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We recently partnered with CGI and co-hosted a live webinar that looked at how data-driven enforcement is changing the way agencies perform inspections. I had the pleasure of co-presenting this dynamic topic discussion in partnership with William Richey, Director, Consulting Services at CGI. The interactive session was attended by inspection professionals representing 27 states as well as private sector professionals. The incredible turn out (100% of people who registered attended) and the participation in the Q&A bolstered our belief that the time is now for a dramatic change in how we conduct inspections and how we use the data we collect in those inspections.

Every day thousands of inspectors are deployed into the field to protect the health, safety, and environment in communities across the U.S. Their work impacts nearly every aspect of our daily lives. In the morning, we wake up and brush our teeth with water that is inspected by environmental agencies. Our organic breakfast is certified and inspected by agricultural agencies. The car we take to work is inspected by the DMV (as well as its manufacturer); the roads, bridges, and traffic signals we drive by are inspected by transportation agencies (as are airplanes and trains). The Department of Labor inspects our workplace, housing agencies inspect our construction sites to make sure they meet code, government inspects the goods entering our country through ports, and our health department inspects our local restaurant and so on…

As essential as this work is, enforcement divisions across the board are being asked to do more with less. In states like New Jersey, agencies leaders are faced with an average of 3,000 regulated sites for every inspector employed. We have better technology on our phones than these inspectors do for their work. The data the inspectors collect has to be manually entered in an office. Once that data is collected it is not used to proactively identify risk and prioritize inspection schedules.

Forward-thinking organizations are challenging this status quo with the implementation of modern, yet simple data-driven technology solutions. Nevada pulls in feeds from social media to identify restaurants that may be responsible for foodborne illnesses. New York City is using data to prioritize fire safety inspections using information gathered from numerous agencies to asses the buildings at most risk of being in violation of fire codes (based on the age of the building, materials used, what is housed in the building, etc.).

Our webinar looked at how our customer, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has implemented its Smart Inspection initiative to prioritize inspections and make inspectors more efficient in the field. We demoed how the tablet-based app does more than just digitize forms, it becomes a platform for inspectors to quickly and effectively inspect, report and follow-up on violations. From the Smart Inspection application, inspectors can take pictures of the site, annotate on those pictures, pull up data from previous inspections, and make immediate notification to site owners via email and online portal regarding violations and needed measures. Site owners have access to all of the information collected by inspectors to more easily understand the next steps and quickly remedy situations.

The platform can be customized for any organization. We have “field days” where we follow inspectors into the field so we understand daily workflow and can build the platform around how they actually work. We pull in feeds from data sets including regulations, permits, product specs, and more. Then we set our AI algorithms to work. For NJDEP these algorithms created two indices. The first one showing the compliance risk which highlights the high-risk facilities for NJDEP to focus on. The second one was the Environmental Health Safety risk that highlights the risk to the community if the tank was to leak. Having these upfront and available for inspectors and managers alike provides a new context to guide inspections.

For New Jersey, the impact of data-driven inspections has been incredibly positive. They have saved 2,404 hours, increased inspector efficiency by 43%, and recognized an additional $1,200,000 in fines, and hours saved. The state was recognized for these achievements with two State Scoop 50 Innovation awards: State IT Innovation of the Year and State Leadership of the Year.

If you’d like to learn more, you can watch a full playback of the webinar here, or drop me a comment or message to learn how NJDEP is taking an active role in keeping their communities safer through data-driven transformation.