger the process.
It is a mobile application that uses the GPS and camera, the phone’s sensors, and sends the data to a platform. We built this because, in our previous company, we have in-depth experience in building a similar solution. Still, now we take this opportunity to develop a new version.
The Problem Statement
City dwellers will always see problems in our city infrastructure and services daily – potholes, garbage unattended, faulty lights or traffic lights, vandalism, pipe bursts, fallen trees, and many others.
Usually, we will either make the usual complaint via phone or email the local councils. Sometimes, the reports are left unattended, or you might not be aware of the status of the information. Either you call again, or you might get too angry and rant on social media.
The moment it goes viral unnecessarily on radio, tv, or social media, the harm to the local council’s image is not reversible. Sometimes, a minor issue can become a piece of massive news on national media.
Thus, how do we avoid this problem from happening? How do we get a proper channel for the citizens to make complaints easily and have simple means to monitor the status of their complaints?
How do we assist the local authorities to be more efficient in responding to the citizen’s complaints and be more transparent in their work?
How do we portray the local council and the local politicians to be more responsible in managing their cities or areas? Can we use the app to build better intelligent cities?
How Big is the Market
In Malaysia, 21 City Councils, 42 Municipal Councils, and 91 District Councils manage their areas. Malaysia’s population is around 32.37 Million, and the big cities in Malaysia have more than 500,000 people each.
Some big cities in Malaysia have started to utilize mobile apps to allow citizens to complain directly to them, but many cities still don’t have that facility.
Many still depend on phone calls, emails, or websites to receive complaints from their citizens.
Globally there a more than 10,000 cities worldwide. Thus, the market is still vast and untapped.
The IoT Solution
The idea is to use the citizens to become part of the “sensors” to report issues in the cities. How do we capture and locate the report quickly? How do you make the invisible visible? If we are to deploy sensors everywhere, it can be very costly; thus, the idea of using the concept of “crowdsensing” intrigues us.
We choose to build a smartphone app because of the following reasons:
- Almost all users have smartphones. It will become the device to help them capture the data.
- A smartphone has a camera (the eye) and a GPS (location). It has built-in connectivity to send data to the cloud or platform.
- Cheap to deploy and install.
- When a user sees a problem, he will open the app and capture the photo. The app will automatically geotag the photo and time stamp to indicate the location and time of the actual report. We want to avoid a user uploading from his phone photo album because it will cause the issue of fake complaints (taking photos from a different place and reporting at another location)
- It’s also easier to send the status of reports back to the person who makes that complaint.
However, the smartphone phone app is just one of the main components of the total solution. There are three more components:
(i) Crowdsensing Management Platform (CMP)
- The authorities appointed an Admin responsible for handling all the complaints.
- A trouble-ticket ID can be generated from every complaint received, and the Admin is responsible for escalating it to the relevant field force or contractor.
- Once the contractor has resolved the issue, the Admin will be responsible for either accepting or rejecting the work.
- The status of the report will be tracked and shown on a Timeline.
- The contractor or the internal field force of the local authorities will receive all the jobs assigned to them.
- The report will show the location and photo and can easily trace it back for resolution.
- Once the job is completed, another image can upload as proof.
- A simple dashboard shows the KPI of the Division that handles the cases, such as the status of the reports and closed, pending, and rejected cases, among others.
- Such reports are made in real-time and accessible anywhere. The management needs to have instant access to these insights.
This IoT solution is Favorsense – a crowdsensing platform that allows users to make reports regarding any issues in the cities. It will automatically collect the actual “pain points” of the cities. Favorsense will be an excellent tool for city authorities to identify these problems and turn them into innovative city applications. Thus, the app can become an official way for local councils to engage with the citizens.
But how do we reach out to our target market, i.e., local councils? We started with a direct engagement with the local councils themselves, making presentations and proposals. Talking at Smart Cities conferences also helped us in reaching out to them. Events like conferences are the best place to meet and have first introductions.
However, we didn’t anticipate this council’s long sales cycle and tedious procurement process. Nowadays, we take a different approach whereby we work via MSCA (Malaysia Smart City Alliance). We have an earlier opportunity to share our proposal for any Smart Cities initiatives.
Similar to our first IoT product, the second IoT product also has challenges, especially going to the market. This will be shared in a different blog post (8 Top Challenges Building a Citizen Engagement App) as our IoT Adventure continues!
Articles worth reading next!
- How We Build Our First IoT Product
- How We Build Our Second IoT Product
- How We Build Our Third IoT Product
- How We Build Our Fourth IoT Product
“Build Smart Cities Through the Eyes of the Citizens.”