back to article South Australia bins emergency alert app, contract

The South Australian State government has announced it will end its contract with Victorian company Ripe Intelligence after an app intended to provide "real-time, relevant and personalised event and warning information" repeatedly failed to do so. A weekend heatwave put South Australia on the highest level of bushfire alert, “ …

  1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

    On the other hand

    I'm sure it has a good UI and many alert choices.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: On the other hand

      but it did work once when the work experience programmer tested it on his own iphone. How unfair the gubberment isn't giving us more money for free!

      And our "Millenial SmashedAvo software co, inc, pty, ltd, llc" got lots of awards for being "agile" and developing the whole app in 10 minutes, including testing!

  2. Brian Scott

    Obligatory XKCD

    https://xkcd.com/937/

  3. frank ly Silver badge

    Ripe for ridicule

    "... have lost confidence in this app to provide the 99.9 per cent reliability as is stipulated in our contract”.

    The contract will be allowed to expire in June, when it is next due for renewal, ..."

    A contract for a non-compliant service will be allowed to run for another six months?

    What about the AU$250,000 p.a. already paid?

    1. sms123

      Re: Ripe for ridicule

      It's OPM (Other Peoples Money - aka the taxpayers) what does any government care.

    2. Michael Hoffmann
      Unhappy

      Re: Ripe for ridicule

      And for rest of critical fire season. What good is that going to do? Some (many?) people who don't watch these sorts of news and announcements will have no idea their app is less than useless.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ripe for ridicule

      That tells me that the issue is on the govts end with the data they tru to send the app. and they dont have the guts to terminate the contract because they may get sued.

  4. Michael Hoffmann

    SA app written in Vic...

    ... however I wonder who wrote the app for VicEmergency? Seeing as that one is quite good and up to date.

    Several times during last weekend's heatwave my phone went off with a warning before the icon showed up on the website of CFA farcebook/twitter (and yes, during those extreme fire risk days, you have every resource under sun on auto-refresh).

    1. dbannon

      Re: SA app written in Vic...

      "... (and yes, during those extreme fire risk days, you have every resource under sun on auto-refresh)..."

      And my guess is thats the problem. The app works fine during normal times but cannot cope when the load increases. Its telling more people about whats happening, more people are asking for updates.

      So, probably, two underlying issues. The protocol is too wordy, each contact exchanges too much information (xml files where less than a tenth of the data is useful ? :-) ). And, secondly, not enough hardware thrown at it. $250,000 does not leave a lot left over, "we'll use that old box under the bed there , our tests indicate its fine".

  5. Winkypop Silver badge
    Devil

    New in-app purchase

    You're getting WARMER

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Detection modes

    Place your smart device outside:

    If the device smells of smoke: there may be a fire is the area

    If the device smells like fire retardant: the water bomber is nearby

    If the device is too hot to touch: fire is very close

    If the device is melting: you have left your escape too late

    Joke of course.

    Stay safe in those fire zones.

  7. Richocet

    You get what you pay for

    $250,000 per year is not a lot of money to operate a service that is at times critical and people's lives depend on it. Compare this to running air traffic control.

    It might be an adequate amount though. So for me it's not clear if the developers and operators of the contract stuffed up, or if such an important service was done without adequate ongoing investment.

    As with many government projects, it would be most cost effective to operate a fire warning service nationally, not have an app for each state. That means all the cross-device testing, and upgrading for new devices and OS version updates goes much much further.

  8. john008
    WTF?

    Why is this even an app?

    It needs connectivity to get its alerts, so why not just use a mobile website?

    1. ~chrisw

      Re: Why is this even an app?

      Indeed, why not just use sodding SMSes? Those get through where data fears to tread.

      1. david 12 Bronze badge

        Re: Why is this even an app?

        >Indeed, why not just use sodding SMSes? <

        Yep, we got sodding SMSes in Vic this year, telling me, in an outer suburb of Melbourne, scores of miles from the nearest river, to beware of flood events that didn't really happen in the remote parts of the state.

        I understand from my American cousins that this is why they all have the alerts turned off.

  9. Halcin

    Re: Why is this even an app?

    1: Website are so last century.

    2: Greater flexibility for function creep.

    3: Increased data harvesting options.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. tcmonkey

    Shock horror

    So it turns out that relying on a smartphone app to protect you from potentially mortal peril is a bad idea?! Water wet, sky blue! News at 11!

    Please use some brainpower my fellow statesmen. At least just this once.

  12. Francis Vaughan

    I was one who was rather peeved about the failed app. Especially as I live in a high risk bushfire area.

    The app did used to be pretty reasonable. Although I thought the GUI design was actually rather B grade (the icons used to denote the events made very poor use of space and were difficult to distinguish.) I was rather surprised to discover that the whole system is little more than a data scraper and a server that pushes the scraped data out to the app. The alert data is scraped from various government sources and aggregated. That is it.

    The web site for the company gives you the sinking feeling that it is a tiny one or two person startup. They probably pitched the app to SA and Victorian state governments and asked $250,000 a year for it. If they had made it stick they would have been on to a good little earner. No doubt hoping to get the other states in as well in time, getting to the point where they might be pulling in say $3 mill a year. And really, not for much. But, as noted above, the update to the app last year made it perform worse - they lost my user settings when they did it, and it seems they simply never had the server resources set up or the required resiliency in the system to justify the price they asked. Altogether a bit sad, but also a very common story.

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