Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety Goes Mobile with Xamarin

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Jo Ann

The Los Angeles Department of Buildings and Safety (LADBS) protects the lives and safety of Los Angeles visitors and residents by helping customers comply with codes and laws. In a city of nearly four million people, the department serves more than a million customers and issues more than 140,000 permits a year, performing an average of more than 3,000 inspections per day.

Protecting a City of Millions

“We saw an ever-increasing amount of mobile traffic to our primary website, which drove us to provide an extra level of customer service to mobile users,” says Shannon Haas, Senior Systems Analyst, Technology Services Bureau, LADBS. “Additionally, for a large number of LA residents, mobile devices are the only internet access method available to them.”

Current Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has a back-to-basics agenda, with the aim of making government more accessible and using technology to better serve citizens. This led to the creation of a cross-platform mobile app built for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS).

LADBS Go App on Android

Built with Xamarin, the app aims to make the department’s services more accessible, accurate, and efficient. The LADBS Go app is currently available for iOS and Android and provides a fast and simple way for constituents to perform many of the most common tasks required by the building and permitting process, such as finding the nearest LADBS office, requesting inspections, scanning permit barcodes, reviewing permits, reporting violations, and getting the latest wait times for the department’s various Service Centers, a feature that is currently exclusive to the mobile app. Once a user has requested an inspection, the relevant information is made available in the app history, making it even quicker and easier to request additional inspections.

Rapid Progress with One Developer

Haas was the sole developer on the project, with a seven month timeline. Taking just five months to code, Haas explains that, “the app wouldn’t have happened as quickly as it did without Xamarin. We might have gotten one platform done in that window, but when you can reuse over 90% of your code, going cross-platform is a trivial decision.”

This rapid development was assisted by the use of Xamarin.Forms, which Haas says, “absolutely helped me come up to speed. I wanted to keep the app simple, with a good flow, and that fit into what Xamarin.Forms had to offer.”

LADBS also made use of Xamarin Test Cloud, which enables automated testing on the world’s largest device cloud. The Xamarin Test Cloud automation team ran both the Android and iOS versions of the app through Xamarin Test Cloud to find pre-release bugs, ensuring the app was polished and operating as expected before it was released to the public.
LADBS iPhone App on iPhone 6

Gaining Skills and Confidence with Xamarin University

Xamarin University offers live, interactive online classes and access to Xamarin experts, helping developers quickly get up to speed and make the most of the Xamarin platform. “This project would not have happened without Xamarin University,” says Haas. “It was a great confidence builder that allowed me to put the pieces together. Without it, the app would have taken at least another three or four months.”

Haas adds that Xamarin University was particularly helpful when it was time to publish, as it helped him learn how to navigate the complexities of making apps available through app stores. As a developer, Haas appreciates how Xamarin enables him to keep growing and learning. “I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. I want to be challenged as a developer. I want to be proud of my work and this app is something I’m happy to have on my resume.”

Planning for the Future

The simplicity of using Xamarin is already empowering Haas and LADBS to plan more advanced features for future releases. Likely targets include expanding on the wait time functionality and providing more guidance to help customers find permit counters and other services. They’re also considering features geared more toward business use, as well as apps for inspectors themselves to employ in the field. “The most exciting thing I’ve heard so far is the response from users who want more,” says Haas. “We have a lot of great ideas in the queue now.”

 

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Jo Ann Buckner

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