Landmark study predicts boom in location-aware smartphone apps

By Alicia Kouparitsas01 May 2013

Australians are about to see an explosion of location-aware smartphone apps from their councils as local governments explore new ways to connect with their citizens, a landmark technology study has found.

Conducted by the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute (SSSI) and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology leaders Esri Australia, the 2013 GIS in Local Government Benchmark Study surveyed 150 councils on their use of mapping technology.

It found more than half (58 per cent) of respondents expected to release location-based smartphone apps in the next two years, while a majority believed further development of mobile technology was a key priority over the next five years.

The research also indicated smartphone apps are expected to play a crucial role in information gathering during emergency situations, as well as serve as a means to open up community access to council data.

Cassandra Barker – General Manager of digital mapping specialist MapData Services – said the Study findings prove the future of smartphone technology lies in location-aware apps.

“When it comes to technology innovation, Australia’s councils are often amongst the country’s most adventurous users – particularly when it comes to pioneering new ways to leverage technology to connect with their community

“For example, Adelaide City Council captured the nation’s attention when they became the first government body in Australia to develop a truly interactive smartphone app that provided members of their community with a direct line into Council.

“The app, which used cutting-edge CitySourced technology, empowers residents to submit on-the-ground reports about what’s happening in their communities – all in the blink of an eye.

“With its instant, two-way reporting capabilities, the app challenges traditional customer service models by creating a 360 degree feedback chain – enabling Adelaide residents to bypass call centre queues to cut through the proverbial ‘red tape’.

“As the 2013 GIS in Local Government Benchmark Study suggests, we are going to see the number of these smartphone apps explode as more councils strive to create a dynamic, interactive experience that truly puts their residents at the centre of the picture.”

Australia has more smartphone users per capita than any other country in the world – with the exception of Singapore – and Ms Barker said it’s not only Australia’s local governments which are looking for new ways to connect with consumers via this platform.

“We are also seeing an increasing number of commercial organisations look to location-aware smartphone communities to provide better customer service,” she said.

“For example, many of the country’s leading insurers are looking to smartphone technology to establish a direct and instantaneous link between policyholders on the ground and their claims assessors in the office.

“The technology means policyholders can instantly submit a geographically referenced claim to their insurer with just a click of their smartphone.

“All of this means no more painful phone queues and drawn out questioning from assessors because insurers already have the information at hand.

“Better still, the app starts a two-way conversation between the insurer and the policyholder – ensuring the customer is kept up-to-date about their claim every step of the way via instant messages and progress updates.

“At the end of the day, these technologies mean organisations can provide absolute transparency in their customer service, as well as streamline their administrative processes to improve efficiencies.”

Find out more about the 2013 GIS in Local Government website

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