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Amusing and innovative iPhone apps

So sometimes I browse the app store just to see if I stumble over anything interesting or useful. Today I spotted an item in the "Staff Favorites" section categorized as "Lifestyle" and named "What's Invasive?" Hmm, I thought. Maybe something trying to raise people's consciousness about inappropriate requests for personal information? Warnings about the automatic collection of on-line data?

Nope, it's something far more interesting in terms of how smart-phone applications could be used. To quote the blurb:

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area needs your help to stop the invasion of non-native plants!

Do you visit the Santa Monica mountains to hike or walk or just sometimes enjoy getting out of the city? Do you want to help the Park Service maintain the natural beauty and habitat of native plants and animals?

You CAN help, by downloading the What's Invasive app and using your iPhone to take pictures of the top six most invasive plants in the area while you are in the park. Those photos are geo-tagged and time-stamped, and that information is then sent to the National Park Service so they can locate and destroy these harmful invasives before they get out of control."

Now that's thinking outside the box! (The programmer has a sense of humor as well -- the graphics crib from classic horror film imagery.) The credits note "This project is in collaboration with the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at UCLA ..." so I'm guessing that it may be someone's student project. If so, I hope they got a good grade for innovative thinking. The weakest point in the strategy seems to be the necessarily highly-targetted market (people carrying iPhones while hiking in this specific park). On the other hand, given that the app is free (duh!) and that apps can be downloaded directly off the net, then simply promoting it at entrances and other key points of the specific park might be successful enough for the purpose.

It's definitely a nice break from browsing through endless app-clones.