The popularity of mobile applications (apps) rapidly increased with the ubiquitous penetration of smartphones throughout the globe. Currently, there are 2.6 million Android apps and 2.2 million iOS apps for over 5 billion mobile users worldwide.
For everything from games to shopping, apps bridged the gap between the real and the virtual world. More importantly, it began connecting people with people. Apps arrived way before the term smart city became universal. Soon the urban space identified its effectiveness in managing city assets and enhancing the quality of life for inhabitants. IoT technologies, communication technologies, sensors among others were easily integrated with apps. This led to the birth of ‘smart city apps.’
Today, there is a huge market for smart apps that use real-time data and are on-demand, cheap, and easy-to-use. With the ongoing development in the cities, smart city apps are anticipated to augment exponentially in the coming decade.
Here, we have compiled a few smart city apps that have been successful in mitigating problems in the lives of citizens.
RealTerm Energy in the US launched MyTown, a smart city app that enables citizens to report problems straight to the local government. The app may include issues related to waste collection, parking space, potholes, a streetlight interruption etc. Moreover, it provides citizens access to over 30 various kinds of information sources. It features customisable tabs including school and bus alerts, updates regarding road closures, water-use limitations, garbage and recycling programs, hospital wait-times and more.
As an option, the app facilitates the anonymous disclosure of sensitive information to government or school administration officials through its ‘HotLine’ tool.
MyTown aims to enhance citizen engagement with their communities. Simultaneously, it also allows municipal staff and elected officials to be informed and more responsive to citizen feedback. As per RealTerm Energy, the app is already serving over 30 cities and 3.6 million citizens across North America.
Cowlines is a multimodal transportation app recently launched in 62 cities across Canada and North America. Some of them include Oakland, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Seattle, and Toronto.
The app integrates public transit, bike-share, car-share, ride-share, and taxis into a single personalised route. This facilitates citizens to move around the city seamlessly. It claims to serve faster routes for non-car trips as opposed to other equivalents. Users are able to use the free app to plan their daily commutes. They can choose any transportation option by selecting the fastest, cheapest and greenest route.
The app shows the total cost of a trip along with the time taken. This data can be used by a commuter to calculate their carbon footprint. Hence, besides creating an efficient multimodal transport system, the app also helps quantify GHG emissions by complying with international standards. Cowlines keeps citizens and sustainability first. While aiding smooth navigation for people it is also working against climate change.
This is one of those all-inclusive apps that provide a solution to almost everything in smart cities. SmartAPPCity was launched in Spain but is designed to be adaptable to any city around the world. Today, the app is used in Chile, Costa Rica and India apart from its native country.
The app does not only cater to the needs of citizens but also city councils, businesses and tourists. Employing a public-private partnership framework, the app enables city councils to serve citizens by showing important information and dates. Whereas, merchants (of any type) can offer their products and services through the app and promote their business via a geo system. Everyone including tourists can locate a list of stores, their contact information and directions to the preferred destination. Search can be performed by just entering keywords. In addition, citizens can submit all types of complaints to the city council by attaching audio, video and images. Options are available to receive answers personally or anonymously.
SmartAPPCity has been acknowledged as the ‘most innovative app’ and ‘greatest potential app’ at the world’s largest competition at the FIWARE Smart Cities Challenge in Brazil. It was selected among 423 Smart City Apps.
Blindsquare is designed for blind and visually impaired people across the world. It is one of the most extensively used apps that works on GPS technology. In collaboration with third-party apps, it delivers a self-voicing facility with detailed personalised information. This empowers the visually-challenged to move around safely and independently both indoors and outdoors.
To begin with, the user needs to shake the device to hear the current address. The app discovers the location and collects information about the surroundings of Foursquare and OpenStreetMap. After this step, it provides information regarding the nearest intersections and venues such as cafes, libraries, banks etc. As the user moves towards his destination, the app tracks the route and periodically announces the distance and direction covered. To find the way back, the user only needs to mark his position. Furthermore, the app offers filters that can be applied by the user when they need to locate only one particular venue.
Blindsquare announces information in 25 different languages while also providing a hands-free experience.
NOAH Lifesaving app
Phillippines is highly vulnerable to natural disasters such as tsunamis, typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. And so with the aim to reduce the impact of such natural catastrophes, the government launched the National Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) app.
The app employs the latest features and innovations to collect data from water and rainfall sensors, imaging technologies and landslide assessment systems. Going forward, it makes all the information available to the public through its mobile app and web. With this data, residents can make a decision about whether they need to move to higher ground or not. And local municipalities can use the data to make a quick and efficient assessment of approaching storms and plan respectively.
NOAH works to spread awareness among the citizens about the natural hazards supporting them to develop a culture of preparedness. It is constantly working to improve the existing disaster information and management systems.
Safe & The City (SatC) app
Launched recently in 2018, Safe & The City app is specially designed to reduce the opportunistic incidents of sexual harassment. The app was founded by Jillian Kowalchuk, a public health expert who met with an incident of verbal abuse. It happened on a dark street at night when she had just moved to London.
Until now, there have been apps launched for women safety. However, Kowalchuk came up with a smarter approach. She used GPS, crowdsourced information and police risk data to decrease the number of victims of any opportunistic crimes.
Safe & The City app is integrated with a host of new features with a specific focus on the female experience. It is designed particularly for women living in London. The app is planning to expand globally though. It is working on partnering with UN Women UK to conduct research for their global safe public space and cities programme.
Upcoming Miami app
Miami-Dade County has revealed plans of launching an app that rewards commuters for using sustainable multimodal transit across the region. The decision has been taken to reduce the increasing traffic congestion in its cities.
The county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works collaborated with Velocia to encourage commuters to choose different transportation options. When commuters do so they will gain redeemable rewards in the form of “Velos”. These rewards can be redeemed within the Velocia’s mobility ecosystem. Velocia is a loyalty platform for mobility. This allows users to get instant discounts on available transportation services. In addition, users will also be able to redeem Velos for discounts in all partner apps like Lyft and Uber ride-sharing credits.
All the above smart city apps are available for free on both Android and iOS devices.