The rise of the smartphone and social media platforms means that consumers can effectively get in touch with an organisation at a moment’s notice. Driving and come across a tree fallen on the road the morning after a storm? You can snap a picture and tweet it to the SES or your local council to make them aware, your good deed for the day done.
Of course, for the organisations on the receiving end, acting on this incoming data isn’t as easy as it looks – for all their good intentions, the driver may not have given a precise location, for example, and if there are multiple drivers sending through similarly limited information across a particular area, it can be difficult for an organisation to make sense of it all and send out a crew to deal with the problems via the most time efficient route.
Brisbane startup Gruntify, founded by Igor Stjepanovic, is a data collaboration platform that looks to solve these problems. Using advanced geospatial mapping technology, it helps businesses capture and manage field-collected data, whether they be surveys, inspections, audits, or staff or members of the public submitting maintenance requests.
Users can post images, videos, and audio reports from the field in real time, with all this feeding into a control panel that allows businesses collecting the data to manage, map, and action it. It allows organisations to identify hotspots and better plan their responses.
The idea evolved out of an Open Innovation Hub that geospatial solutions company GIS People, also founded by Stjepanovic, attended in 2014, hosted by the Queensland Department of Science, IT and Innovation and PwC. The attendees were asked to come up with a solution for a problem the Department of Transport and Main Roads had with graffiti.
Explained Gruntify’s Deborah Hide, “They were finding it difficult to rapidly gather information on where graffiti was located on their roadside assets and to arrange removal. The GIS People team pitched a solution idea around a graffiti capture app and graffiti workflow engine, with geographic distribution of work management.”
Winning the competition, the idea went through a three month incubation period, developing an alpha version of the software. During development Hide said the team quickly realised that the solution could have a number of applications beyond just graffiti management, from helping report other maintenance issues to the distributing and collecting of surveys and auditing, and Gruntify became a collaborative data collection and management platform.
The platform was of course informed by and complements the work of GIS People, a consulting, software development and training business with a focus on spatial data analysis and mapping.
“Everything happens somewhere, and taking advantage of that location data has huge value,” Hide said.
“When the initial concept of Gruntify was designed, we knew that a spatial focus would be key to distinguishing Gruntify from competitors. Consequently, Gruntify automatically captures the location of all reports submitted from the data capture app, and provides maps in the control panel, giving decision-makers key visual information and instant situational awareness.”
Gruntify allows client organisations to design their own data capture forms using a drag and drop form builder. They can manage the streams of data coming in through the workflow process, view and filter data on the mapping interface, and can choose to view either internal or external data, or ‘private crowds’ and ‘public crowds’.
“Where organisations want to use the power of public crowds, or citizen science, they can release the data collection app the public. The app is designed to work similar to social media apps, so will be intuitive and require no training,” Hide said.
The next release of the app, due out in a few weeks, will also incorporate live messaging and push notifications.
The citizen science aspect is particularly interesting: Hide said Gruntify is positioning itself as part of the smart city revolution, which is expected to be worth US$1.5 trillion by 2020. The concept of the smart city incorporates the idea that government, the private sector, and citizens can work together to come up with new approaches to handle things like public transportat, utilities, and other things central to life in urban centres.
Hide explained, “In this digital age, customers expect personalised service and direct engagement with businesses and government. Gruntify provides that level of interaction. So, for example, if a local government uses the platform for reporting and management of maintenance issues, citizens can use the app to report issues in real time, then track the progress of the issue – accepted, assigned to work crew, fixed. In our experience an informed customer is a happy customer.”
While helping improve service delivery and keeping customers happy, there is also value for organisations in getting reports and data from the public that they would otherwise not necessarily be aware of. As well as helping them attend to issues in the field, for example, organisations may be better able to see what matters to customers and constituents, which can in turn help them better manage their time and focus on creating better solutions for these matters.
Hide said the app has found a user base among larger enterprises, including local and state government departments and private companies in the utilities and environmental spaces. It the pipeline are potential opportunities with a Federal Government client, and a number of conservation groups on citizen science initiatives.
Following on from the Open Innovation Hub win in 2014, the Department of Transport and Main Roads decided to license Gruntify and is using it for several internal projects, while Hide said the Queensland government as a whole has also been supportive of the project, providing mentoring and invites to exhibit at events such as last week’s Advance Queensland Innovation and Investment Summit.
Looking ahead, Hide said Gruntify is ready to go global, partnering with Microsoft and ESRI, an international supplier of GIS software, to help market and distribute Gruntify globally. With the development of the platform having been funded through GIS People and Stjepanovic thus far, the team will also be looking to bring on investors and advisors to help spur its growth.
Stjepanovic has also been invited to take part in the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, taking place in Silicon Valley later this year.
Image: Igor Stjepanovic at the NSW Future Transport Summit.