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RMV Wait Time App on Tablet

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Notification on Apple Watch

It’s your time. Don’t let the RMV steal it.

Our mission to make lives better through technology is personal. So personal, in fact, that we built an app to tell us when it was most efficient to go to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). In an afternoon, MassRMVWaitTime.com, a texting service for letting people know the best time to go to the RMV, was born. And we haven’t wasted a moment at that godforsaken place ever since.

Full Waiting Room

Backstory

One of our co-founders was stuck waiting at the RMV to conduct a transaction that couldn’t be accomplished online. He waited in line, nervously checking his email, and watched as the wait times inched higher and higher. He bailed and went back to work. In between responding to emails and managing business, he kept checking the RMV website to see if wait times were decreasing. There had to be a better way; he hacked together a program that analyzed the wait times and texted him when it was a good time to go.

CHALLENGE

We’ve gotten used to living in an on-demand society where everything is available with a click or a tap. But, not every real-world system is frictionless. There is a sense of pain and dread when going to the Massachusetts RMV, or most places of government, to conduct a transaction–whether it’s a weight on your time or dealing with a person who isn’t at their best.

Our experience at the Massachusetts RMV was no different: waiting in line to get a number, sitting on a hard bench for an eternity while the people in front of us in the queue work their way to the window to conduct their own transactions. There had to be something that could improve on the experience and cut down on the amount of time we spent waiting at the RMV.

SOLUTION

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles publishes separate wait times for vehicle registrations and licenses on their website. While that information is great, it’s inefficient for a person to continually refresh the page and try to spot the best time to go to the RMV.

We thought an elegant solution could be created with some software already running on our Macbooks. The software would read the RMV website and keep tabs on the wait time at the office that we wanted to visit. Once the wait time reached 5 minutes or less, the software would send us a text message. The key to the solution was the text message. We always have our phones with us, so getting a text message when the wait time was “just right” enabled us with a sense of freedom.

Our proof of concept worked. But, the question was: How could we give this functionality to other people who weren’t nerds running software from the command line?

In an afternoon, we mocked up a design for a site, procured the domain, built web and database servers, and translated the mockup into a working web application.

From our past experiences, we’ve learned that one of the most overlooked aspects of building an application has nothing to do with the build; it is the lack of a clearly defined advertising and distribution strategy. We had an application that worked, but we needed to tell people about it.

We chose social media as our go-to channel. We placed geo-targeted Facebook ads that directed people to the application. In addition, we personally reached out to our friends and contacts to let them know about our invention.

RMV Wait Time Boston Globe Article
Outcome

The Facebook campaign successfully increased awareness of our invention and drove traffic to the application. One unforeseen byproduct was that the story got picked up by the Boston Globe and Southcoast Today, which created a positive feedback loop and led to more people using the site.

Today, the application continues to save people time and is used regularly. We have years’ worth of wait time data that we can mine to determine which RMV locations perform best.

Aside from saving people time for a niche problem, we have increased awareness about Pidalia. When we meet new people they genuinely thank us for our work, because in some small way this application made their lives better.

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