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EPA to developers: Think environmental, because we want an app for that

Wondering how clean your local lake is before you take a dip this summer? Wondering which beaches boast the healthiest ecosystems as you dig your toes into the sand?
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

Wondering how clean your local lake is before you take a dip this summer? Wondering which beaches boast the healthiest ecosystems as you dig your toes into the sand? Want more information about the air quality than that big "ozone alert" sign that might be flashing on your local highway? There may soon be an app for that, and more.

The U.S. Environmental agency is encouraging software developers to write applications that provide "citizens" with more information about public health and environmental information. In fact, the EPA is sponsoring a competition called "Apps for the Environment"; it is targeting students, colleges and universities, and professional developers with the contest, which runs through Sept. 16, 2011.

The idea is to make more data available about the environment to the average citizen. The applications must use EPA data to be considered, and they must be accessed either via the Web or a mobile device. The focus of the application must related to one of the EPA's seven priorities for the future: Taking Action on Climate Change, Improving Air Quality, Assuring the Safety of Chemicals, Cleaning Up Our Communities, Protection America's Waters, Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism and Working for Environmental Justice, and Building Strong State and Tribal Partnerships.

Some examples of the sorts of thing that the EPA is looking for include the Creek Watch application that was developed by IBM, which allows citizens' to track watershed data, or Radiation Map, which provides real-time data about radiation levels in the United States, Japan and Korea.

As far as what you get if the feds pick you application: You'll get props from the EPA (on their Web site and at an event) and you'll get a chance to present the application to senior EPA officials. Essentially, you'll get some free publicity for your application for a year, but you will retain the intellectual property rights.

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