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GCN : September 2015
CIVICRESOURCE.COM BY PATRICK MARSHALL EMERGING TECH IT STARTED IN GAMES. Now it’s coming to govern- ment services. Get ready for smartphone-based augment- ed reality. Want to know when the next express down- town is coming to the bus stop on the corner? Just point your smartphone’s camera at the stop and CivicAR can deliver the schedule. By using a smart- phone’s location data and camera to detect points of interest, CivicAR can deliver virtually any data a city chooses to make available — including transit schedules, traffic reports, information about local events, emer- gency service facilities or available parking spots. A visual search feature allows users to scan city assets such as subway stations, restaurants, signs and even trees for information. CivicAR’s directional search feature uses the phone’s camera to let users explore and engage with their current environ- ment, and a virtual telepor- tation feature allows them to visualize distant points of interest. “Everything in the public sector is so location-based,” which makes it a natural sector for implementing augmented reality, said Greg Curtin, CEO of Civic Re- source Group International, which developed CivicAR. According to Curtin, two factors have recently made augmented reality feasible: the viability of the cloud as a data platform and the pro- liferation of smart mobile devices. Curtin, who was a mu- nicipal government attorney before founding CRGI, said that “there was an oppor- tunity here, specifically in the government sector, to pull together a platform that would offer multiple, ready- to-go applications.” The goal was “a modular solution ready-made for all the vari- ous public sectors, includ- ing government services, utilities, emergency services and so on.” The CivicAR module joins several others in the company’s cloud-based CivicConnect mobile-data platform, which can deliver integrated public and third- party data streams through a variety of digital channels. CivicConnect integrates and processes data feeds, and the company designs ap- plications, although clients are free to write their own apps. “We already have a wide range of pre-built, ready- to-go modules and applica- tions,” Curtin said. “All the organization has to do is plug in their data. But if an agency wants to take it on, they can gin up their own apps.” CivicConnect runs on Amazon Web Services and can handle data from all the major databases. So far, he said, the early adopters in govern- ment have mostly come from a single sector. “A lot of it is being driven — no pun intended — by transit and transporta- tion,” Curtin said, adding that transportation agencies are likely to put a primary emphasis on communications with the public. “They’ve done some of the heavy lifting already in terms of ‘smartening up’ with smart technologies.” He said his company’s government clients are par- ticularly excited by the po- tential uses for augmented reality, which “has amazing applications and benefits in the public sector. When we sit down with the business folks, they’ll come up with a 100 uses cases that we didn’t even think of. It’s not just another bell or whistle. It really changes the way that end users engage with the public sector.” • Augmented reality: Coming to a city near you With the click of a smartphone’s camera, CivicAR delivers a wealth of data on points of interest as diverse as subway stations and trees. GCN SEPTEMBER 2015 • GCN.COM 13 0915gcn_013.indd 13 9/2/15 9:10 AM