Contribute > apps > Super Cat informs about outages

Category: 
Public Works

A real-time app that gives people immediate information about the power outage (and soon, other problems) they're experiencing.

People will get the info they need even if they've never heard of Super Cat. All tweets and posts are geo-tagged: During an outage, search for "tweets near me".

The app is collecting historical outage data which will be displayed graphically and be available for download.

Targeted demographic (who is the app intended for?): 
1. Anyone who might be affected by a power outage: residents, businesses, people driving through the area. 2. People responsible for maintaining oversight of our utilities. 3. People researching neighborhoods and real estate. 3. Other app developers.
Who and what will be impacted by the app, and how?: 
People can find real-time info about outages by searching for "tweets near me". They'll have reduced anxiety and be able to plan during an outage. Other web apps and developers can use this new data stream and historical data set.
What is the specific need that is addressed by the app?: 
Problem Scenario: Our power went out at midnight. Outside, we could see lights on a few blocks away, but 10 blocks of Eastside Portland were dark. Meanwhile, residents of our building who happened to have been out were locked out by the electrically-powered entry system. We wanted to know, right away: Has this been reported? Why is the power out? When will it be back on? We could only use our smart phones: There was nothing on Twitter. PGE's web site had no info on the front page and was difficult to navigate. There were no news reports. Only after 10 minutes of hunting in an iPhone web browser, we found some detailed information.
Anticipated usage of the app (by whom, under what circumstances, etc)?: 
Residents caught in a blackout who can use their phones but not computers. News agencies scanning news feeds. Home buyers looking to see how often power outages occur in an area. App developers combining the data with other streams to build more complex apps.
How is information presented, that's not presented elsewhere; how is it unique?: 
Currently, the only online source of PGE outage info is the PGE website: There are a set of pages located a few clicks deep into the site. The site is not easy to use on a mobile device. Outage info is relatively sparse: Each outage is identified only by zipcode. Once the outage is resolved, the listing is simply removed. This app adds many new features: It proactively sends out alerts whenever a new outage occurs. In addition to zipcode, it provides city, state, and lat/lon of the event. It creates "geotagged" and hashtagged Twitter updates, enabling better searching and filtering. Finally, it saves all this data for analysis and record keeping.
What are a few of the primary strengths of the design?: 
The code is simple and modular. More locations, event types, and notification adapters can be added. It stores all events in a database, enabling reporting, visualization, and statistical analysis.
License: 
GNU General Public License (GPL)