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  • 10 Apps (or so) That Every Planner Should Have

    For the past 20 years, mobile phones have become more and more common in office places all over the world. In the past handful of year with the advent of the iPad, technology has taken hold of how we do business daily. Applications (Apps) for mobile phones, the iPad, and all the other similar devices are helping to pave the way for a more integrated public process between planners and the community.

    With so many residents or clients having mobile phones and iPads, there are numerous apps that can help them interact with your department; help you gather data on them; and help your community project a certain aura. Below you will find ten categories of apps with some of the best examples of the group concept listed. These apps vary in price, but all do one thing very well – move the planning process forward and into the 21st Century.

    1. Transportation Applications
    These apps allow the user to better understand the public transportation systems within a city. Rail or bus, these apps help you to get people to the public transportation options that best fit them.

    Railbandit - US & Canada | Blackberry | Free | http://www.railbandit.com/mobile-train-schedule.htm
    From their site: “Railbandit is a mobile application that runs on your phone, handheld or PDA and displays schedule information on upcoming trains. If your phone is equipped with a GPS, you also can track yourself while on the train and find out if you're running on time or your train is delayed.”

    One Bus Away – Pacific Northwest | All Platforms | Free | http://www.onebusaway.org/
    Their stated goal: “We want to make it easier to use public transit by providing easy access to schedule and real-time arrival information for the buses and trains you ride every day.”

    Wayfinder NYC - NYC / Vancouver | All Platforms | Free | http://www.wayfindermobile.com/
    Using your phone or iPad camera you look in a general direction to see a live view of the nearest subway and PATH stations.

    AnyStop - United States | Andriod | Free | http://anystopapp.com/
    From their site: “[AnyStop] combines real-time and scheduled transit information to deliver the best possible estimation of when your bus will arrive.”

    2. Economic Development Applications
    These apps allow communities to market themselves better and to facilitate the communication it takes to successfully establish a business relationship.

    Foursquare – World | All Platforms | Free | https://foursquare.com/apps/
    From their site: “Foursquare helps you explore the world around you. Meet up with friends, discover new places, and save money using your phone. Whether you’re setting off on a trip around the world, coordinating a night out with friends, or trying to pick the best dish at your local restaurant, foursquare is the perfect companion.”

    GoToMeeting – World | All Platforms | App is Free – must sign up for service | http://www.gotomeeting.com/
    From their site: “GoToMeeting allows you to host an online meeting with up to 15 people – so you can do more and travel less. Using our web conferencing tool, you can share any application on your computer in real time. Attendees join meetings in seconds.

    Skype – World | All Platforms | Basic setup is Free | http://www.skype.com
    From their site: “Why just talk when you can see each other face-to-face? Video call your family in Australia, your friends in Spain or your colleagues in Japan, for free. It’s the next best thing to being there.”

    ESRI BAO – World | Apple Products | Free – More information for a cost |http://www.esri.com/software/bao-ios/index.html
    From their site: “With the free BAO for iOS app, you can access key demographic and market facts about any location in the U.S., using your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.”

    3. Planning / Zoning / Code Enforcement
    These apps help connect residents with the city government officials. They either provide a direct link through the raising of issues, or a demographic understanding through data collection.

    Citizens Connect
    – Boston | All Platforms | Free | http://www.cityofboston.gov/doit/app...ensconnect.asp
    From their site: “Citizens Connect is the City of Boston's award-winning effort to empower Boston residents to be the City's "eyes and ears" throughout our neighborhoods. Through this program, you can now use your mobile phone in five different ways to alert the City of Boston to neighborhood issues such as potholes and graffiti.”

    Energov / IgWorkforce – World | iPad | No Price Given | http://www.igworkforce.com/
    From their site: “iGovernment is here! iG Inspect is a powerful inspections application brought to you by iG Workforce - the industry's first mobile government workforce platform for the iPad.”

    Florida DBPR – Florida | Apple Products | Free | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dbpr-...421389533?mt=8
    From their site: “The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Mobile App will allow users to search the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s records for businesses and professionals licensed by the department. Users can verify licenses by name or license number.”

    PlanningVic – Victoria, Australia | Apple Products | Free | http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/planning/...mation/ppr-app
    From their site: “The PlannngVIC: Planning Property Report app provides easy access to planning scheme information for any property in Victoria. The app complements the online Planning Property Report service and includes property details like zoning and overlay controls and any state heritage information that applies to the land.”

    Master Plan 2008 – Singapore | Apple Products | Free | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/maste...410522729?mt=8
    From their site: “The Master Plan is the statutory land use plan which guides Singapore's development in the medium term over the next 10 to 15 years. The Master Plan shows the permissible land use and density for developments in Singapore and is reviewed every five years.”

    Parking Applications – Numerous cities | All Platforms
    Park PGH (Pittsburgh), SFpark (San Francisco), Parking Auction (NYC), Smart Parking (Boston), Parker (LA)
    These apps help people park their cars in various cities across the U.S.

    4. Mapping
    These apps provide additional tools to help planning departments keep the most up-to-date records and to help visually explain locations within their jurisdiction.

    ESRI ArcGIS – World | All Platforms | Free | http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/...hones/app.html
    From their site: “The ArcGIS App for Smartphones and Tablets extends the reach of your GIS from the office to the field. It includes a free application that you can download from the Apple App Store, Android Market, or Windows Marketplace. The app includes a developer focused SDK that you can leverage to build your own custom Android, Windows Phone, or iOS applications.

    Google Earth – World | All Platforms | Free | http://www.google.com/mobile/earth/
    From their site: “View the same 3D imagery, terrain, and buildings* available in the desktop version of Google Earth. Fly to your current location with the touch of a button. Pan, zoom, and tilt your view as you travel the globe. Speak your queries in English, Mandarin, or Japanese.

    5. Green Technology
    These apps allow users to determine how feasible green technologies would be at a specific location.

    Windspire – World | Apple Products | Free | http://windspireenergy.com/windspire/iphone-app/
    From their site: “Ever wondered how fast the wind is blowing? Download the Windspire Me! app for the iPhone and find out. Simply hold your iPhone in the air and the app will find the wind speed and let you know what that average wind speed could power with a Windspire. It also provides information on how much CO2 you could save from the environment with those average winds. You can share your wind data with other Windspire me! users and share the app with your friends.

    Solar Friend – World | Apple Products | Free | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/solar...441719298?mt=8
    From their site: “The new Bosch Solar Friend helps you analyze your rooftop conditions and determine the best system for solar power generation at any location worldwide. Bosch Solar Friend makes it really easy to estimate the average annual energy yield that can be expected when installing Bosch solar modules on your rooftop. Simply align your iPhone with your roof, and you are done – all relevant parameters are automatically determined using the internal functions of your iPhone (like compass and GPS). For comparison with other locations, a manual input is possible as well.

    6. Emergency Preparedness
    These apps are for local governments and citizens alike. They allow users to better understand what is happening in the event of a crisis.

    Emergency Radio (Police Scanner) – United States | Apple Products | $1.99 | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/emerg...312949947?mt=8
    From their site: “Emergency Radio is the original award-winning police scanner app offering the most extensive database of live police, fire, EMS, railroad, air traffic, train, NOAA weather, coast guard, HAM radio, and other frequencies. Tune in to everything from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to the New York Fire Department (FDNY).”

    The Vehicle Identification System (V.I.S.) – World | Apple Products | $.99 | http://www.policeiphoneapps.com/vehi...-system-v-i-s/
    From their site: “VIS is a vehicle image database of almost every vehicle made in the last decade. V.I.S. is designed to be used by law enforcement and security officers while on patrol. V.I.S. Can be used to determine what a suspect vehicle looks like when responding to a call. It is also very useful when interviewing victims or witnesses to determine or rule out suspect vehicles.”

    7. Public Meetings
    If there is one thing planner's do a lot it is go to public meetings. These apps allow the user to better organize their meeting information and to present it easily.

    Dropbox – World | All Platforms | Free | http://www.dropbox.com/iphoneapp
    From their site: “Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, docs, and videos anywhere. After you install Dropbox on your computer, any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, your iPhone and iPad and even the Dropbox website! With the Dropbox app, you can take everything that matters to you on the go.”

    Keynote – World | Apple Products | $9.99 | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/keynote/id361285480?mt=8
    From their site: “Keynote is the most powerful presentation app ever designed for a mobile device. Built from the ground up for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, it makes creating a world-class presentation — complete with animated charts and transitions — as simple as touching and tapping. Use full-screen view to present right on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.”

    Penultima – World | iPad | $1.99 | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/penul...354098826?mt=8
    From their site: “The original, best-selling handwriting app for iPad now includes photo annotation. Penultimate gives you the fast, tactile gratification of writing on paper, with digital power and flexibility. Take notes, keep sketches, or share your next breakthrough idea -- in the office, on the go, or home on the sofa.

    8. Real Estate
    Apps that allow the user to better understand the real estate market around them. Both these apps give the user the ability to actively see sales, prices, etc. near them.

    Trulia – World | All Platforms | Free | http://www.trulia.com/mobile/iphone/
    From their site: “Whether you are looking to buy your next home, need a handy apartment finder, or are just curious about a neighborhood, the Trulia App can help.”

    Zillow – World | All Platforms | Free | http://www.zillow.com/mobile/
    From their site: “Zillow's free real estate and mortgage apps give you instant answers about homes and mortgages as you go. See data and info on all U.S. homes — not just homes for sale with Zillow's real estate apps. Plus, get answers to your mortgage questions in real time, using Zillow’s iPhone mortgage app.”

    9. Free Time
    Apps that have a planner spin, but are really pointless.

    Tap Town – World | Apple Products | Free | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tap-t...451805566?mt=8
    From their site: “Welcome to Tap Town 2, you are only taps away from creating your own town! Earn coins by starting jobs in factories to build fun buildings, & attract new residences! Build and decorate your town with ice cream shops, cinemas, chocolatiers, tree houses, 5 Star hotels, mansions and so much more!!”

    City Story – World | Apple Products | Free | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/city-...385667356?mt=8
    From their site: “Welcome to City Story™ where you and your friends can create the world based on your imagination. Build and decorate your own dream city with cafes, boutiques, bakeries, hotels, and landmarks. Watch your population skyrocket as you create the ultimate living, breathing city.”

    Cycle Tracker Pro – World | Apple Products | $4.99 | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cycle...423365379?mt=8
    From their site: “Whether cycling for leisure or training for a race, Cycle Tracker Pro will track your route, speed and distance. Share your workouts with friends on email, Facebook or Twitter. Athletes, cyclists and triathletes: use Cycle Tracker Pro to track for all your training and fitness program and data analysis needs- link to TrainingPeaks.com and upload workouts for advanced analysis and tracking.”

    b.icycle – World | All Platforms | Free | https://market.android.com/details?i....android&hl=en / http://b-icycle.com/home.html
    From their site: “B.iCycle provides all the information you need on the bike. Our stylish user interface combined with maximum ease of use create a new experience on the bike that beats an ordinary bike computer by far!”

    10. Other
    These are just random apps that have some relationship to what planners do on a general basis. Also job searching apps, because let's face it, the market it tough.

    Spendings – World | Apple Products | $2.99 | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/expen...319033070?mt=8
    From their site: “Spending is the most easy to use expense log that keeps track of your spending. No complex operations, no impractical functions. Spending is easy to use.”

    Monster.com – World | Apple Products | Free | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/monst...388924653?mt=8
    From their site: “The Monster app is the perfect addition to your Monster account. Now you can search and apply for jobs anytime, anywhere. Best of all, the Monster app makes it easy to keep up with the latest job opportunities when you’re on the go. Download the app today and find your next job from the palm of your hand.”

    DesignObserver – World | Apple Products | Free | http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/desig...394896830?mt=8
    From their site: “DesignObserver.com is the leading site at the intersection of design, photography, illustration, architecture, urbanism, sustainability, social innovation and visual culture. The Design Observer App offers a quick way to survey what is new everyday, as well as providing a better reading experience for all articles. You can browse the site by channel, by author or by topic. Our special Mondrian view allows you to scan articles by key images.”
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Hink's avatar
      Hink -
      It seems that Dr. Cowley beat me to it.... although my original idea was before that paper was published... I am sure she has been working on this for much longer http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.c...act_id=1951069
    1. digitalurban's avatar
      digitalurban -
      This is a nice collection - but I am wondering if there is potential for planners to develop their own types of apps that connect people, developments and useability - no real answer just a question.
    1. Gotta Speakup's avatar
      Gotta Speakup -
      It was interesting to see how quickly some apps become obsolete. Foursquare? My grandmother liked that a lot.

      The best way for planners to get involved in an app is to first identify a need, then come up with app based solutions. There are some apps so important that I can't seem to remember how I survived without them such as the one that tells me when the next bus is coming or the app associated with my city's bike share program.

      Some are broader than an app. Drop box seems to be a great way to share documents on a wide variety of platforms. Others, might be not all that useful or simply reinforce our inability to engage the public. Nothing would be worse to go to a public meeting and tell an angry crowd that you did do public outreach - using an obscure app no one heard of or wants.