October 5, 2009 by Jim Morton
Today, we’ve sent out the beta version of our WCC iphone application to the lucky people who will be kicking its virtual tyres for us. If this goes well, hopefully it will be appearing on the iTunes app store in the near future.
As well as providing Warwickshire citizens with a new and different way to keep up to date with the authority and find out how to access public services, the application is also helping to prove a number of strategic concepts that we want to embed into our ICT architecture at the council.
1. The benefits of using web services: All of the information presented on the phone is driven by our RSS feeds or a new set of XML web services. These will update the phone application dynamically with no lag or delay. We intend to re-use the exact same services for developing other web applications or applications for other mobile platforms – reducing duplication, cost and delays while increasing accuracy and efficiency. This will hopefully be the genesis of an API for the authority’s data and services.
2. Context specific services: While we have grander aims regarding contextual access to our services based on a variety of factors, the iphone application gets the ball rolling by presenting information in a geographically aware manner. A user can see how far they are from a specific service and then get directions to it from their current location.
3. Taking advantage of platform specific benefits: As well as the location based services that the mobile platform provides, we can also make phone calls directly from the application to a particular service.
4. Using cloud based/utility infrastructure: The back end system providing the XML services is hosted on the Amazon EC2 infrastructure, entirely independant of the WCC network. Working this way is allowing us to evaluate the cloud computing model and to understand the governance and constraints that must be managed to gain the benefits of working this way while minimising the potential risks.
These concepts have also been the focus of R&D projects as documented on our wiki at: http://abigbang.wikidot.com/
Finally, here are some screen shots to give you a quick idea of the application in action…