The importance of keeping things progressing forward

A US county teamed up with EastBanc Technologies to create a solution harnessing the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to support citizens during snow disruption

Sean Dudley
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley on 23 May 2018
The importance of keeping things progressing forward
This article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of The Record.

As much as four feet of snow fell during a major storm in Montgomery County in Maryland, US, back in January 2016. This acted as the catalyst for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) to look into the best way of keeping citizens informed as to current traffic and transportation situations during such an event.

“The snow removal process, when you have that much snow, is going to be pretty slow,” explained Reza Zarif, information technology specialist at MCDOT. “County residents are not able to get out of their homes, they need more data and information in terms of how soon their neighbourhood streets are going to be cleared.”

The county engaged Microsoft CityNext partner EastBanc Technologies with the aim of creating “a very scalable platform and architecture that could handle large volumes of data and public inquiries during major events”. Another requirement was for the system to work on mobile devices.

The Microsoft Azure cloud platform was quickly identified as a potential option. “There were many facets of Azure that made it an attractive choice for us,” said Zarif. “We really wanted to have a system that was built on cloud services to be able to withstand the volume of data.”

“We needed a cloud solution that allows us to quickly react to requests from our customers without the unnecessary overhead of datacenter and system administration,” said Peter Shashkin, director of solutions at EastBanc Technologies. “Microsoft Azure, being a leader in platform-as-a-service technology, provides everything we need to accomplish this goal.”

The development of what would become SNOWiQ started in 2016, and the system was well received by staff from the off. “With SNOWiQ, it doesn’t matter whether drivers have done it a hundred times or if this is their first time – they know exactly where they need to go and what to do,” said Zarif.

EastBanc Technologies worked with the county to refine SNOWiQ over the course of 2017, with the system now in place at all five county depots. Zarif is confident 2018’s statistics will make for pleasant reading once compiled at the year’s end.

“Through SNOWiQ, we can not only assign a driver’s current route, we can queue up all subsequent routes – through the push of a button on a mobile device,” he said. “There’s tremendous savings in terms of time from our field staff. Our drivers are just in love with the product because it makes their jobs so much easier.”

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