A new iPhone app wants to harness the collective power of joggers, hikers, and dog-walkers to document the health of creeks. The free and simple app developed by IBM asks users to snap a photo and click buttons to indicate water level, flow rate, and trash.
In many regions, creeks are too numerous to be effectively monitored by local water boards. “There are only so many of us here in watershed protection,” says Carol Boland, a city of San Jose biologist, in a video released by IBM. “And we can only see what we can see between business working hours.” The app enables users to lend a hand by uploading data that IBM aggregates, analyzes, and shares with water control boards.
Citizen science projects like this have a long history–the earliest weather reports relied on amateur meteorologists–but are ever more common in the digital age. Apps like this both help to grow the science, by adding more data, and could presumably ultimately help municipalities save money.
For more information on how citizens, cities, and IBM’s techies could interact to improve the environment, check out the video below.