Thursday, April 12, 2012

Plano, Texas Uses Mobile Tools to Manage Water Restrictions

Mobile technology is changing the way people communicate and engage with their community.  As a result, cities, one by one, are starting to capitalize on this new trend by developing mobile apps and tools to meet the demands and interests of their savvy constituents.  One city in-particular is experiencing this transformation first hand.
The City of Plano, Texas has been revolutionizing the way its community works together to resolve city-related concerns via it's Fix It Plano app. The city enlisted the help of PublicStuff to develop a mobile app and service request system in July, 2011 and branded the system Fix It Plano. The app allows residents to report and submit city-related requests in real time from anywhere. Requests, normally centered on maintenance issues, are sent directly to the correct city department to be resolved. Since launching Fix It Plano in July 2011, the city has closed out more than 1,489 service requests. But what's truly fascinating is that half of those requests focused on water-related issues.
Why? Well when Fix It Plano was first introduced, like many other North Texas cities, Plano was under outdoor watering restrictions. A water supply issue related to an invasive species of Zebra Mussels in the cities main water supply, was compounding its drought issues after a dry, hot summer, that extended into the fall. In October, water concerns heightened as the city prepared to move into enhanced Stage 3 Water Restrictions on Nov. 1, taking residents from once- a-week watering to once-every-other-week watering. From the beginning of these heightened restrictions, residents were eager to continue their participation in water conservation efforts. City phones were buzzing with reports of wasteful watering practices and unscheduled watering. It became obvious as restrictions tightened; Fix It Plano could divert this barrage of additional calls into a more unified system. On Oct. 12, a City press release announced watering violations could now be reported via Fix It Plano. In the 19 days that followed 71 water violations were reported.
Nancy Nevil, Plano’s director of sustainability and environmental services said, “Our residents are very technologically savvy and Fix It Plano was a tool that empowered them to be involved in the solution of saving as much water as possible. More important than violations, they reported water leaks, broken sprinklers and other water-related issues that required repair.”
As weather forecasters predict another grueling Texas summer, Fix It Plano will continue to support water conservation efforts in Plano. The Fix It Plano app is free to download and accessible via the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Blackberry and Android applications. Citizens may also submit services via telephone, through SMS text, and directly through the City’s website. To access any of the Fix It portals, please click on the links below.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

New Odor Detection App, PublicSmells, Allows You to Report What Stinks!

How often have you walked down the street and smelled something foul? Have you ever wished there was a way to report offensive public smells? Well, now you can! PublicStuff, the innovative web and mobile based public service request management system, has once again paved the way in technology by creating the first ever odor detection app, PublicSmells.

How is this possible? PublicStuff program developers were able to create the app by analyzing the bio chemistry and makeup of specific odors. They noticed that different odors had different chemical makeups. They were then able to analyze the chemical makeups closely and apply an identifying code to it. The code is what allows users to, in return, report the smell and categorize it accordingly. By applying an identifying code to each smell, users are now able to automatically report and categorize issues from a set of several hundred common smells.

PublicStuff CEO and founder, Lily Liu, said the inspiration for developing the PublicSmell app came from the public itself. “We noticed that with an increase in pollution and changing urban development landscapes, more and more people were becoming concerned with the ‘smell’ of their city” said Liu. “The Atlantic Cities, a premier publication in urban and city development, even came up with a ranking for the top smelliest cities in theU.S. After reviewing these trends, we knew that public odors were definitely contributors to community quality of life issues. As such, we felt it was the natural choice to expand our services to include the reporting of public smells.”

To utilize the service, users just have to open the PublicSmell application on their mobile phone and click on the auto-smell widget. The smell will then be recorded and directed to the correct city department, just like any service request issue reported through PublicStuff.

To access any of the public services, please visit the following links:

Online Portal:
iPhone App:
Android App:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Open Data Is On The Rise

With the influx of technology and subsequent data, more and more cities are leaning towards opening all that data to the public. The City of Chicago opened its data in 2011 to further engage with citizens on a more even level. As a result, the outcome for Chicago has been extremely positive. Chicago Mayor Emmanuel even stated that the open data policy has added a new sense of passion and enthusiasm among city staff and the community. 

On the heels of cities like Chicago, New York City has now decided to join the ranks of the open data movement.  On February 29th, 2012 the City Council approved legislation that effectively mandates their departments to publicly publish their data online. Over the next 6 years, the city will be phasing all of their agencies to add information to the city's OpenData site. The site is meant to be easily accessible by the public with the ability to download the information. The goal is to increase transparency, knowledge and community engagement between the city and its residents.

The open data movement shows no signs of slowing down and here at PublicStuff, we're here to help! Our system helps to store and organize massive amounts of data into a streamlined, organized suite. The addition of our recent ESRI integration, helps to further enhance the amount of data your city has access to. If you want to hear more about how you can access even more data with ESRI, or if you have questions regarding the data we're able to collect and how it can best work for your needs, feel free to contact us at   

New York City's OpenData Site

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

PublicStuff Donates Service Request Tools to Tornado Affected Communities

Photo Credit Reuters / Eric Thayer
PublicStuff, the innovative web and mobile based public service request management system, is donating its services for free to the towns and counties affected by the recent tornado outbreaks throughout the country. Through the web and mobile platforms, residents are able to report nonemergency service requests like down trees, flipped cars, broken street lights and more, and have those requests sent directly to the appropriate city department and staff member.

Local governments in these affected tornado zones will also be granted access to the backend workflow suite in order to manage and process these requests in an efficient, organized manner. These agencies may also embed the web portal on their website so residents can submit online requests directly through their respective town/county’s website. For residents without internet access, they may use their mobile phones to report issues, regardless of their wireless provider. If using a smart-phone, users can snap a photo of the issue and submit it with one click. All requests will get sent directly to the managing staff person. Mobile phone options are available for residents to submit service requests via the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Blackberry and Android PublicStuff applications. For residents without smart phones, they can still submit requests via text messaging to 1-617-500-3111and through land-line calls toll free to 1-888-491-3119. Once a request is submitted, residents can easily track their requests, support other requests and receive status updates from their local government. City staff will also be able to utilize PublicStuff's professional software system to manage and improve the efficiency with which they respond to the needs of the public and even send out reverse 311 alerts.

Photo Credit: Reuters/Kentucky National Guard/Capt. Stephen Martin
“At PublicStuff, we are committed to improving communities and enhancing the quality of life for every citizen. As such, we want to help communities that have been affected by natural disasters. We understand this is an overwhelming and devastating time for many people. We hope that enabling an easy way for citizens to report the nonemergency damage around them and giving city staff access to a simplified workflow suite, will help them in their efforts to rebuild their community and spirits during this trying time.” stated Lily Liu, CEO and Founder of PublicStuff.

Government agencies that would like access to the complimentary backend workflow suite can sign-up by emailing To access any of the public services, please visit the following links:

Online Portal:
iPhone App:
Android App:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Invisible Data: How Cities are Tapping Into It To Make Data Driven Decisions

Your cell phone is smart. Really smart. No, I’m not talking just about Siri’s ability to find you Chinese food at any time of the day or her amusing and witty banter that keeps you entertained – I’m talking about the aggregated data your cell phone is collecting 24-7. That data has real value to it and it’s helping to transform the way cities handle every day issues.

For example, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) in North Carolina is utilizing cell phone GPS technology to identify traffic patterns and make recommendations on commuting routes. Here’s how it works. When you’re in your car for your daily commute, presumably, your cell phone is right there with you and sending that information to a satellite hovering overhead.  So the satellite is collecting this information not only from your phone, but from thousands of other phones and picking up an enormous amount of information on congestion, traffic patterns and much more.

The massive amounts of data being collected above us has inspired many start-ups, like AirSage, that have later contracted with government organizations like MPO to conduct traffic pattern studies with much more accuracy. Previously, traffic studies would cost $300,000 annually and consist of someone literally driving around the city and reporting back traffic patterns. When MPO contracted with AirSage to do a traffic pattern study, it cost a mere $25,000 and saved them hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

If North Carolina could save hundreds of thousands of dollars by just tapping into cell phone data that was already there – imagine the possibilities. The data is there, you just need to find a way to uncover it.  Here at PublicStuff we find we’re uncovering more and more data every day from the thousands of service requests we receive all over the country.  We’ve been able to tap into backend systems from years ago, organize it in our workflow system and combine that with newly gathered information through our CRM system.  As such, we’ve been able to help over 45 of our city partners to uncover years worth of development patterns and city trends to make more research backed decisions regarding city planning and much more. Our recent ESRI integration, that will allow us to integrate with multiple mapping layers, will further open the flood gates of information that cities are able to tap into.  To test out the data in your area, register your city today. The only question left is how will you utilize the data that’s out there to make your city even greater?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

When it Comes to Technology and Innovation for Public Benefit, Local Governments are Paving the Way

There seems to be a lot of discussion out there surrounding the need to improve the efficiency and technological capabilities of our government to meet the advancing needs of the public.  We are hearing it in Obama’s State of the Union Speech, in our daily newspapers and across political party lines.  The old way of doing things, just doesn’t cut it anymore.  We need to become more efficient to remain more fiscally and environmentally responsible.  Yet during a state of political unrest at the federal level, it appears to be harder to implement these themes of change to modernize our government in order to improve efficiency and transparency.  If you’re starting to get frustrated at the seemingly never-ending delays in this process, have faith.  Just turn to your local state or city municipality. More and more local governments are starting to take matters into their own hands and leading innovation and change on their own terms.
The value of such change is so apparent that the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently launched a Technology and Innovation Task Force.  The Task Force, which is lead by San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, will focus on using technology to foster innovation and transparency in local municipalities.  Some of the major priorities of the Task Force will be to build public and private partnerships, establish community engagement and increase access to public data to improve public services.  The committee will even outline priorities and best practices to advise Congress and the Obama Administration.   The Technology and Innovation Task Force may want to take notes from the City of Fontana, which has recently launched an “Access Fontana” application with PublicStuff to do just that.
The City of Fontana, which has been highlighted recently in Strong Cities | Strong State , a resource that highlights city success stories in the state of California, established the app to further improve communication and access to public services.  Through the online and mobile platform, residents are able to request a variety of City services specific to the region including graffiti cleanup, pothole repairs and dead animal pickups in an easy, efficient manner.  The system is powered by PublicStuff, which has been working with the City of Fontana to strengthen the lines of communication between the City and its residents and increase efficiency in responding to public requests.
The “Access Fontna” app will help improve transparency among its citizens and also allow City staff to streamline their response process through the PublicStuff professional software management system.  The technology even allows for citizens to track their requests, support requests made by other citizens and receive status updates.  The use of this innovative system is planned to help increase active community engagement, streamline the work order process at the City level and enhance public satisfaction.

To test out “Access Fontana” visit the following links:

Do you have an idea of how we can further improve the application? Provide us with your feedback.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Irene: Free Accounts to Municipalities

As you are well aware, Hurricane Irene is scheduled to extend up the east coast within the next 24 hours. In an effort to expedite the rebuilding process, we are offering our online municipal request management software package for free for all areas impacted by the storm. Using our free website, mobile applications, SMS and voice services, citizens can report damage, power outages, or any other service they need. These requests will then be automatically routed to the appropriate department or employee, who can update the user instantly on the status of their request.

The service is free for 30 days and comes with a full data export at the end. The service comes with no obligation or contracts. To sign up for an account, please follow these steps:
  • Sign up for an account and set-up your account.
  • Upgrade to premium
    Once we receive your registration we will upgrade you to a premium account, which will allow you to access all the features.
  • Place this link on the municipality website, which will enable residents to submit/track requests:
  • Follow-up: We will follow-up immediately with additional marketing/informational material
Our hope is that by providing this service we can ease the hardship visited on the citizens of the areas hit by the storm. If you know of any municipalities that could benefit from this service, please send pass along this information. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us at, and we will reply promptly.