Home Featured Events Local Tech Talent Solves Building Permitting Issue in a Weekend

Local Tech Talent Solves Building Permitting Issue in a Weekend

by Tricia Whitlock

Meet Pedro Queiros a rare breed of civic-focused tech talent with a knack for problem solving and simple design. He created the winning project of last weekend’s Govathon, a hackathon where technologists, developers, designers, subject matter experts, civic veterans and city officials came together to collaborate on ideas focused on making a difference for Atlanta.

Read on for the full scoop on the winning project and how Pedro made it happen: 

Project Pitch
I built an app to check the status of a building permit using an SMS interface. Applicants can send an SMS (text message) and immediately receive the current status of their building permit.

Initially, a list of building permit statuses was given to me in .CSV format. Jeremia Kimelman, one of the Govathon participants, introduced me to Mark Headd, who helped me connect my app to Accela in order to get live data from the City of Atlanta building permit’s office. Using a rapid app delivery platform (OutSystems Platform 9), I was able to develop, test and iterate a complete application in just a few hours including bug fixes and improvements. One of the main features that made the app function with SMS was integration with Twilio, which enabled the text messaging interface. Before the final presentations at 3:00 pm on Saturday, the SMS app was live and ready for use by anyone who wanted to know the status of their building permit – live and with real data.

How’d you get the idea for it
Reducing the number of calls made to customer service asking the status of a permit was my challenge. Initially, I had the idea to do a mobile app, but requiring applicants to install an app just for checking a status would not be easy, and they might not have smartphones or data plans to do so. But most of them have cell phones that they use to call customer service. So I decided an SMS service people could use to text their building permit ID and automatically receive the current status was the way to go. It’s that simple.

Are you planning to continue on with the project
Yes! Actually the project was completely finished during the Govathon, which was a key factor in it being named the winning project. The next step will be to do a beta phase with test users and then including instructions on how to check the building permit status by SMS on the paperwork filled by the applicants.

Who will your competitors be and how will you stand out
The competitor could be the City of Atlanta’s website, which also provides this information. But people are not currently using the website to check the status of their applications and prefer to call customer service! So, this app will address that specific problem.

Who is on the team:
I was a team of one! I had the help for the Accela integration from Mark Headd. Mark and I exchanged some emails/chats and did a call Saturday morning.

What is your current role (9-5)?
I’m an Engagement Manager with OutSystems, helping teams build custom enterprise web and mobile applications using OutSystems Platform 9.

What startup/tech projects have you worked on?
I’ve been working at OutSystems for the past eight years as a Developer, Delivery Manager and now as an Engagement Manager.

What are your best technical or creative skills?
I have a very strong technical background as a software engineer and my interests focus around Service Design, Design Thinking and User Experience, which allows me to be both creative and pragmatic, producing efficient solutions for the challenges I’m faced with.

[Photo Credit]

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