City of Calgary’s Tech Case Study

While the City of Calgary’s rapid growth may be driven by private sector jobs, public services must rapidly expand to meet demand. Doug Hodgson profiles four recent projects that put technology to work for citizens.

Calgary.ca Website

The Challenge

“Our web presence was in need of a refresh,” Hodgson says. “We wanted to build out our new website, but there was also a push to make all of our services available as e-services.” In a city where more than 97 percent of citizens have web access at home, improving online access to city services was a necessity.

The Solution
Self-service is the focus of the revitalized Calgary.ca website. “The first thing you’ll be presented with is the Google search box,” Hodgson says. “It’s a departure from the hierarchical way of organizing and presenting content.” Utilizing easily searchable content, citizens can apply for construction permits, complete transactions, submit service requests, and access Calgary’s CITYonline Store or the Open Data Catalogue.

The Results
Citizens have greater awareness of events transpiring in their city and are able to avoid routine trips to city hall. The city itself also saves money: by moving service requests online, more than $500,000 in costs has been avoided over the last two years.

16m

Visits to the calgary.ca website in 2013

1/3

Portion of visits that arrive via a mobile device

The Common Fleet Operating System

The Challenge

Like any major city, Calgary has a large vehicle fleet spread across several major departments. Hodgson began to wonder how technology could be leveraged to improve asset management. “We wanted to have an onboard modem able to talk to the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics,” Hodgson says. “Vehicles are getting smarter and can now alert a driver or technician when they need an oil change or are running too hot.”

The Solution
What began as asset management has grown into 900-plus vehicles connected over the Common Fleet Operating System (CFOS). Interdepartmental communication revealed a slew of optimization opportunities. “Since we’re already putting a mini network in the vehicle, that network could become a field office for the onboard crew,” Hodgson says. CFOS can also track variables such as vehicle location, speed, fuel consumption, and travel time in order to establish a benchmark to gauge future performance.

The Results
CFOS enables city employees to optimize performance, increase driver safety, and even plot more efficient trash pickup routes. Onboard GPS capabilities allow citizens to track snowplow activity in real time, easing anxiety during snowstorms.

900

Wired fleet vehicles in use by the City of Calgary’s departments, including parks, water, roads, waste and recycling, and fire

Tomorrow’s Workplace

The Challenge

The growth in staff needed to meet the city of Calgary’s new demands puts a lot of stress and strain on the city’s current facilities. “We are in a position where our facilities are full,” Hodgson says. “We cannot afford to go out and build or buy new buildings, so how can we utilize our current space better?”

The Solution
An initiative dubbed Tomorrow’s Workplace is a two-pronged effort aimed at increasing employee mobility and density. By investing in virtual desktops and Wi-Fi expansion, as well as outfitting employees with appropriate technology, Calgary is building a force of flexible, mobile workers. “We are also using more hoteling space and shared space as part of the new configuration and layout,” Hodgson says. “We built a Flexwork Hub in city hall so that employees who work primarily from satellite offices—but are downtown for meetings—can plug into this versatile hub and maintain productivity.”

The Results
Still in early deployment, the main benefit to citizens will be in cost-avoidance. But Hodgson also hopes to improve service. “Flexibility moves the service provider closer to the citizen, enabling staff to stay connected no matter their working style or location,” he says.

Flexwork Hub
Opened September 15, 2014

42

Average visitors per day

24

Average number of hours worked in the hub per day

Public WiFi

The Challenge

In addition to the 97 percent of Calgarians that have home Internet access, 70 percent have access at work. The city saw an opportunity to increase citizen service by increasing public Wi-Fi access at popular city destinations, such as train platforms, arenas, stadiums, and the University of Calgary.

The Solution
The city of Calgary partnered with Shaw Communications to provide public Wi-Fi as a free service. “By using our preexisting facilities and network, we were able to provide a point of presence for Shaw to install these Wi-Fi access points.” Hodgson says. The cost to the city is negligible, as it is borne mainly by Shaw. Shaw gains access to city facilities and retains its large customer base at home, at work, and on the go.

The Results
In just four months, from May 2014 through August 2014, there were more than 163,000 connections to the service, with total data usage peaking at more than 357,000 MB. Devonian Gardens, a large indoor park and botanical garden in the heart of downtown, saw more than 930,000 minutes of use and more than 188,000 MB of data.

21 

New locations planned for the expansion of the city’s Wi-Fi infrastructure