Dan Rowinski's Mobile Platform

By Dan Rowinski

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App of the week: Accela Analytics for iPad

This week, the Mobile Platform’s technology of the week is an app for the iPad made specifically for government managers – Accela Analytics.

What is it?

Accela Analytics is an application for the iPad that helps cities and county managers with oversight, data collection and analysis of various tasks being performed in a municipality.

“We sell to local governments and states, but most of our customers are cities and counties and what they are doing is they are using our software to regulate activities,” said Accela CEO Maury Blackman. “So, building permits, code enforcement violations. Anything that requires oversight of operations in their specific jurisdiction.”

Accela Analytics is a free program available on the iPad through the iTunes store that taps into the Accela Automation software (which is a paid service) to help government managers access information on transactions that are happening in the field.

“Our first app out of the box has been focused on those specific users where we would build an application that would allow them to get a view inside their agencies using their iPads,” Blackman said. “It is essentially a dashboard of [key performance indicators] that allows them to answer very basic questions about what is going on within their agencies and with specific projects that might be going on.”

What is the buzz?

IPad enterprise functionality coming to the government sphere is a nascent market, and Accela is focused on bringing software straight to government workers and their mobile devices. This is not the cross street of technology and liberal arts but rather the cross street of municipal engineering, social service and new mobile technology.

Accela Analytics has been on the market for about six weeks and a couple of localities have started to deploy it, including the building services and code compliance office of Salt Lake City and the public works divisions of Westminster, Colo.

The app is one of the few that software companies are building specifically for government use, although that is likely to change as tablets, such as the iPad and coming Android slates, gain widespread adoption at the federal, state and local levels.

“The fact of the matter is that you have to be able to do something with it that relates to your job in order for an agency to actually fund buying it,” Blackman said.

Why does the government care?

Data, data and more data.

Accela’s hosted server volume touched on 50 million transactions recently through 100 locations the company serves. That is a great amount of volume for a small number of organizations. Data discovery, interaction and subsequent front-facing transparency are increasing problems as the Data Era continues to explode. Accela Analytics is one of the first to address the data problem in a mobile form.

“I think it is on us [the software companies] to build user interfaces that allow people to either transact with that information in a way that is friendly that they can understand or to have visibility in an organization to what is going on,” Blackman said.

Apps designed specifically for government can also help realize some of the cost savings that are one of the big draws of deploying iPads to government workers. Compared to the suite of devices and applications that building inspectors would otherwise need to carry, iPads are inexpensive even after spending money to secure them and tie them through the organizational infrastructure.

Why do I care?

I am a big fan of technological disruption. Tablets and mobile devices are changing the way computing is done and subsequently the way software is deployed. The days of buying software in physical form and installing it from a CD-ROM are all but gone, replaced with the “download and go” ease of the application stores such as iTunes, the Apple App Store for Macs, the Android Market, BlackBerry App World and others.

I was surprised when Blackman more or less iterated my thoughts, unprompted, back to me:

“This is revolutionary change in the way that this software is being deployed," he said. "One of the interesting things is that revolutions are always very destructive and they break down everything that is in their path. That is a new paradigm and something that I think can dramatically change the way people use and develop software, not just for businesses but for public-sector use as well.”

Posted on Mar 11, 2011 at 12:19 PM

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