Mobile Apps

Although number of mobile phones, as well as the corresponding network coverage, has globally increased and mobile networks have become faster, relatively few disaster management related applications run on mobile platforms (i.e., mobile phones, PDAs or tablets). There are many navigation software apps for mobile devices, but most cannot export data, and few are available for free. Two rare exceptions that allow the export of collected GPS data are TangoGPS (http://www.tangogps.org/) and FoxtrotGPS (http://www.foxtrotgps.org/). Even rarer is mobile device software with GIS functionality, such as the acquisition of geospatial data, data field updating and/or modification. The usability of mobile platforms in the field is further limited by the often small size of the equipment, with the small displays limiting operational activity of the mobile devices, which might require data post-processing on workstations with Desktop GIS. Amongst the geoinformatic software available for mobile devices the Android platform dominates, relative to the Apple iOS or Mobile Windows family, with gvSIG Mobile and QGIS for Android. In addition there are currently four mobile phone apps with high potential for the use in disaster management:

  • Geopaparazzi:is an Android app designed for rapid engineering geology surveys: it can store georeferenced notes and images, log gps tracks, create a map view for site navigation and export data ,
  • GeoNotes:is an iOS app that works as a notebook tool, automatically associating a data log with its GPS location and showing user-selected “hot spots” and hence complement paper surveys (iTunes online, 2014),
  • Epicollect” EpiCollect.net provides a web and mobile app for the generation of forms (questionnaires) and freely hosted project websites for data collection. Data are collected (including GPS and media) using multiple phones and all data can be viewed centrally (using Google Maps / tables / charts).”
  • Magpi: is freely available software for Android and iOS devices allowing to collect and share data in real time. Compared to the other systems mentioned here Magpi also enables data collection with SMS and voice/IVR. Previously Magpi has been used for surveys of community vulnerability in the water and sanitation sector (http://www.ifrc.org/en/what-we-do/health/ramp/) and
  • iPRISM: is an iOS version of the PRISM technique for assessing perceptions of well-being and recovery from illness: this has potential application in assessing community awareness and resilience, relative to various types of hazard or threat

Free software or software development toolkits for mobile phones.

Organization /Company Website Access and mobile OS
Mobile Data Technologies http://www.doforms.com commercial, standard version Free, online
Open Data Kit http://opendatakit.org open-source, free, online
EpiCollect http://www.epicollect.net/  open-source, free, Android and iOS devices
Magpi http://home.magpi.com/ free and commercial versions for, Android and iOS devices, but also supports data collection via SMS and voice/IVR
http://geopaparazzi.github.io/geopaparazzi/ open-source, free, Android devices
Nokia https://nokiadatagathering.net open-source, free, Windows phones
WHO, eSTEPS http://www.who.int/chp/steps/esteps/en/ open-source, free, Windows Phones
iPRISM http://www.appannie.com/apps/ios/app/iprism/ Commercial, free iOS only

 It should be noted that the authors do not recommend or endorse any specific company or organization. The mobile device apps scene changes rapidly: some projects are no longer available, such as Mobile Active, once “the leading network and resource on the use of mobile technology for social impact” (texttochange.org, 2014). As with PC software projects, a critical mass of users and developers is needed, to assist project continuity. Nevertheless, recently it became easier to develop own apps. There are a number of commercial app-builders in the Internet which offer at least basic functionality for free, such as:

Free

Commercial

These service are commercial but have a basic, free options for getting started and first testing.

 

If you want to get a global overview and information have a look at:

  • Hazard Notifier: “Hazard Notifier is a unique, highly customizable application, specifically developed to deliver information concerning potentially unsafe events in a simple yet straightforward way. With push notifications and distinctive sounds, Hazard Notifier sends the information you want to know directly to your phone, clearly and informatively. All you have to do is open the application and you can immediately watch and track developing hazards on a map in relation to your location. With weather radar and hazard icons, you will be able to see exactly what is going on and where.”
  • iGDACS: “Can we improve post-disaster situation awareness by community involvement? Are standard mobile devices applicable for disaster information gathering? We are exploring current technology and internet trends in order to answer these questions. The developed iPhone App provides users real-time information about disasters (GDACS Alerts) and gives them the possibility to send information in the form of a geo-located image and/or text back. Targeted users include professional emergency responders of tGADSC, as well as general users affected by disasters.”
  • ubAlert: is an app displaying large scale disaster and hazards. Besides the app there is a website with the same information.
  • Disaster AlertDisaster Alert (by Pacific Disaster Center) is a free download providing mobile access to multi-hazard monitoring of and early warning for “Active Hazards” around the globe. Additional information and reports about hazards can be viewed and shared. “Active Hazards” are compiled from verified and authoritative sources, and are part of a collection of recent incidents that have been designated as “potentially hazardous to people, property, or assets” by Pacific Disaster Center via the DisasterAWARE™ application. Hazards include:
    Global events: Hurricane/Tropical Cyclone, Drought, Earthquake, Tsunami, Volcano.
    Major events: Floods, Marine, Storms, Manmade, Wildfires.
    Hawaii Only: National Weather Service High Surf, High Wind, Flood. “

Finally, practical view of mobile apps and its application in a disaster situation:

Vlad S. Cozma, Master Thesis: ” Mapping the Ebola Outbreak in Sierra Leone – An Evaluation of the Mobile Data Collection System Implemented in the Operation”, School of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Portsmouth (UK), pp. 72, 2014.