Austin PD Comes Out on Top in App Showdown

At the Texas Digital Government Summit, attendees cast their vote for their favorite among five mobile apps.

by / June 22, 2016
At the Texas Digital Government Summit held in Austin, five agencies offered brief presentations on their flagship mobile apps. Noelle Knell

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Government IT leaders from state and local agencies throughout Texas gathered in Austin earlier this week for the Texas Digital Government Summit, an annual conference presented by e.Republic, the parent company of Government Technology magazine and govtech.com.

Attendees participated in sessions centered around timely topics like data analytics, workforce management and cybersecurity. At the closing session on Tuesday, five agencies offered brief presentations on their flagship mobile apps.

The Cap Metro Transportation Authority app lets transit users buy tickets and activate them when they are ready to use them. The secure, animated ticket will time out upon expiration. Other traveler tools include trip planning help, as well as current information on the next departure from the station closest to a rider. New features just around the bend include the ability to set alarms, share transit plans with friends and sync them with a user's calendar. A heat map will also display where transit vehicles are in real time.

North of Dallas, Collin County is home to 850,000 residents. A new judicial online search app offers detailed information on current inmates and cases, including photos, jail cell numbers, and links to current case data. The new functionality has reduced foot traffic to constable offices by making civil papers searchable online, while driving significant traffic to the website since its May 2015 launch — an average of 1.2 million page views per month. 

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission now offers its clients the "Your Texas Benefits" app, allowing them to stay current with their paperwork (and therefore continue to receive services) without a trip to agency offices. Designed to work in conjunction with the website, the app also features an office locator, an FAQ section and personalized data, including a benefits summary and case history. Updates likes changes of address can also be reported via the app. The document upload feature may be the most impactful — as of April, users have uploaded more than 1.5 million documents through the app.

Texas' 500 game wardens now have a new mobile tool at their fingertips — especially helpful given the remote nature of their work. Agents have contact with 1.2 million holders of licenses for hunting and fishing. With the help of the app, staff can now scan a resident's driver's license and have access to other information on the license holder, including whether their licenses issued through the Parks and Wildlife Department are up to date. The agency's lively app presentation at the event demonstrated that by plugging the boat license number of a shrimp boat owner into the app, the warden can access all current license information before even talking to the owner.

Users of the Austin Police Department's app can sign up for alerts, use an interactive crime map or view a department directory for direct connections to specific people like detectives, investigators or the domestic violence unit. Citizens can file police reports, praise officers and link to social media for the latest news from the department (including full press conferences available on YouTube). Non-emergency tips submitted via the app go to the real-time crime center, which is monitored around the clock. Austin PD is hopeful that a link to the recruiting site will help fill the 150 unfilled vacancies the department currently has. 

Event participants weighed in at the conclusion of the presentations by casting their votes for their favorite app. While each app snagged some votes, Austin PD took top honors.

Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.