It's an app-ening thing

There are now apps for almost everything from banks to newspapers to restaurants; it seems everybody is jumping on board. Cities are joining the trend. The 2014 New Cities Summit in Dallas earlier this month showcased several new and emerging apps designed to address specific urban problems or enhance urban life. Angel Hsu, Project Director at EPI, outlined some of the following apps that were showcased at the summit:

Peerby is an app developed in the Netherlands that allows neighbours to share items with each other. The app makes it easy for neighbours to send out a request to borrow an item – for example a vacuum. If a neighbour has an item available, they can respond to the request.

Square is designed to let anyone accept credit card payments using just an iPhone. It's revolutionised garage sales and the like, and is well on the way to fulfilling the dream of a cashless society. Based exclusively in San Francisco, Square Wallet cuts the credit card out of the equation: just like with Foursquare, you check in at a location and then all you need to do to pay is say your name at the till. If you're a regular somewhere, it'll even check in automatically, letting you dispense with checkouts altogether.

Djump is an app similar to the likes of Uber or Lyft. The app offers an informal taxi service similar to a ride sharing service. The service limits trips to a 30km distance and users can then offer as much as they would like.  

Bridj is an app that leverages big data to create 'pop-up' mass transit routes. Bridj takes users directly between each point on the map. On average, this saves users about an hour each day compared with public transit. Bridj uses large-scale mass transit datasets to determine direct routes that will get people from point A to B much faster, on luxury buses with free wifi!

Social Cyclist allows users record their rides, report road conditions, request bike parking and request bike share stations. The app also allows users to make suggestions to local governments and planners as to where to improve or add bike lanes or other amenities.

NextDrop is a text messaging service for residents in cities with unreliable water provision. The app provides information to its users on:
  • When they’re getting water
  • When there's a delay in their supply
  • When pipe damage might affect them 
  • When someone in your community provides water updates.
There is a 10 rupee a month fee for the service, but sign up is free. It also provides a "Live-Valve Map" that shows the status of water delivery in every part of the city. The services are currently available in Hubli-Dharwad and Bangalore.

Whilst these apps are designed to ease the stresses of city life they are now meeting resistance from the cities themselves. Apps such as Djump, Lyft or Uber that give rides to strangers who would rather not wait for a taxi are butting heads with regulators that aren’t quite sure what to make of them. Taxi drivers in the US recently rallied in protest about unregulated car sharing services being able to operate without permits and licenses that they are required to have.

Like all emerging technology it takes time to iron out the creases. Regardless, the future of city-based app technology still looks very bright.  With the ability to find new things to do, places to eat and people to see; to unlock hidden gems in a city, or act like a local in a city you've never seen before all from the palm of your hand, the possibilities are endless. 


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