Dec 08 2014

Crowdsourcing and Open Data Power Energy’s Public Safety App

The app provides a foundation for emerging best practices of mobile app development across the federal government.

The Energy Department is tapping the power of crowdsourcing and open data to help citizens during disaster and recovery efforts.

Last month, the department launched a mobile app that enables users to find fuel, report the operational status of gas stations and view power-outage maps from local utility companies. Called Lantern Live, the free app was developed in response to lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy and is available for download via Google Play, according to Energy. The app also offers useful tips and guidelines for people during and after severe-weather events.

Because the code for Lantern Live will be open source, innovators and entrepreneurs can reuse it in their apps and improve upon or adapt it for other sectors. “This app also helps lay the groundwork for emerging best practices of mobile app development across the federal government,” according to the department.

The app is one of several government-backed efforts under way to boost emergency response through web-based tools and mobile apps. (Read more here)

Civic hackers, government agencies and contractors turned entrepreneurs are developing apps that have the potential to save lives and create a better common operational picture of events on the ground.

“Before a hurricane is even on the horizon, these apps can help families develop emergency plans, figure out evacuation routes and receive emergency alerts,” President Barack Obama has said of apps designed by state and local governments. “After a storm, one app provides information about power outages and where gas stations might be open. Others show residents where to find shelter and water.”

With any new developments come the growing pains of improving the current product and meeting user expectations. Shortly after the Energy app was released, one user called Lantern Live a “website inside a poorly made app.” Another user later said the app is responsive and easy to use. Future iterations of the app are expected to enable users to “crowdsource information on the status of gas stations via standardized hashtags for social media,” according to Energy.

Monkey Business Images/thinkstock

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