Tuesday, April 16, 2013

American Planning Association 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Technology is being used for community outreach at the planning and development conference held by the American Planning Association. One of which came in form of a mobile application called the Chicago Planning Tour app, which was developed by GeneXus USA and sponsored by Parsons Brinckerhoff. Parsons Brinckerhoff works with GeneXus USA to offer innovation in form of a tailored mobile application to meet project needs. The Chicago Planning Tour app is one of many apps developed by this team, and is currently being used at the APA 2013 conference.

Chicago Planning Tour App downloads have reached over 800 at the moment and will continue to grow. For me, that in itself shows the interest and usability a mobile app facilitates for the development and planning industry. The app isn’t the mainstream conference app with meeting times and hotel information, etc. The reason attendees downloaded the Chicago Planning Tour App is to view sites of development and planning projects in the Chicago area. The app is a showcase for what these individuals have gathered to discuss, share and learn about: planning and development.

On Saturday, a non-planner – me, explored the conference exhibits at the Exhibitor Meet & Great Reception sponsored by our partners Parsons Brinckerhoff. The exhibits I visited were showing off their tools to create a better plan or project, all of which were in the forms of an application platform.

What interested me the most was the community engagements platforms, to help people- like me- a non planner, voice their opinions on the development of their city.

At one of the exhibits a startup called sMap caught my eye, the presentations gave off the angle of a fun engagement tool for citizens in the community. This tool would give planners and developers the insight of who they are planning for, and the community. I travel along the Chicago city roads countless times, to get to work, meet up with friends, and to reach a certain destination. 

Chicago is a fast paced city, there is no time to stop and pounder, but during my journey to a destination I do look at the street, signs, or building and have an internal conversation of how that particular road could have a better transition, and as I reach my destination I quickly dismiss my thoughts and carry on about my day. sMap provides an easy tool for my internal thoughts to be heard.

What I wonder is, how the usability will transfer, to me, the common citizen? I don’t think ill go home to log onto their website to rant about my already forgotten thoughts. I am sure that planning buffs will adopt quickly, but how are they getting the word out to the rest of the community, and will the common citizen like me use it? This company is in the beginning stages of launching, and I think its a pretty cool idea. I am interested to see how they adopt users. 

The message was clear, during my exploration of the exhibits, exhibitors wanted the community to become engaged. I believe that there is no better way than to provide it on a mobile device. In just five days the Chicago Planning Tour App received over 800 downloads, and the conference has yet to come to an end. 

Hats off to the APA conference, and the involvement and innovative ideas that will be used while continuing to manage and develop a better community!

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