Free tool will find pools, eats, events using smartphone
Would you like directions to the nearest Spokane Valley pool, or a map showing nearby restaurants? There’s an app for that.
This week the city of Spokane Valley is launching a free smartphone app it created to showcase the city and where to shop, eat, play and stay. It will appear in the Android Play Store first and then be offered in the iPhone app store in a couple of weeks.
People will be able to use the app to find gas stations, ATMs, grocery stores, department stores and restaurants. There’s an event calendar and links to local hotels. “We want people to be able to use it to get where they want to go,” said Spokane Valley Human Resources Manager John Whitehead.
The app is linked to Google Places, so people can see a picture of a local business in addition to getting directions and a phone number.
“Google is doing what we call the heavy lifting on our maps,” Whitehead said. “You really want the information to come quickly and easily.”
Whitehead was put in charge of creating the app last December and worked with city staffers to develop the code.
“It was nice to have the skills in house,” he said. “It saved us quite a bit of money.” The goal was to keep it simple while providing useful information, he said.
“We also wanted it to be fun for people,” he said. “It has a lot of plain speak in it.”
The city created its own app because doing it without using a consultant makes it easier to update, he said. “We would always be going back to the consultant to make changes,” he said.
While the app was created as an economic development tool, it can be useful for residents as well, Whitehead said. The key features of the app, including finding local restaurants and gas stations, will work anywhere. It is based on the user’s GPS coordinates and if Google has a map of the area it will work, he said.
Now that the app is ready to go live, Whitehead will focus on how to get it in the hands of tourists who come through town. He said he plans to work with local businesses, the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visit Spokane to help spread the word.
“We know that might be more difficult than building the app itself,” he said. “Just having it sit there is not going to attract the numbers of people we would like to use it.”
The app should go live in the Android Play Store by the end of the week, Whitehead said. “I’m excited,” he said. “I really hope the public loves it.”