A Christchurch tech company’s app has helped New Zealand Police banish thousands of hours of paperwork.
Smudge Apps has collaborated with the New Zealand Police to develop the OnDuty Family Harm Investigation mobile application, which enables frontline police to combat family violence by giving them access to complex information at the touch of a fingertip.
It’s safe to say the app has transformed the way police officers operate by effectively banishing lengthy paper-based forms to make way for the intuitive mobile application.
“Previously, police officers attending a family violence incident had to complete a 13-page paper form,” says Smudge Managing Director of Reuben Bijl says. “With over 121,000 episodes of family harm occurring in New Zealand every year, the app has effectively banished more than 1.5 million pages of paperwork overnight.”
He says the apps Smudge has built for NZ Police are saving over 500,000 hours of police time every year - valuable time that frontline cops can be spending on more impactful things.
Bijl says Smudge are “super proud” of the work they’ve done with the Police – and so they should be, as in their latest app recently won the NZRise Excellence in Software Award at the NZ Excellence in IT Awards – yet another example of the world-class, connected and creative work coming out of Christchurch’s tech sector.
Today Christchurch’s world class tech sector is the second largest in New Zealand, contributing around $2.4 billion of GDP and exporting $1.1 billion annually.
“With over 121,000 episodes of family harm occurring in New Zealand every year, the app has effectively banished more than 1.5 million pages of paperwork overnight,” - Reuben Bijl, Smudge Apps.
Diverse and creative with a rich tech talent pool, Christchurch’s tech sector also encourages strong business and student relationships, to ensure the right skills in the city’s future workforce pipeline.
Smudge, another home-grown Christchurch success story, is the brainchild of Reuben Bijl and Toby Vincent, who taught themselves how to build mobile apps as a summer holiday project.
Ten years later, Smudge-designed apps have now been downloaded more than eight million times and the team have partnered with several highly recognised brands, including Vodafone and the NZ Police to create variety of user-friendly products.
Bijl sat down with ChristchurchNZ to share what inspired him to set up Smudge.
Growing up in Canterbury, Bijl says he was obsessed with technology from a very young age and enjoyed tinkering with devices and trying to figure out how they worked.
“One of my earliest memories was blowing up a computer as a five-year-old by playing with the voltage selector switch,” he says.
His interest in technology was complemented by a love for playing and listening to music, including studying classical piano at the University of Canterbury and being part of the choir at Christchurch Cathedral.
Bijl's interest in technology was complemented by a love for playing and listening to music, including studying classical piano at the University of Canterbury and being part of the choir at Christchurch Cathedral.
That ability to combine arts and science to solve problems ultimately inspired Bijl to set up Smudge with co-founder Toby Vincent, with a vision of using technology to enable people to make their lives easier.
A good example of this is the New Zealand Police, who launched the OnDuty Family Harm Investigation app in May this year, an initiative that’s been hailed as “world leading” by overseas forces.
With detailed features for addressing family harm as part of New Zealand Police's safer whānau work programme, the app includes risk assessment tools and a safety plan for police attending a family harm incident. Accounting for over 40 per cent of frontline police time and using over 1 million pieces of paper annually, Bijl says it was a great opportunity to include technology in tackling this issue.
Smudge first got involved with the New Zealand Police through their strategic partnership with Vodafone, who had been contracted to supply Police with iPhones in 2014. They then created the OnDuty app which gave frontline police the ability to query people, vehicles and locations.
Now used by 9,000 sworn officers around New Zealand, OnDuty’s capabilities has been a game changer for police. The app allows officers to search names, scan driver licences and search for related people, anytime, and from anywhere, with the touch of a fingertip.
The app was recently expanded as the OnDuty Family Harm application and is a tool to help Police improve the way they handle Family Harm Occurrences and help keep our communities safer.
Bijl’s clients are diverse, yet with one thing in common – they all want to help make their employees’ lives easier by giving them access to tools or processes to enable productivity, because; “ultimately, that’s what technology should do for people,” Bijl says.