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Each year new apps are created to improve people's lives and make everyday tasks easier. Smartphones and other technology put this new information at your fingertips. Apps can be used for educational, entertainment, and personal uses. Terry Barr, a Master's of City and Regional Planning Student at Ohio State University and I have been collecting and evaluating mobile apps looking to share what we see as most useful.
Every year, I survey a cross-section of planners to develop a comprehensive list of some of the most unique, useful, and ubiquitous mobile apps for planners. In December 2016, we have surveyed planners about their professional use of mobile apps, what would they like to see in the future, and what apps either they themselves or their office is developing.
We heard from many planners from across the United States and a few abroad as well. Of the respondents, 99% own either a smartphone or a tablet. Planners who responded were asked about various types of apps they use and the frequency of their use. Around 90% of all planners surveyed stated that they active utilize their mobile device for work purposes, while 44% indicated their employer provides a mobile device. They use a mix of devices operating on the iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry operating systems. Planners are using between one and four mobile devices with the median being two devices.
As with previous years, the most commonly used apps by planners in their daily lives are social media apps, such as Twitter and Facebook. Note taking apps are also popular for daily use; and apps like Photoshop, PowerPoint, and Prezi are more frequently used on a monthly basis.
Popular this year are Trello, TripIt, One Note, and Evernote. Mentioned in this year as well as in previous years, planners are using apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Google Maps, LinkedIn, and GoToMeeting. Here are a few apps that planners told us about, as well as some I discovered, that are particularly helpful in supporting the work of planners.
In the survey, planners were asked whether or not their organization has created an app or discussed creating an app. Six percent responded that their organization has created an app or is in the process of creating an app, which is a 6 percent increase from last year. And 69 percent responded that their organization is discussing creating an app in the future, the same as last year. One I really liked is Traffic Agent, being used in Oslo, Norway. This app gathers feedback on pedestrian safety from school children. Children send reports on safety hazards they may encounter while walking to school. The app is distributed by the school to the children, and the school receives the data.
Beyond those being used by survey respondents, here are some recent apps that I found particularly useful.
And because city planners like to have fun too, here are a couple games that planners may find amusing. Mini Metro is a subway simulator that allows players to to reroute tracks to address demand at an ever-increasing number of stations (Android and iOS). And, of course, there is Pokémon Go, which allows users to explore cities and places while collecting Pokémon (Android and iOS).
All in all it has been a great year for planning and apps that support our communities. May the new year bring even more wonderful advancements in mobile technology to support our cities. I encourage you to share your favorite apps in the comments below and to complete the survey on your use of mobile apps. You can also see the previous years best apps 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.