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Someone taking a photo of some fly tipping to report on FixMyStreet

Sprint notes: 12-23 October

Here’s everything SocietyWorks is up to this sprint.

New development on FixMyStreet Pro

Photo first

One big area we’re working on this sprint comes from our development roadmap.

We’re referring to it as a ‘photo first’ workflow, and it’d enable users to take a snap of a street fault and upload it as a way of initiating a report. This all keys into a piece of research we’ve done which found that reports with photos attached have around a 16% higher chance of being fixed than those without.

As part of our exploration, Developer Dave’s been training an AI model to automatically scan each image and guess what category it falls into — very cutting edge!

But at the same time, we’re aware that we must keep every type of user’s best interests at the heart of all our development: we don’t want to sacrifice the simplicity that’s always been the key to FixMyStreet’s success, and the reason it has such vocal  advocates amongst its citizen users.

As an example of this: as we assess the available technology to help us work on this functionality, we’re being resolute about basing decisions on what the job needs, not which product has the most bells and whistles.

Geolocation

An avenue we’re also exploring as part of this work is the potential for extracting geolocation metadata from the photograph, which would cut down on the amount of detail the citizen needs to type in. However, here, again there are balances to be struck: we don’t want to increase the potential for errors where a phone’s GPS isn’t accurate enough, or where the data we pass onto councils isn’t as precise as they need it to be.

Mobile design and PWAs

Meanwhile, Designer Martin has been looking into the user experience on mobile, making improvements for what is increasingly the most popular way to report.

Design in progress on FixMyStreet mobile

We’ll soon be making the existing app redundant in favour of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) — Martin’s work will still be relevant there, though.

PWAs are more flexible, allowing each council to incorporate their own branding and templates at no extra cost, and effectively offer residents what looks and feels just like a dedicated app. We’ve written a bit about these previously.

New development on Waste and Noise

Waste testing

Development continues on our Waste product. We’re integrating with Bromley and Veolia’s Echo system and doing plenty of testing around that — in particular, making sure it picks up on irregular dates such as bank holidays, and that it can handle the 48-hour window for reports of missed bin collections.

Noise and ASB

And, having completed our user research and consequence scanning exercises on the Noise concept, we’ve come to the conclusion that it should incorporate anti-social behaviour reports: Noise and ASB are so intertwined that it makes the most sense to combine them into a single service, albeit one that will divert each type of report to the relevant council department.

Feedback from our test users was all good, so we’ve now reported our findings back to Hackney and are waiting to hear if they’d like us to progress with integrating with their two back-end systems.

Meanwhile, you can see more about consequence scanning in the well-received session Martin led at LocalGovCamp a couple of weeks ago.

Security

Pen testing

We’ll be conducting one of our regular scheduled pen tests to ensure the security of FixMyStreet Pro.

New integrations

Symology and Alloy

We’re setting up a new instance of FixMyStreet Pro for our latest client: this one involved Symology, a system we’ve worked with extensively in the past, so it should be reasonably straightforward.

Hackney’s instance, an Alloy integration, should be going live by the end of this month, so we’re making plans for that.

One exciting feature here is that we’re looking into pulling ‘completion’ photos out of Alloy — that is, photos taken by the maintenance crew to show that the problem has been fixed — so we can display them on the relevant FixMyStreet report, and possibly also include them in an email update to the report-maker.

Aerial view of London Thamesmead

Three into one

Bexley’s installation of FixMyStreet Pro went live in June 2019, and as we noted at the time, it integrated with their existing Symology asset management to process reports of highways issues like potholes, graffiti and abandoned vehicles. 

Once the system had been running for a little while, Bexley started examining other ways in which FixMyStreet could improve internal workflows and save the borough time and money. 

As a result, they have now also integrated with a further two systems: Confirm for trees, parks and ground maintenance issues, and Uniform for some fly tipping issues.  

For the report-maker, this keeps things nice and simple: they only have to visit one place and can report any issue across this range of categories. Meanwhile, the council are benefiting from the ability to collect consistent data, which is then passed on to the most relevant back office system depending on which category the reporter selected. 

FixMyStreet Pro’s two way integration across all of these linked systems means that when the council update the relevant issue in any of them, it also updates the website and lets the citizen know that there’s an update on their report, or that it’s been resolved. Both citizen and council save time, with no need for a follow-up call to see how the issue is progressing. 

We’re also pleased to hear that the customer service centre have adopted FixMyStreet as their main reporting platform internally, as well. This means that staff don’t have to learn and use three different systems: they can easily create a report on behalf of a citizen within FixMyStreet, and rest assured that it will be sent to the correct department.

Image: Kleon3 (CC by-sa/4.0)

Fish sculpture in Erith

A Symology integration for Bexley

We proudly boast that we can integrate FixMyStreet Pro with any existing council CRM — and that’s the truth, though it’s always interesting to see what challenges each new one will bring.

Thanks to the London Borough of Bexley coming on board as our latest client, we can add Symology to the ever-growing list of systems that are proven to work in harmony with FixMyStreet.

There were two new challenges to solve to ensure a smooth integration here. First, although Symology has an API, which is the easiest way to ask a CRM to provide you with regular feeds of data, we couldn’t find a way to extract updates on reports from it. These updates are what keep our users informed of the progress of their issues, so we needed to find a different way to extract them.

No problem, thanks to Bexley’s obliging and responsive team: to get around this issue, they set up a regular CSV export for us. FixMyStreet Pro can automatically parse this and take in the contents, then publish updates on the site as appropriate.

The other challenge was that Symology has no functionality to perform ‘logic assignations’ — in other words, using the relevant fields of a report in order to send them on to the correct team, assign them the right priority, or apply analysis codes. Fortunately, we were able to integrate all the necessary moving parts into our Open311 adapter functionality, making sure reports will be directed to the right place.

A final belt and braces move is that when a report is identified as high priority, we send it to a dedicated priority email address as well as into the system, to make extra sure that it is seen as quickly as possible.

We enjoyed meeting these challenges for Bexley, who were receptive to all our suggestions and very helpful working with us to get them implemented.

Everything that happened to get this integration up and running need not trouble the residents of Bexley, of course. Reporting their issues will be smooth and simple — and that’s the end result we always strive for.

 


Image: Nigel Cox (CC by-sa/2.0)

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