Technology is making it easier to complain to local governments. Of course, it’s making it more simple for local governments to process and resolve these complaints as well.
Residents can now quickly contact their city government by reporting local incidents through a simple software application on the iPhone.

The program is integrated with the city’s 3-1-1 system and allows residents to take a photograph of occurrences such as traffic gridlock, potholes, issues in city parks, etc. and have them automatically sent to the city for resolution.

“It’s fairly easy to do for a city,” said Prof. Priya Narasimhan, Creator of the Application and Director of Carnegie Mellon’s Mobility Research Center.

The technology is integrated through a global map, which allows the city to see exactly where the problem is, and allows the city to see hot spots where a number of complaints may be coming from.

Since the information requires no data entry, it is simply compiled by the city and is easily scanned.

The photo submitted with the short description of the issue allows the city to literally see how big of an issue the complaint may be – if it’s a one-foot pothole or a 50-foot pothole.

Narasimhan said Pittsburgh is the only city to have software like this integrated into the city’s 3-1-1 system.

The product is powered by Narasimhan’s company, called YinzCam, a Pittsburgh-based group that began as a mobile-streaming company for Pittsburgh Penguins hockey fans to see live video streaming from the angles of their choice. The motto: Putting the game in the fans’ hands.

William Peduto, a Pittsburgh City Councilman, saw the technology and wanted to do something similar and put the city in the residents’ hands.

It took just two to three weeks for YinzCam to create the infrastructure, test it and have the application ready to go.

“This was straight-forward to pull together for the city council,” Narasimhan said.

Narasimhan graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a PhD in computer engineering. She said would be interested in working with California local governments to develop similar applications. Click here for the YinzCam Web site.

James Spencer can be reached at