Software firm developing flood risk app

A software development firm is working on a new technology platform that aims to better inform people about flood risk.

Edinburgh-based company RiverTrack responded to a government-backed challenge to make flood forecasting information more widely available to the public.

It is one of eight companies which won a competition to take part in a national ‘CivTech Accelerator’ programme, which will help bring innovative new public services to market.

The company will spend the next three months alongside the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), refining and testing its solution in an ‘intensive’ workshop environment at the tech hub CodeBase, in Edinburgh.

Finance secretary Derek Mackay recently said he wanted to see more collaborative working between the public and private sectors, putting an emphasis on the ‘co-design’ of services.

“I think we have to do much more around co-design,” he said. “All my years of experience in government, in local government and parliament has taught me that. I think there is much more room for co-design and collaboration at the outset to enable us to get the best possible solution from the start; it’s not the awarding of the contract that’s the most important, it’s the design of it in the first place.

“That’s why I was particularly enthused by CivTech in terms of that approach, with the private sector, individuals and micro businesses coming together with the public sector facing a challenge.”

SEPA has flood forecasting information but due to its more technical nature it is currently shared only with professional flooding responders, such as police, fire and rescue and local authorities.

In many areas it is unable to provide formal flood warning schemes, so smaller at-risk communities cannot receive more localised and timely alerting to potential flooding.

Through CivTech the agency is hoping to create the best possible and most accessible flood forecasting and warning information service, using all available data.

RiverTrack specialises in Apple, Linux, and embedded micro-electronics platforms, with a focus on user interface design, machine learning, robotics, data mining, and data visualisation.

The goal for the flooding project is to make up-to-date, actionable flood information easily accessible to individuals and communities, using a simple design. Non-technical and elderly people, as well as those with limited or no access to smartphones, computers or mobile coverage – will all benefit.