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Each year I provide an update on mobile applications (i.e., software designed to run on smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices). Mobile applications (apps) can enhance public participation in local governance and planning as well as improve efficiency and data collection for planners.
Every year, I survey a cross-section of planners to develop a comprehensive list of the most effective mobile apps for planners. During December of 2014, I surveyed planners about their professional use of mobile apps, asking what types of mobile apps they are currently using, what apps they would like to see developed in the future, and what apps they themselves are developing.
We heard from 178 planners from across the United States. Of the planners surveyed, 96 percent own a smartphone and 1 percent plan to purchase one in the future. Planners who responded that they own a smartphone were asked about various types of apps that they might use and the frequency of their use. Results are shown in the chart below.
What types of apps do you use on a regular basis and how often do you use them?
From the survey we found similar results as to usage of apps as compared to last year. The most commonly used apps by planners in their daily lives are social media apps, like Twitter and Facebook. Note taking apps are also popular for daily use; and apps like Photoshop, PowerPoint, and Prezi, used for productivity and for presentations, are more frequently used on a monthly basis.
In the survey we also sought to understand how planners are using smartphones and mobile apps at work. Ninety-two percent of those surveyed use their smartphone for work purposes, a 10 percent increase over the previous year’s survey.
One of the primary goals of our survey was to identify apps that planners are currently using or developing to support their work. Planners mentioned common apps such as Todoist, Constant Contact, Mediafire, GoogleMaps, Dropbox, ArcGIS, GoToMeeting, and SlideShark, among others. Planners report regularly using Trulia and Zillow, which are helpful in finding information about properties. Here are a few apps planners told us about that I found to be particularly interesting.
In the survey, planners were asked whether or not their organization has created an app or discussed creating an app. Seventeen percent responded that their organization has created an app or is int he process of creating an app. And 29 percent responded that their organization is discussing creating an app in the future. Below are five of the apps created by agencies employing planners:
Seattle In Progress allows people to easily see development projects
Planners would like to have more augmented reality and mapping apps that allow for easier visualization. There are a handful of augmented reality apps that are worth exploring including:
Theodolite allows users to understand the topography of a location using augmented reality
And of course there are many apps out there that are related to planning. These are some of the apps that I found to be interesting for planners:
There are certainly a lot more apps that are useful to planners. You can learn about other apps for planners by reviewing last year’s app update on Planetizen. If you have apps that should be added to our growing list for 2015, please let me know. I also regularly tweet about new apps when I come across them: @EvansCowley.
Jennifer Evans-Cowley, PhD, AICP, is the Vice Provost for Capital Planning and Regional Campuses and a Professor of City and Regional Planning at The Ohio State University.