Seven years ago, Apple launched the iPhone with a few simple but powerful apps that showcased the capability and potential of this innovative device, and a year later the “App Store” was launched, empowering developers to build apps for the iPhone. This capability turned it into one of the most powerful platforms in the world by giving developers the tools to construct their own apps and a marketplace in which to sell them. The iPhone is no longer just a phone; it is a fitness tracker, entertainment system, home automation remote, newspaper, productivity device, cash register and more—all because of the rich ecosystem built in part by developers. In many ways, Apple’s iOS platform and the Accela Civic Platform are very similar in that they both empower developers to build and create on top of the core platform.
While platforms and app development have become commonplace in other industries, there has never been a platform in the government industry that enables developers to build apps and customize software for their own benefit and the benefit of the community—until now.
Accela Construct API
One of the most fundamental yet powerful aspects of the Civic Platform is the Construct API. Construct is an Application Program Interface, or API, which is an important tool developers can use to access the data and functionality of the Accela Civic Platform. Opening our platform in this way generates incredible potential for our customers and developers. Since it launched three years ago, an amazing wave of innovative solutions have been developed, and we are just scratching the surface of the potential.
We have launched several of our own Accela apps (Inspector, Work Crew, Code Officer, Civic Hero, Analytics), built using the Construct API, which showcase the types of solutions that are possible. In addition, we recently launched an on-demand Pet License solution, representing a new class of standalone applications that can be deployed to the platform. However, while our apps showcase the power and capability of the Construct API, the real power lies in partnering with third-party developers.
Accela has partnered with amazing organizations to bring top-tier professional services and forge important technical alliances. When we introduced the Construct API, we concurrently launched a developer program. Our development partners have introduced amazing products to the market; here are a few that are incredible additions to the Accela Civic Platform ecosystem:
- VuSpex enables agency inspectors to conduct virtual inspections with contractors and homeowners using smartphones and cutting-edge browser technology. It enables precise inspection scheduling, increases inspections completed per day and reduces waiting and driving by all parties.
- CivicInsight enables the public to track properties, receive alerts and analyze trends to stay informed of the activities in your city.
- OpenCounter builds tools to help cities support local economic development with two products: OpenCounter, a “one-stop-shop” for starting a business, and ZoningCheck, a lightweight zoning lookup tool.
- BuildingEye specializes in GIS and data visualization, providing an easy-to-use interface for citizens to access building permits, Planning Applications, Business Licenses, Capital Projects, Engineering Works and Public Events, 24 hours a day.
- D-I brings simplicity to third-party involvement in Accela workflows to support approvals and reviews.
We recently wrapped up the first Accela App Challenge and announced the winners during our annual conference, Accela Engage 2014. The challenge introduced 20 submissions from about 50 participants, and we are currently working with several of the participants to bring their entry to the market. Stay tuned as we continue to work with these existing partners and onboard many new ones.
Customer Adoption and Usage
Since the launch of the Construct API we have seen an incredible amount of usage from our customers to extend their own solutions, such as:
- 311 mobile solution
- Custom web-based inspection forms
- Kiosk application intake forms
- Walk-in management apps
- Web-based service request intake
- Inspection request solutions
What amazes me about our customers is their ability to identify the tools available to them and get the job done. There are multiple examples of apps our customers have developed themselves that we find out about long after they are live and in use. A great example is a suite of applications that Alan Holt from Framingham, Massachusetts, deployed earlier this year to support inspection and application intake processes.
We are excited that in the coming weeks we will launch the open sourcing of a customer-developed application that will enable other jurisdictions to adopt this solution and tailor it to their needs. We are just now scratching the surface of the innovation and collaboration jurisdictions will be able to share.
Join the Innovation and Construct!
This past April, we created a new group at Accela: the Developer Evangelist team. Our mission is to enable, support, educate and innovate with our partners and customers as they extend and build new solutions on the Accela Civic Platform. I was very excited to join this team and am joined by Mark Headd, former Chief Data Officer for the City of Philadelphia.
Working with Accela for almost 10 years now, it has been amazing to see the innovation that we have brought to the market in the government space. The Accela Civic Platform is the culmination of many years of experience and product development, and we have since become a leader in workflow automation, cloud hosting, system integration, mapping, mobility, open data, and citizen access and engagement, continuing to build our capabilities for over 15 years.
If you are interested in learning more about the Construct API, we have developed and launched many tools to help you get started and support you along the way.
- Developer Portal: Here is where you will manage the apps you are building and find the API documentation
- Developer Blog: Keep up to date with how to’s, app examples and spotlights on new prototypes, see what jurisdictions our development partners are up to and more!
- Developer Twitter: Follow us here to get the latest on anything in the Accela developer world
- Developer Forum: A place to ask questions, get help, see what others are talking about and report bugs
- Accela on GitHub: Repository of client libraries, SDKs, app examples and more
There is no better way to get started than getting hands-on. Be sure to check out Getting Started with the Construct API: Making Your First Request to get started. If at anytime you need any support or just have a question, please feel free to post to our developer forum or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy hacking!