It probably included buzzwords like “connected devices” or catchphrases like “the internet of things” to describe tomorrow’s technology applications – applications that tend to sound so futuristic it is hard to really picture them coming to life. But these are live, real-life use cases the Cary team is enabling across its community right now.
Cary, located in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina, is home to 162,000 people. It has a history of being an industry leader when it comes to recognizing customer preferences, digitizing public services, and redefining the overall government experience. “We really think about from the moment you wake until the moment you go to sleep, where are all the possible touch points you have with the Town, and how can we make that experience better? How do we meet our citizens where they already are?” said Nicole Raimundo, CIO for the Cary.
Raimundo’s perspective reflects the Town’s mission: enrich the lives of its citizens by (1) creating an exceptional environment and (2) providing exemplary services that enable the community to thrive and prosper. “This means there is no status quo. There is always an opportunity to improve,” said Raimundo. “And, because Cary is in a high-tech region, we know that our residents – our customers – see an exceptional government experience as one that uses technology to connect them without feeling the burden of that connection, i.e. without them having to wait in line or file a form.”
Raimundo and team began looking at what early technology adopters were using in their interactions with other industries. A handful of data points stood out:
Text messaging was quickly becoming the most used data service in the world.* 89% of consumers wanted to use text messaging to communicate with businesses, making texting the most preferred customer support channel.** Plus, adults between the ages of 35 and 44 were receiving an average of 52 texts per day, and adults 45 to 54 were receiving an average of 33 texts per day.*** 18% of Cary’s population is over the age of 55, with the median at 40 years old; text messaging was a looking to be a very familiar and welcome communication channel across the community.
Personal assistant devices were becoming increasingly popular. Amazon’s Echo accounted for 72% of the smart speaker market with over 25,000 skills enabled on the device. Studies found that the most commonly used skill was information gathering – “Alexa, what is the temperature going to be today in downtown Cary?” – followed closely by music. These usage patterns, combined with researchers estimating 75% of U.S. Households would have a smart speaker by the end of 2020, were signaling that this could be a highly effective way to distribute information to the community.***
More traditional applications still had a strong foothold. Google’s Waze, a crowd-sourced traffic monitoring app, has over 100 million users. “Applications like Waze offer a meaningful way to connect citizens to government data – in this case, about street closures and construction – so they can be proactive and make informed decisions that save them time and help us improve traffic flow,” said Raimundo.
“I always think about how do we as a team get ahead of trends like this,” said Raimundo. “What that really means is, yes, smart cities stuff but even more it’s about connecting our people to each other and to our resources.”