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Richardson, Texas, Revitalizes With Real-Time, Mobile BI from Information Builders
A Mobile BI Success Story

by Kevin Mergruen, Information BuildersMonday, July 27, 2009

An important Dallas suburb, the City of Richardson, Texas experienced a downturn with the telecom industry. What followed was the decline typical in once-thriving communities – rising crime, diminishing services, and the disappearance of young families. In a successful effort to reverse this trend Richardson sought to improve safety and upgrade its infrastructure to revitalize the community and attract new people.

Access to mobile, timely, and accurate information – mobile business intelligence (BI) – was critical to redevelopment efforts. Richardson's Deputy CIO Eric Matthews explains that the goal was to “improve communications to our citizens and continue to redevelop our facilities, infrastructure, residential and business areas” and “to find ways to be efficient and deliver high-quality services to both our citizens and internally for our departments.” 

Using Information Builders WebFOCUS BI platform, the city replaced an aging reporting infrastructure with a thin-client option that provided geographic analysis and the ability to implement mobile BI. Much of its daily business is concerned with “where” things occur and many of its employees are actively involved in the field and need information on the fly, so the geographic and mobile components were critical.

WebFOCUS gives end users a single point of access to reports by connecting DB2/400, MS SQL, and Lotus Notes data sources. Now every department in the city runs at least one WebFOCUS report, and many departments run several. More than 500 city workers depend on WebFOCUS to run between 150 and 200 reports. Users can access the information from any Web-enabled device. Many critical applications were designed specifically for officers and other city employees in the field to access via BlackBerrys or onboard computers. The solution also integrates with geographic information system (GIS) mapping software from ESRI, enabling important visualization capabilities.

City-Wide On-the-Spot Reporting Leads to Growth

In hundreds of applications across Richardson, mobile BI is keeping the city safer and helping it to revitalize. The worker population is growing and several large civic development projects are underway. The area’s light rail system has been improved, and many neighborhoods are attracting young families from other areas. The City Council has highlighted improvements in neighborhood integrity, code enforcement, infrastructure renewal, retail revitalization, financial planning, zoning ordinances, communication, traffic and transportation, and environmental management. While it’s impossible to attribute these gains to any one activity, they all have one thing in common: the need for mobile BI.

The police and fire departments are making particularly dramatic and effective use of WebFOCUS’ mobile reporting environment. Police and fire chiefs track active 911 calls from their BlackBerrys, including the status of involved patrol cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. The chief of police and officers throughout the city also regularly use their BlackBerrys to monitor current crime data. Reports (Figure 1) provide up-to-date information about people held in the city’s jails and officers can drill down to the details of each person’s incarceration, including their crimes.

Blackberry Device showing Information Builders Mobile Dashboard

The fire department also uses the system to track the operational status of fire hydrants, so fire fighters always know where they can get water. The city replaced a manual system with a digital map linked to a database of information about the fire hydrants. Some of the city’s fire trucks have onboard computers, and all stations have access to the system. The data is refreshed every five minutes, and easy to immediately see (Figure 2).

Public Utility Dashboard

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