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10/5/2011
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Air Quality App Leads EPA Challenge

Apps for the Environment rewards innovative ways to use EPA data; voting closes Friday.

14 Most Popular Government Mobile Apps
Slideshow: 14 Most Popular Government Mobile Apps
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
An application that allows people to compare air quality index, air pollutant levels, and energy consumption for various cities in the United States has received the most votes to date in a challenge by the Environmental Protection Agency to build applications out of available agency data.

CGSearch is a mobile app that allows people to compare these factors in U.S. cities with Atlanta, providing them with graphical data for cities they may want to travel to or move to, according to the website for the Apps for the Environment challenge.

The app uses data from sensors the government has placed in various cities that records this type of data, building models that would help generate/predict data for the future, according to the site.

With 414 votes as of Wednesday, CGSearch has a comfortable lead in the competition, which is hosted on the federal Challenge.gov site and asks developers to find new ways to deliver open data from the EPA in new apps.

[Transparency has been a key part of government strategy over the past three years. What's next? See Obama Details Open Government's Next Phase.]

Part of the Obama administration's open government strategy has been to release reams of government data online, making it available for user engagement and reuse, and new applications are one way developers have been taking advantage of it.

The feds launched Challenge.gov in September 2010 as part of the administration's open government plans, and to spur the public to help promote government initiatives, answer questions, and solve problems the government poses. People can win cash prizes by winning challenges on the site.

Another application that's popular with voters in the EPA challenge, currently holding second place, is the JouleBug mobile game that rewards players for reducing their energy waste.

The app--which has received 165 votes so far--uses multiple EPA data sources to help people better conserve energy by identifying places they might be wasting it. The game gives players tips to save energy and by employing them, they earn points and badges. Players also can engage with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

In third place in the voting, with 156 votes, is an app that allows people to monitor the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Aptly named Monitor the Bay, the app is a Web-based system accessible on Internet Explorer that allows people to zoom in and out to virtually navigate the bay. They can click on certain locations to find out the turbidity level and chlorophyll concentration of that region, according to the website.

There are 38 submissions in the EPA challenge, which will award three prizes. People have until Friday to vote.

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