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App Challenge Winners Showcased at Accela Engage

Over on the Accela corporate blog, there is a new post with details on the winners of our Civic App challenge. Our two grand prize winners were showcased at the recent Accela Engage user conference.

Congratulations once again to the winners and all of the participants for making this a great success. Looking forward to the next Civic App Challenge.

Accela President & CEO Maury Blackman with Dane Demicell, founder and CEO of VuSPex

Linking Your CKAN Instance to CivicData.com

One of the most powerful aspects of the CivicData.com platform is that it is built on top of CKAN – the premiere open source platform for data.

CivicData.com enabled users to build powerful apps and visualization with open data, and Accela has developed mechanisms for extracting data from Accela Automation and publishing it to CivicData.com. This makes it quick and easy to share open data with users through a world-class platform that has well documented and well understood APIs.

But sometimes one of our customers will need to run their own standalone instance of CKAN. We want our customers to be able to take advantage of the tools we’ve built to publish open data from Accela Automation and also have the flexibility and utility of running their own CKAN instance if that’s what their open data program requires.

There are a number of ways to synch data between CKAN instances, and most are outside the scope of this post. But here is one way to link data in CivicData.com to a standalone CKAN instance that is quick and easy.

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New CivicData Visualizations

As we continue to add to the new features being introduced in CivicData.com, we’ll showcase them here to give developers a peek at the value being added to our open data platform. We recently introduced some new visualization features that make it easy to analyze open data in new and powerful ways.

As an example, we’ll look at some data we recently developed in partnership with SpotCrime – a company that provides crime mapping solutions for cities across the country. If we look at crime data for 2014 in Charlotte, NC we can see a great example of how a simple visualization can turn complex data into something easily understandable and useful.

By selecting the graph option in the data preview and selecting a pie chart, we can group by crime type and get an instant view of the relative frequency of different crime types in Charlotte.

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This is one of many new additions and enhancements that we have planned for CivicData.com. We’re excited to keep building up this valuable resource that can showcase the power of open data.

Stay tuned for more cool stuff soon!

Accela Civic App Challenge Wrap Up

We recently concluded our first ever Accela Civic App Challenge, where we encouraged third party app developers and other partners to propose their ideas for the next great civic app.

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The response form the Accela developer community was overwhelming and exceeded our expectations. All told, almost 50 participants submitted 20 project proposals for building civic apps that integrate with the Accela Construct API and CivicData.com. This is a tremendous response that helps to underscore the depth of innovation and thought leadership in the Accela developer community.

The judging process is now complete and we’re planning to announce the winners of the Civic App Challenge next week, on July 23rd. we’ll be reaching out to all participants in the interim to let them know the results and to offer feedback on the proposals that were submitted.

Each and every idea that was submitted could be the basis for a cutting edge civic application, and all of the participants should be proud of their entires. We hope to help each participant take their idea to fruition, and realize their vision for a great civic app.

Stay tuned for the announcement of winners next week. We’re also looking forward to showcasing the grand prize winners at our upcoming Accela Engage conference.

New Client Libraries & SDKs

We’re continuing work on a host of different tools and components that will make using the Accela Construct API simple and easier than ever.

Over the last week or two, we’ve started to roll out some new client libraries for interacting with the Construct API. These libraries are still in the early stages, and much work remains to do to build them out sufficiently for a production release, but the beta versions of libraries in the following languages are now available on our GitHub account:

These new releases complement our existing iOS, Android and Windows 8 SDKs and get us closer to our ultimate vision of making it super easy to use the Construct API with any language or development platform.

We have a few additional client libraries in the works, but if there is a particular language or platform that you would like to see us focus on, drop us a note.

All of the client libraries we push to our GitHub account are open source, so please feel free to suggest enhancements through new issues or by sending a pull request.

Happy coding!

Building Better Democracies with Open Government Services

Government works best when there are no boundaries between agencies and the citizens they serve.

— Maury Blackman, CEO of Accela, Inc.

The most recent issue of Government Technology includes a Q&A with Accela CEO Maury Blackman. In it, Maury describes his vision for the future of civic technology and how the Accela Civic Platform and CivicData.com fit into the picture.

It’s a good read and its puts the work we are doing with developers through our Developer Evangelism program into the larger context of revolutionary change in the civic technology space.

Here’s what makes the Accela Civic Platform really special:

We provide a platform to build [critical government] solutions, to enable and encourage third-party integrators to implement our services, and to allow developers to deploy additional applications.

Check out the Q&A in the most recent issue of Government Technology.

Building Mobile Data Collection Apps with Fulcrum & Accela

Building high quality, easily deployable mobile data collection apps can sometimes be hard – to do it properly may require a non-trivial investment of time and resources.

Governments often find themselves in need of tools to help them collect data. Examples range from restaurant and food service inspections, code and zoning enforcement surveys, infrastructure inventories, disaster response – the list goes on. Often one of the challenges facing governments is how to develop a data collection app and to deploy it to a mobile workforce. When such an effort requires custom app development it can mean that governments need to expend resources that might better spent on other things.

This is what makes a service like Fulcrum so exciting. Fulcrum allows you to quickly and easily develop custom tailored mobile data collection apps that can be easily deployed to your mobile workforce. Best of all, it’s easy to integrate data collected through a Fulcrum mobile app into your Accela Automation instance.

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Building the Civic Technology Ecosystem

One of the most important challenges facing the civic technology community is getting governments to embrace the new solutions and services being developed by civic hackers and smart, agile firms with big ideas for making government work better.

The open data movement has helped create an ecosystem for apps that make consuming and using government open data quick and convenient. There are hundreds of third party apps for transit riders that take advantage of open data, as well as an ever growing array of apps for adopting fire hydrants, assessing the status of vacant properties, evaluate the quality of schools, locating a good parking spot and finding retailers that accept SNAP benefits.

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Announcing the Accela App Challenge

At Accela, we’re committed to finding ways to leverage the talents and ideas of civic entrepreneurs and open data hackers to benefit the governments we serve. That’s why we’re excited to announce the Accela App Challenge.

The App Challenge offers a total of $25,000 in cash prizes to developers that build a new civic app or enhance an existing one to work with Accela Construct API and utilize open data. The grand prize winners will be flown to San Diego to have their idea showcased to governments officials from all over the country at our annual Accela Engage Conference.

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Introduction to Accela CivicID

Accela is working to enhance the civic technology ecosystem by creating tools and platforms that developers can use to build new apps and services that change the way governments and citizens interact. One of these powerful components is a new authentication service called CivicID.

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CivicID is an OAuth 2.0 service that has been set up specifically to support civic apps. If you’re building a civic application that will require users to log in or create a profile, CivicID is for you. By using CivicID, developers will benefit from leveraging Accela’s technical community and will have the ability to integrate data from multiple government agencies into their apps.

This post will walk through the process of using CivicID to authenticate a user and provide a concrete example using Node.js. All of the sample code used in the screencast below can be found on GitHub, and new examples in different programming languages will be provided in the coming weeks. Additional information on the CivicID authentication process can be found on the Accela Developer Portal.

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