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Mobile Apps Your City Shouldn't Be Without

 Key Points
  • A majority of Americans own smartphones and use them mostly for mobile apps.
  • Cities are developing mobile apps for managing their energy and other resources.
  • Apps help users avoid peak demand periods and achieve energy efficiency goals.

smart phone
With smartphones continuing to proliferate across the country—about two-thirds of Americans now own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center (and those who do spend the majority of their smartphone time on apps)—smart cities are turning to mobile apps to help manage their resources and meet their sustainability goals. Here are several you should consider adopting for your city:

Energy Engage Mobile enables users to track electricity, water or gas use in near real-time and view their estimated bill. The mobile-enabled website displays account alerts and tips as well as price information, allowing users to see current cost of electricity per unit and shift usage to off-peak times to avoid higher energy rates. For cities like Fort Collins, CO, the app is considered the 'heart and soul' of its advanced metering project because it allows customers to see 15 minute interval reads for electric usage instead of the previous monthly updates.

New York City's GreenStar NYC app for both Apple and Android phones helps local businesses achieve their sustainability goals by providing access to a database of tenders or bidding opportunities; energy incentive programs; and news feed that showcase sustainability practices throughout the city. The app can also be used to join community groups so businesses can benefit from special discounts offered by vendors. A signature feature of the app is the Green-In, which publishes content from a proprietary social media platform allowing businesses to showcase green goals, projects, services and storefronts.

CodeGreen Energy is a free iTunes app for comparing the energy efficiency of various buildings in a specific area, which helps owners and other stakeholders compare their building’s energy efficiency with others. All you do is enter an address and it will display the building’s ENERGY STAR score and energy use. Other features allow users to:

  • Determine whether their building is compliant with new energy-efficiency laws
  • Send updates on their building’s energy efficiency for verification
  • Share building performance stats on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter

The Energy Saver app from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas features a user interface with hourly and real-time system conditions, wholesale prices, and access to other information about the competitive electric market. The app shows how taxed the electrical grid is at any given moment as well as a daily progression, helping people to make informed decisions about their electrical usage. Settlement point prices are updated every 15 minutes, along with a map showing current prices in four competitive load zones.

The Smart Cities Council also has mobile apps in other categories, including economic development, public safety and transportation. A free, one-time registration is required to access the Apps Gallery. You may also want to check out the Internet of Things Awards in the Smart City category or The IoT for Cities Hackathon, part of the Apps World Hackathon, where more than 200 developers built solutions for smart cities in several categories, including smart building/utilities.

Have your own hackathon!

Because every city is different, you may want to have your own hackathon using open-source data. Many cities have successfully held hackathons where local developers come up with valuable apps in return for just pizza or prizes. Code for America helps you build civic hacking groups in your community; for instance, Philadelphia has a project on building energy benchmarking and Orlando one on power-usage mapping.

With 80 percent of mobile data traffic coming from smartphones by the end of 2020, according to Ericsson, cities who don't embrace mobile technology will be left behind in the dust.