Castle Morpeth Borough Council in Northumberland has equipped its wardens with mobile devices linked to its back-office systems as part of a project to combat vandalism and maintain the area's river valley.
The devices, which communicate directly with the council's customer relationship management system, feature Ordnance Survey maps that enable wardens to record where they have found a problem.
As the council covers more than 220 square miles, some means of locating acts of vandalism was essential. The incident data is transmitted by GPRS to Castle Morpeth wardens' database, which populates the council's CRM and geographical information system.
The mobile devices run a bespoke application called Street Scene on the Windows Mobile operating system.
Peter Almond, Castle Morpeth Borough Council's IT implementation officer, said, "Research showed several local authorities were using handheld computers to record geographical incident data and upload this to a local area network for further analysis.
"But it was not possible to find anyone who had implemented a real-time end-to-end solution, from handheld to Lan, and fully integrated it into existing front- and back-office IT applications."
To populate the council's CRM system with incident reports, the IT department has adopted screen scraping technology. Castle Morpeth Borough Council already uses the technology to populate some of its other central systems with information gathered from incompatible applications.
Screen scraping works by stripping the information from an electronic form and pasting it into the corresponding fields on another application. IT departments sometimes use the technology where they are unable to map the data directly to corresponding fields.
Castle Morpeth based its processes for the mobile integration on the Prince2 project management methodology.
The council expects to make cost savings by removing the need to re-enter data into the CRM application. It also expects to be able to plan its resources more effectively because council officers will be notified of problems in real time.
In total, the mobile devices cost about £10,000 and the software a further £42,000.