5 Inspirations that Can Keep Government Relevant…Including High-Tech Trash Cans?

By Paul Tatum, Vice President, Solutions Engineering, Public Sector Business Unit, Salesforce

I am seeing innovation from the private sector change the rules of engagement.

Innovative leaders from cutting-edge companies are applying the latest technology to rethink traditional business processes and meet the dynamic needs of today’s evolving customer demands. As a result, these companies are redefining the expectations we have of government services, challenging organizations to adopt and embody their innovative spirit.

Learn more about opportunities in front of today’s local government. Download the Rise of the Connected City e-book. Click to get the free e-book.

Here are five examples of private sector innovators who are turning today’s technology transitions into financial success. Public sector organizations can apply their best practices, modernize agency operations, and turn these same technology transitions into the kind of mission success that keeps government relevant.

1. Starbucks — and a city-wide account for your citizens?

Starbucks continues to think like an innovative startup. They have developed an app that many of you are probably familiar with: a mobile app that lets coffee addicts like me pay for drinks and tip baristas directly from a preloaded account via their smart phone. It also displays nearest locations, hours, and more, making it easier to be a loyal Starbucks customer anywhere, anytime.

Local government could easily replicate this account structure across a city (or region, or even a state) making it easier for residents to integrate services into their daily routine. Such an account app could be used to pay for public transit, parking meters, sightseeing tickets, and more. This could be expanded further by incorporating it into a 311 app, pulling in additional, pertinent information such as bus schedules and train stop locations. Imagine what this kind of easy access could do for city revenue.

2. AirBnB — gain valuable insight through the eyes of your visitors

AirBnB is expanding the hospitality market by creating a more convenient, more affordable, more accountable travel alternative. With an accessible, transparent, app-based engagement model as the foundation of their business strategy, the company encourages participation:

  • Visitors get a more intimate experience, often staying in parts of the city where big hotels are replaced by streets full of shops and restaurants, serving as a center for that district.
  • Residents get to take part in the tourism industry, adding to regular income while bringing the potential to change countless neighborhoods.

By making travel more accessible, AirBnB redefined how long travelers stay as well as how much they tend to spend.

Local government can apply this same approach to improve communities and drive revenue. When activities such as restaurant reservations, sightseeing stops, or exploration maps are easily accessible over a single application, resulting data is captured on a comprehensive platform. This gives government leadership insight to the specific way people see a city, helping them identify the biggest revenue drivers, prioritize upgrade projects, etc. The result: government creates a more meaningful experience that brings people back.

3. Storefront — make it easier to set up shop

Similar to AirBnB, Storefront is a desktop application-based interface that allows retailers to lease out their store space for short-term rental, catering especially to boutiques looking for easier ways to kick off brand awareness. Established retailers benefit by associating their brand with new, up-and-coming businesses. Young boutiques can test neighborhoods, street locations, etc., zeroing in on the market that will help them be most successful before making a long term commitment. By making the business community more accessible, Storefront is helping to strengthen local economies.

Government leaders looking to strengthen relationships with the business community can follow suit. For example: if leadership were to partner with startups like Storefront, aligning things like grant requests or community development projects based on industries or districts with the most traction, it takes an active role in economic sustainability. It unifies goals by pulling in partnerships with, and participation in, the governing process.

4. SpotHero — brand new revenue streams could be right under your nose

SpotHero, a Chicago-based startup, has developed a platform that makes the parking experience in big cities easier than ever — and uncovered a revenue stream that compares to the potential behind Uber and Lyft.

Drivers who download SpotHero’s mobile app can search for open parking spots within a variety of garages and lots that have been prescreened by the company. They can compare prices, determine how much they are willing to pay given the current demand, and reserve parking — right on the spot.

By adapting the transparent, on-demand service model used in other mobile applications, SpotHero has eliminated the block-by-block hunt for a parking spot. This not only supports the company’s mission of saving people time and stress, but also makes money. “People are willing to pay 50% more because they know there’s 100% certainty they’re guaranteed space.”

Local government can adopt this kind of thinking, thanks to the abundance of data that captures information such as behavior, urgency, and other aspects previously categorized as un-quantifiable. Let’s look at the rental market, using Salesforce’s hometown as inspiration. Rent has climbed astronomically high in San Francisco, routinely making headline news as satirical publications make light of the desperation inspiring extreme “resolutions.”

What if San Francisco incorporated a city-managed app into the rental market, with the ability to measure intricate details like average length of time between posting and a lease agreement, peak open periods, specific blocks with the highest turnover, etc.? This granular insight could be used to ID and target more deeply rooted issues, and communicate proposed resolutions in context to the whereabouts of the cities many, unique districts. Such an app would help the city meet population demands and build a more sustainable environment.

5. Uber — a model that serves as a demand-planning best practice for your community’s future

For those who prefer to not bother with driving all together, Uber has transformed how people hail a taxi…and soon how we find a bus line. Its latest services include Uber Pool, a group approach to hailing a cab where the customer shares his or her ride with other requestors going the same direction at that time (think of it like an airport shuttle that services city streets). With each ride, grouped or otherwise, Uber collects data that outlines not only demand patterns, but also traffic data, such as how long it takes to travel across the city, how frequently people need rides to a specific location (like the nearest airport), where ripples from construction projects have the biggest impact, and more.

Government can use this uber inspirational model as a call-to-action across teams. By learning from their best practices, and building technology in as the foundation of core city services, leaders have an opportunity to leapfrog the traditional innovation process and fast track results — an especially crucial talent as the internet of things phenomenon continues to expand.

What if waste management companies develop this app first — could government get Uber’d again?

At O’Reilly’s Solid conference in San Francisco last year, Sam Saha debuted a sensor that sends out an alert when a garbage can is full, inspired by his desire to reduce the clamor and wasted fuel every time trash collectors came by to empty half-filled bins in his New York City neighborhood. Saha’s addition to the growing world of connected devices does more than solve weekly frustrations; it can let trash route planners reduce unnecessary pickups, identify patterns, and anticipate collection needs, saving both time and money while improving the experience within the community. Recycling trucks could be sent more frequently over the weekend to college stomping grounds. Compost trucks could be dispatched to more environmentally conscious neighborhoods, identified by the granularity that results from sensor detail.

Local government can apply the Uber model to plan for the next big device, like connected trash cans. Imagine the potential; if city leadership incorporated an app into waste management contracts that captured various bin collection data on a single platform, they would be the keeper of valuable community population data. This data could be used to better understand preferences of a given district, and match that insight with groups like prospective new businesses, housing developers, or event planners, helping the city score contracts and further economic development efforts thanks to unarguable data capturing market probability.

What if waste management companies develop this app first — could government get Uber’d again?

Cutting-edge technology can bring the same degree of success to the government’s service experience and mission that it has brought to companies’ financial statements. Private sector innovators have given our community leaders some great examples of how new digital tools can be used to make services more accessible, infrastructure more functional, and the community more connected.

Learn more about how you can change the government experience at Dreamforce, our annual user conference. The event will host innovative leaders developing business models like these across both public and private sectors. Use this as an opportunity to network, share ideas, and go home inspired. Join us September 15 through 18 in San Francisco. Register now.

About the Author

Paul Tatum is the Vice President, Systems Engineer for the Public Sector Unit, Salesforce. Paul Tatum leads the Public Sector systems engineering team with responsibility for overall technical direction, architecture, and technology evangelism around Salesforce cloud based solutions.

Paul brings over 30-years of experience working with Public Sector customers and provides technical and business executive insights in the areas of Shared Services, Cloud Computing, CRM, Case Management, Security, Integrated Platforms, Big Data, Databases, BI, and IT trends in government. Prior to joining Salesforce.com, Paul spent 20 years at Oracle and Sun Microsystems, focused on the DoD, Civilian, State & Local, and Canadian Public Sector markets.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Salesforce’s story.