IBM Launches iPhone App For Crowdsourcing Water Quality A new iPhone app can turn would-be environmentalists and folks concerned about water quality into helpful data gatherers. Most people living in cities in the U.S. don’t think much about the streams they drive over or pass by. With a new iPhone app, IBM hopes to change that and improve water quality and information about water supplies. Called CreekWatch, the newly launched free app on Apple’s iTunes store enables people with iPhones to become citizen reporters–or citizen environmentalists. Polluted water kills more people than all wars, crimes and terrorism combined, according to the U.N. Though it’s more of a problem in developing countries than in the U.S., helpful data about water levels enables water boards in cities and counties to monitor and manage water supply more effectively than they are now. Such data can also help prevent leaks in water pipelines. The way it works: The app asks users to take a photo of a creek or a stream they happen to be walking by. After taking the photo, the app prompts users to answer three simple questions: Is the water level dry, some or full? Is the flow rate still, slow or fast? Is there no trash, some trash, or a lot of trash? Click here for a video that shows how the app works, IBM beta tested the app with the city of San Jose beginning in August. Says Carol Boland, watershed biologist for San Jose, “There are only so many of us here in watershed protection, and we can only see what we
can during business working hours of the day. She adds, “The timing of the [creek] dry up is really important information for us to have.” There are more of these streams than people may think –the city of San Jose, Calif. has 700 miles of creeks. So this information can make a difference. Christine Robson, the lead scientist for IBM’s new water management iPhone app, approached the app development with an aim to take advantage of mobile crowdsourcing. “We’re engaging people with sensors they have in their environment. Every mobile phone is a sensor.” Phones have GPS built in, enabling location-based reporting. IBM consulted with the California Environmental Protection Agency in developing the app. IBM is publicly sharing all the data collected using the app (see here). IBM quietly launched the app two weeks ago, and has already received data from 9 U.S. states and 9 different countries. IBM developed the app as part of a $100 million bet it’s making on mobility over five years. It’s early days, but if the data is analyzed in the right way, it could save lives in desperate parts of the world. Let me know of other simple, useful apps you like that can make a difference.
A new iPhone app can turn would-be environmentalists and folks concerned about water quality into helpful data gatherers.
CreekWatch is a new free app on iTunes.