This is a post from HP’s Innnovation Nation, a blog series highlighting new and innovative solutions in the U.S. Public Sector.

It was written by Joshua Verville, Senior Strategist, Hewlett Packard Company.  Click here to view the original post.

According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project in January 2014:
  • 90% of American adults have a cell phone
  •  58% of American adults have a smartphone
  •  32% of American adults own an e-reader
  •  42% of American adults own a tablet computer
Sixty percent of all cell phone owners use their phone to access the internet. With the continued growth in people using mobile technology, government entities must leverage this channel to engage its citizens and improve services in their communities – but how?

Well, here’s a start:  I discovered four cool mobile apps developed by county governments across the United States while attending the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2014 Annual Conference.  My discoveries came during the App Smackdown contest, which was a competition for county CIOs to submit Apps their county created.  It was amazing to see the different ways counties are using mobility to improve citizen engagement and services to its residents.  Of course there was some smack talk as well, which made the event entertaining as well as informative.  Here are four cool apps that are changing the way counties do business:

Bexar County, TX: Bexar County Augmented Reality App was developed in-house and uses a device’s camera to recognize specific images such as the county seal, the county library logo and the book of the month.  Once the app recognizes the logo or image, it initiates other content such as a video of a commissioner talking about the book of the month.   This app literally brings images to life and provides the user with a new way to engage the community.  Currently the library and schools have been working on some special projects using the app to support literacy. Just for fun, download the App and scan one of the two county logos from the link above – it is pretty cool!

Oakland County, MI: Oakland County Online Payments was designed for touch and mobility. Using a mouse is a totally different experience from a finger. Their challenge was to design a web site and applications that made them “look and feel like an App without being an App.”  Oakland County connected its web site with the county’s Online Payments system based on a mobile ready platform. If a citizen needs to order a Park Pass or pay a bill, they can easily enter data securely from any device they choose.

Maricopa County, AZ: The Clean Air Make More app provides real-time information about air quality in Maricopa County, Arizona along with alerts about High Pollution Advisories, Health Watches and restrictions for activities such as wood burning, leaf blowing and off-highway vehicle use.  It even has a feature for your camera to report violations such as a smoking vehicle.  It was created by the Maricopa County Air Quality Department for the purpose of reducing the number of days this region exceeds the federal health standard for air pollution (funded through fines collected from air quality violations).

Ada County, ID: The Odor Report App (I call it the Smell-O-App) provides a tool to report the presence or absence of landfill odors, rank their intensity, and provide additional information. A symbol is placed on the map at the location of the mobile device or computer reporting the odor. When a report is made, landfill weather station data is also recorded including temperature, wind speed/direction, precipitation, dew point barometric pressure, and relative humidity. Historical intensity ratings can be viewed for the previous 7 days.  Over time, the county will be able to gain insights into the variables that impact odors being emitted from the landfill and help mitigate it effectively.

The winner was Bexar County’s Augmented Reality App. But in my opinion, all these counties have won because they are finding new ways to improve services and engage citizens through mobility.  I’m looking forward to the App Smackdown at next year’s NACo conference in Mecklenburg County, NC to see how mobility is being further leveraged in county government. In the meantime if your county or city has a cool mobile App that is improving services or citizen engagement leave a comment and tell me about it!

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Originally posted at the National Association of Counties.