Customer Summit Hemisphere Sessions: October 27

October 27, 2015 6:29 pm PST | Data as a Service

Data, technology, and software were the main themes in the Hemisphere room today. We learned about some exciting new products, features and improvements to performance from both the Socrata product team and the engineering team. Read on for more.

Socrata Roadmap

  • Product Management and Development Teams, Socrata

In this standing-room-only session, Product Managers Ben McInnis and Emily Rund gave overviews of Socrata’s upcoming features and products. Franklin Williams discussed enhancements to bring in new kinds of data into the Socrata system that make it easy for developers to access and utilize it effectively. Emily then showed a brand new way of presenting data in an even more interactive, contextual way. Customers got to see live prototypes and ask their most urgent questions about what was going to be available in the first few releases. 

Diving Into the Data Stack

  • Tyler Kleykamp, Chief Data Officer, State of Connecticut
  • David Eaves, CEO and Business Development, ReCollect

This talk was a follow-up to one of the most popular talks at last year’s Socrata Customer Summit: Open Data’s Disruptive Potential by David Eaves. In a casual fireside chat format, David interviewed Tyler Kleykamp, CDO for the State of Connecticut, who was inspired by David’s talk last year and wanted to share some of the internal wins from his state’s digital government initiatives. For many governments, he stated, the business case for internal data sharing is often more powerful than external data consumption in the short term. The strategy of using an open data mandate and the Socrata platform to enable the flow of public and private data internally within government is one that resonated with Tyler.  Tyler took on the role of relationship-builder, connector, and de facto “librarian.” By moving the data platform “down the stack” and having a centralized understanding of the organizations “data universe,” staff was able to respond more quickly to cross-cutting information requests. Tyler also gave a number of compelling examples ranging from improving emergency response to juvenile justice system to agency financial dashboards.

The Triple Bottom Line: Leveraging Private Companies to Improve the Lives of Citizens and Create Jobs While Enhancing Your Open Data Program

  • Ross Goldenberg, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Sitecompli

Ross Goldenberg, Co-Founder of Sitecompli gave a lightning talk on the “love story” between government and private companies within the open data ecosystem. Sitecompli is a company that consumes open data on the housing market and helps real estate managers — from the World Trade Center to low-income housing landlords — stay on top of hundreds of permits and inspection requirements. On one hand, governments have a great deal of valuable data, limited capacity to use data, and a need to demonstrate ROI from their open data programs. On the other hand, private companies have a need for accurate, reliable civic data and access to top engineers and analysts to use the data. In New York City, Sitecompli has created 60 jobs, increased safety for 500,000 homes, better management of 500 M square feet of real estate, and 10,000 government workers who rely on government data to do their jobs. Talk about the ROI of open data!

Better Communications, Stronger Communities

  • Caroline Smith, Impact Manager, SeeClickFix

The key takeaway from Caroline Smith, Impact Manager at SeeClickFix, is that what matters to citizens becomes very clear, very fast when you open your citizen services. This enables governments to solve more people, more efficiently and to decide collectively what their priorities are for citizen services.

Detroit had an issue with water meters being stolen from abandoned buildings. Replacing the water meters cost $500 each and, if not done in time, resulted in gallons of wasted water and damage to neighboring properties when pipes burst. After the city adopted SeeClickFix, it experienced an influx of stolen meter reports from citizens, who were eager to avoid property damage and reduce costs to the City.

Burlington, Vermont recently experienced a heroin epidemic and a rise in heroin-related hospitalizations. Not were people overdosing, but they were being injured by discarded syringes. By coordinating with the health department, SeeClickFix, and the Howard Center, Burlington established a service where people could take a photo to flag discarded syringes for cleanup. By analyzing the service request data, the City identified hot spots and placed collection boxes at these locations, leading to a decrease in accidental needle injuries.

Raleigh, North Carolina has more than 100 square miles of greenways that are difficult to maintain with their limited resources. Using the SeeClickFix API, Raleigh citizens launched RGreenway, an app that not only provided information on the greenways, but enabled people to mark and adopt greenway bus shelters. In doing so, citizens took maintenance into their own hands, at no cost to the city.

Open Data + Analytics = Engagement

  • Adam Roy, Chief Technology Officer, Qlarion

Adam Roy, Chief Technology Officer at Qlarion, explained how citizen-centric analytics are key to achieving engagement with open data. As he says, it’s important to design apps with your parents and your spouse in mind. Drawing from his experience creating impactful open data solutions for the City of Boston, he gave three examples of how open data + analytics = engagement. In each case, he also demonstrated the added value for internal stakeholders as well as citizens.

RentSmart (Neighborhood Insight) is an app that provides holistic views of rental properties, revealing local issues with crime rates, rat infestation, code violations, and more. Problem Properties, a sibling app developed for internal users, has helped city officials identify properties with multiple issues or statistically higher rates of issues. Through the use of these apps, the City of Boston has achieved more than $1.5 million in annual savings and helped tens of thousands of university students make smarter housing choices.

Permit Finder was designed to help applicants for building permits see the status of their request. Emphasizing user experience, the app simplified the 150+ milestone process into seven steps while also providing contact information and an estimated time frame for each step. As a result, applicants could easily understand the status of their request and check it online. They no longer needed to visit City Hall for status updates, freeing up city staff time. 

During the winter months, Snow Stats provides near real-time updates on the status of snowfall and plowing. The app provides details on how much snow is expected to fall within certain timeframes, where snowplows are currently operating, and how much snow they have plowed so far. The app elicited over 100k unique hits in the first eight weeks (more than 10% of the population) as well as several hundred positive tweets.

Backstage Pass: Socrata Technology and Vision

  • John Zook, Vice President of Engineering, Socrata
  • Urmila Nadkarni, Core Data Infrastructure Engineer, Socrata
  • Clint Tseng, UX Designer, Socrata
  • Marc Millstone, Lead AniML Engineer, Socrata
  • Franklin Williams, Engineering Manager, Socrata

This session provided a fascinating peek into the world of Socrata’s engineering team. Socrata engineers are invested in data-driven government, and the Customer Summit is one of the rare chances when our tech wizards get to interact directly with the communities using the Socrata platform in day-to-day operations. Some of the areas where customers will be seeing exciting developments include: Geospatial Data, Point Maps, Data Discovery, and Authentication.

Better Together: The MidAtlantic Stat Net Success Story

  • David Gottesman, CountyStat Manager, Montgomery County, MD
  • Ben Birge, CountyStat Manager, Prince George’s County, MD
  • Greg Useem, Chief Performance Officer, City of Alexandria, VA
  • Chris Rieth, Open Performance and Non-Profit, Socrata

The MidAtlantic Stat Net is an organization for performance analysts working for local governments in the D.C. area. In this panel, David Gottesman from Montgomery County explained how he took inspiration from similar organizations in the New York area to coordinate with peers like fellow panelists Ben Birge of Prince George’s County and Greg Useem from the City of Alexandria. The purpose of the MidAtlantic Stat Net is to compare similar data, measure against peers, identify if everyone is asking the right questions with their data, and determine how each city can benefit from the best practices of others. The organization now consists of 12 jurisdictions and serves as a valuable training resource. 

The Network Effect: How the Open Data Network Is Getting Data Into All the Right Hands

  • Deep Dhillon, Chief Technology Officer, Socrata
  • Robin Jones, Vice President of Strategic Growth, Socrata
  • Michael Lu, Principal Product Manager, Socrata
  • Sarah Schacht, Public Health Data Advisor, Socrata

Socrata is a developing a connected data network within the open data ecosystem. By connecting datasets across all of our customers’ data catalogs, users and developers can perform cross-cutting analysis and build applications that were never before possible. Robin Jones, Socrata’s VP of Strategic Growth, introduced a team that dove into the the three exciting components of the Open Data Network. Deep Dhillon demonstrated search functionality on, and new features that will allow users to build out the graph that connects topically related datasets. Mike Lu shared a terrific example of the Open Data Network functionality within the new Open Expenditures product. Sarah Schacht gave several compelling examples of how data standardization is lifting open data to the level of a utility.  

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