Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
September, 11th 2012

By Danny Lu, business analyst, Los Angeles Unified School Districts

Heading into the second week of September, the hallways of the Los Angeles School District (LAUSD) are already buzzing with the sounds of students and teachers settling in for another school year.

Similar to many other schools around the nation, LAUSD is also facing another year of budget cuts to several of its education programs and extracurricular activities. In fact, a survey from the American Association of School Administrators cites that more than 8 in 10 school districts in the U.S. are inadequately funded for the coming year. Clearly, we all must do more with less.

We chose to tackle this problem head on and find innovative ways where we could help reduce costs and keep the focus on our number one priority: the students.

As the second largest school district in the US, our campus spans 14,000 buildings and is spread out over 710 square miles. With more than 300,000 maintenance service requests every single year, the upkeep of our school happens to be one of the main areas we have spent too much time, money and energy. Often times, all of our resources go into locating and reporting a problem before we even have a chance to fix it.

But now, LAUSD has a new weapon to help our repair crews stay steps ahead of the problems — our army of 700,000 students. With nearly 25 percent of kids between the ages of 14 and 17 already owning a smartphone, we enlisted their help — along with the rest of our faculty and staff — to act as living sensors and report maintenance problems they saw first hand using their mobile devices.

Now, students can do much more with these devices than just play Angry Birds and keep up with their social networks. They can also use their phones to be responsible citizens and help keep their schools in tip top shape.

Through analytics technology provided by IBM, and a mobile app through IBM partner CitySourced, users have turned their smartphones into a sensor to help us identify maintenance issues in need of repair — from a leaky faucet, smashed windows, graffiti to broken toilets.

Add to this the power of crowdsourcing, and this simple mobile app enables the school district to engage its students, faculty and staff to help keep their schools clean and safe.

With the use of the new mobile app, all reported issues sent with a simple text or photo goes directly to the school’s maintenance office. Each request also contains GIS information to pinpoint locations so workers know exactly where to route staff, saving time and resources.

Prior to this crowdsourcing app, we relied on faculty and staff to report maintenance issues with the campus plant manager, requiring the manager to decipher and pinpoint each issue before the appropriate personnel was sent to solve the problem. It was a time consuming process.

These results shows that leveraging tools that already exist, combined with a little ingenuity can create drastic improvements. So, despite those long, lazy summer days already being a distant memory, I know that as students and teachers walk down our halls, they’ll appreciate knowing that the days they spend on our campus will be safer, greener and more efficient thanks to their own hard work.

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