February 9th, 2010

City of Portland gets into the iPhone app development game with Citizen Reports

City of Portland gets into the iPhone app development game with Citizen Reports

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Portland? The town seems to like the whole iPhone thing. I mean, we’ve got iPhone users, incredibly popular iPhone app developers, and iPhone infrastructure plays that send out millions of messages. I might dare say that Portland is the de facto hub for iPhone development. (Because I say those kinds of things all of the time.)

But now, the City of Portland is getting into the game with its own iPhone app. That’s right. Citizen Reports will now let any iPhone user file reports to the City of Portland—all from the comfort of his or her multitouch screen.

Using their iPhone, citizens can select the type of issue to report, take a photo, geo-locate the issue via GPS or map, add comments, and send their report directly to the appropriate bureau for resolution. Once submitted, citizens will receive updates directly to their iPhone regarding the status of their issue(s).

City of Portland Citizen Reports iPhone appNot only is this a great example of the City embracing technology to open channels for collaborating with its community—it’s also an example of inter-departmental collaboration, as well. Because building the app meant getting cooperation from the Bureau of Technology Services, Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland Parks and Recreation and the Office of Neighborhood Involvement.

What’s more, it’s all in line with the City of Portland’s pursuit of being more open with its data. And allowing users to interact more efficiently with the data it does have.

Citizen Reports is free. And it’s currently available in the App Store. Once folks start using it, the City will entertain ideas for additional services and other mobile platforms. So it’s up to all of you iPhone users to set a good example and push the City forward. So that our Android and Blackberry friends get some similar functionality.

For more information, read the description of Citizen Reports on the City of Portland’s site. To try the app for yourself, download City of Portland Citizen Reports on iTunes.

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21 Responses to “City of Portland gets into the iPhone app development game with Citizen Reports”

  1. Ken Westin says:

    Does anyone know who built it? I am curious about the process of how this was built with buy in from the various departments.

  2. Andy says:

    You do say those kinds of things all the time, but so does everyone else in Portland about a lot of different things. Portland is the de facto hub for claiming to be a de facto hub.

  3. Oscar Godson says:

    I’m from the City of Portland, and I designed it. Send your question to my email Oscar.Godson@ci.portland.or.us and I’ll try to get the info for ya ;)

  4. Jmartens says:

    Rick, since you are Portland Tech’s #1 cheerleader, I’ll play devils advocate on this one.

    First, I’ll say I am glad Portland’ is interacting with citizens in this way…it is the future.

    I just have far too many questions on how they went about it. I’ll give you a summary below and then link to a story I wrote for ThePortlander (sorry to promote, but it is the best way).

    1. Why didn’t the city hire one of the great local development teams Portland is home to?
    2. Did the city consider TechCrunch50 runner-up CitySourced?
    3. Why only on the iPhone?

    I address all of those and have received some great comments from Portlanders and even from someone at CitySourced. Check it out here: http://theportlander.com/with-new-iphone-app-portland-gives-the-virtual-finger-to-local-developers-and-smartphone-users/

  5. Andy says:

    1. Why should the city pay to outsource something they can build in-house?
    2. Why should the city pay to outsource something they can build in-house?
    3. Because the iPhone has 99.4% of the smartphone app market?


  6. Rather than a pissing war over mobile platforms, I want to know what the app does that couldn’t have been done by a website. A simple website should be able to provide these same functions (and a more sophisticated one could include things like geolocation), without being a solution locked into one brand of mobile device.

    And odds are that website could’ve been used by anyone sitting at a computer as well.

  7. John Doe says:

    1. They have people in house already, that obviously know how to build iPhone apps and/or knows Cocoa, why would the tax payers want to pay that guy(s) to sit around and do nothing?

    2. Not sure, but why would it matter? They needed a custom solution obviously. They also probably wanted to streamline it for their city and not have a middle man to have to deal with. I can think of a ton of reasons why they wouldn’t use that.

    3. Cause it has over 99% of smartphone app market and plus they said they are working on an android version too. So, what, that gets 99.8%?

  8. Jmartens says:

    @Andy- why should cities be in the business of mobile application development? Not exactly the city’s charter, I suspect. Just like I don’t want the city doing lots of things like selling me a microwave, doing my banking or pumping my gas.

    @JohnDoe and at Anyd- In the US, the iPhone has a 22% market share for smartphones. RIM has 41%, Android is closing in on 10%.

  9. Anne B says:

    According to @MayorSamAdams, a Droid app will be available by end of Feb. Aaron Hockley’s comment is spot-on though. Why not a website? It’s device-agnostic, probably more cost-effective to develop & maintain and it would open up access for more citizens instead of limiting it to those with iPhones

  10. Andy says:

    What a ridiculous question. That’s like asking why cities should be in the business of website development. Why shouldn’t they?

    As far as why this is an iPhone app, look again at the app. It lets you take pictures and send your GPS location, things you can’t do with a web app.

    RIM has more market share, but it also has an antiquated OS with a lot of restrictions, bad development tools, and an unpopular distribution system. The same is true for Windows Mobile.


  11. Andy, the Google Buzz website can pinpoint my location on my Nexus One, and it can do the same thing on an iPhone. This is a web app – not a native app on either platform.

  12. Andy says:

    Yes, I’m very familiar with the geolocation API, and there’s a lot you can do now with HTML5, and I’m not even saying there *shouldn’t* be a web based solution, but there’s still a lot you can’t do with web apps than you can with native apps.

    For example, the geolocation API isn’t very accurate, you can’t drop a pin or use the maps like you can in a native app, and you can’t access content on the phone for things like pictures or your address book.

  13. You Betcha says:

    Why when I read this tug-job do I just hear a commercial in my mind “Want to be even more of an elitist, self-centered, Portland civility douchebag? There’s an app for that!”. Is it just because it’s all about the whitest, elitist, most self-centered consumerist toy from a company who makes that it’s branding strategy? Or is it because back in the real world we see yet again how a Portland cop can shoot an obviously unarmed Aaron M. Campbell in the back, killing him, have a Portland grand jury let him walk free, and the tweeting (elitist, white, self-centered) Mayor can only say he hopes the grand jury report is publicly released without nary a peep in the Portland Facebook or Twitter crowd? And then there is the case of Delease Carter in N. Portland, wantonly attacked by Portland’s “finest” for no reason. Except of course, that the elitist, overwhelmingly white, pathologically self-centered, Portland population, for whom this “iDontLikeYouSoIComplain” app is expressly designed, actually kind of prefer their police that way. After all, isn’t the tech geek argument that the hipster social media has the power to right wrongs? Don’t see that too much of that in this app or in Portland.

  14. RobertWagner says:

    Supersweet. Yet another shining example of how our fair city makes everyone into a complete ass.

    So, without further ado:

    1. Laziness is the single largest factor when hiring someone to do a job that one can do themselves. So someone somewhere is actually pissed off that the city wasn’t lazy here and figured it all out by themselves? Wow. Really?

    2. Someone’s actually complaining that there isn’t a BlackBerry or Android version within seconds of the iPhone app? C’mon. It’s only a matter of time. Apple made the word “app” a household term – there’s more glory and back-patting in an iPhone app than anything else right now. I don’t even own an iPhone anymore (did my 2 years w/AT&T thank you very much) and I’m not whining about it. BlackBerry and Android development isn’t press worthy, simple as that. Who launches something like this and says “WOW! Now on BlackBerry!”? No one.

    3. The city isn’t responsible for pumping your gas, that’s a state thing.

    4. I’m mortified that I’m reading comments on a tech blog that actually think the iPhone has anywhere near 90%-99% market share. Oh wait, maybe that little bit of dreaming and b.s. is why the city built it in-house – obviously a few folks in the Portland tech arena (and media for that matter) need to brush up on sales figures.

    5. Yep, it should have just been a fancy mobile-friendly website. Hopefully someday it will be.

    It’s practically a non-event to technologists, this whole Portland iPhone App bit. It’s all stuff we can already do with our phones anyway. The city wanted to make something simple for people who require that sort of thing – i.e. the 99% of the population that doesn’t read this or any other tech blog – you know, the people that actually make a product successful by buying it vs. the folks that sit around and talk about them all day.

  15. Andy says:

    I agree with almost everything you wrote, except for your apparently lack of reading comprehension. Apple’s App Store (supposedly) has 99.4% of the smartphone app market, not the smartphone market.

    Considering Apple’s App Store has 140,000+ apps, the nearest competitor has 20,000+, and the rest have maybe a couple thousand, this number isn’t difficult to believe, it’s simple math.

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  18. AJain says:

    As now its over a month since this application was released. Do we have any stats on this Portland City iPhone App. How many downloads, how many active users? Portland Smartphone- iPhone, Android apps

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