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California Unveils New Mobile Template for Developers

Programmers can now create mobile apps using state GPS and mapping information.

by / February 14, 2012
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A new mobile template is giving developers in California state government the ability to create mobile sites and applications that can easily access location-based state resources from any smartphone.

Released on Feb. 10, the California State Mobile Web Template, Version 3.0, automatically detects the location of a person’s mobile device, linking the user to geographic information released by the Golden State. The template — which is free to download — allows California departments and agencies to develop a mobile Web presence that leverages state map and data sets.

Robert Meza, project lead for California Mobile, the unit within the California Technology Agency that developed the template, said the state is focused on mobile Web browsing so it can cover every device being used by consumers. Thirty-five state departments are currently using Version 2.0 of the template for their mobile websites.

But it wasn’t until recently that grabbing GPS coordinates through Web browsers became an easy thing to do, which spurred the new release.

“Two or three years ago, we would have to do this by doing an embedded application,” Meza said. “Now, every application we’re building, we’re focused on GPS. The user sets where they are, and we’ll show them the 10 closest state parks, fishing locations, DMV and tax board offices near them — and they can map it.”

Meza said the template is designed for state departments and agencies, but a big part of his job recently has been traveling to share information on the template with bodies such as the Nevada state Legislature and cities and counties throughout California.

The public, including nonprofit organizations, can easily use the template, Meza said, as it’s already tested and meets state standards. If users wanted to take California data and build an app off the template, Meza said the state likely would be excited about showcasing it as long as a person follows state guidelines and the program is reviewed by state officials. But the main use is for the mobile Web.

Template 3.0 is available in three programming languages: Active Server Pages
(ASP), C# .NET and PHP. Thirty-five California departments are operating Template Version 2 and are expected to make the switch to the new release later this year.

Looking Ahead

Advances in the marketplace often drive technology changes. So is there anything out there the state is looking at for future versions of its mobile template?

Meza pointed to true 4G rollout by wireless providers as a key tipping point where additional features would be more easily incorporated into the mobile Web.

“We can definitely do more things like streaming content — in terms of video, maybe streaming traffic cams, really things that involve a lot bandwidth,” Meza said.

Because more powerful mobile devices are being released, the state wants to take advantage by incorporating more real-time updating to maps and data sets.

“I kind of call this a developer preview,” Meza said. “We understand in the next two or three months, new departments are working with us, new types of tools are being added … there’s a lot of great new data feeds that will be thrown into the template, so always stay tuned.”

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Brian Heaton

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.

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