Mobile Workforce Solutions: Building Inspection

Built for the City of Pittsburgh’s Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI) by B–Three Solutions, the Automated Code Enforcement application enables a building inspector in the field to receive an enforcement assignment (often based on a citizen complaint telephoned to a municipal services call center just a few minutes before), and then file a report — complete and enforcement–ready — from the field after carrying out the inspection.

Managing Wireless Communications
The Automated Code Enforcement application replaces a paper–based system with custom software installed on Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs — handheld computers equipped with Sprint Air Card technology).  The MDTs communicate from the field to BBI headquarters via the Remote Data Broker (RDB), a software product developed by B–Three.  The RDB is unique, because it does not rely on a persistent Internet connection.  The entry of data by an inspector is not affected by the loss of a connection.  The system will “push” the inspection report back to headquarters when the software detects a valid network connection, thus ensuring that data is never lost.  The RDB also handles the rollout of software upgrades to all of the individual MDTs in the field.  There is no need to bring the units to a central location for upgrading, or for support staff to travel to each unit.

Transforming Internal Workflow
The old paper–based system required an inspector to return to the office with the paper forms, look up ownership details for the property, and type the inspection report into a desktop computer.  Using the new system, the inspector enters the data at the site of the inspection (obtaining the necessary ownership details by clicking a link to the City’s real estate database), transmits the finished report, and moves on to the next inspection.  During the day, as new cases are assigned, they show up on the inspector’s MDT.  According to a City press release (09/17/2008), the application “will cut the time it takes for inspectors to process code enforcement violations from four days to one.”

Upgrading Service to Citizens
The Automated Code Enforcement application is integrated with the Mayor’s 311 Service Center, which receives a wide variety of calls from citizens.  A complaint routed to BBI for investigation can now be rapidly transformed into an enforcement assignment for an inspector in the field.  Inspection reports that identify violations generate the appropriate citation letters, ready to be printed and mailed to property owners.  At each stage in the process, the status of the complaint is updated in the 311 system, so that the individual who submitted the complaint can readily track the City’s handling of the situation.

The application is also integrated with the Disruptive Property Management system, which monitors all properties in the City for recurring violations.  Any property that incurs three separate violations within a 180–day period is identified for possible prosecution under the City’s new Disruptive Property ordinance.