Cottage life? There’s an app for that
From insect repellents to power outages, smartphone users will find thousands of apps to help at the cottage
Photo by Roland Cilliers
Mobile apps like the Health & Safety Watch app can help make cottage life a little more relaxing.
MUSKOKAN - Cellphones have come a long way from the 1990s.
Now a staple of modern life that also fulfills an integral role in business, it’s no surprise that many cottagers see cellphones as a work tool that has no place during a relaxing Muskokan vacation. Some may even be inclined to make their phones off limits when at the cottage, but a new set of smartphone apps are making an argument for staying plugged in throughout the holiday.
One such app, available for free but currently only for Apple products, is the Health & Safety Watch app. Released this month, it features an easy-to-navigate and constantly updated source of information on health concerns, like boil water advisories, local disease outbreaks and product recalls.
Jeff Aramini, president of Health & Safety Watch, said the goal of the app was to make it as easy as possible for people to access crucial safety information.
“It should be as easy to get these health and safety messages as it is to find out the weather,” said Aramini. “As a member of the public, we shouldn’t have to make our way to 13 different websites because one department is responsible for water and another for food — this stuff should be pooled together and made easier.”
The app pulls together advisory data from more than 500 different websites and enables the user to prioritize what types of alerts are important to them. For example, people with peanut allergies would want to prioritize product recall advisories relating to undeclared peanut content, while cottagers may want to know about water and weather advisories in their vicinity.
“Every summer there tends to be some advisories relating to garden markets,” Aramini said. “So for small localized advisories, the app would actually help you find those and it’s as simple as looking at the screen and seeing if anything pops up.”
By making use of the iPhone’s GPS function, the app is able to rank events by location that would be most useful to the user. Through that, it can give potentially lifesaving information about the area they may be cottaging in.
“Those of us who live in urban centres don’t realize that on any given day there’s about a thousand boil water advisories across the country,” said Aramini. “Most of those tend to be in smaller towns and it’s simply the fact that smaller communities can’t afford the multimillion dollar infrastructure for a sophisticated filtration system.”
At present, the Health & Safety Watch app is only available for the iPad, iPhone and iTouch, but versions for other platforms are on their way.
For cottagers with an Android or Blackberry device, there are still plenty of useful apps. For example, Hydro One has released a free app that allows customers to view the current outage map.
Tiziana Baccega Rosa, representative with Hydro One, said there was a very positive response to the release of their online outage map in 2009.
“But that doesn’t help if you’re not running your computer on a battery or if your Internet is connected and it goes down. Customers were requesting the ability to access it on some sort of device and our website is not mobile friendly, so we thought the app would be the best way to deliver the service,” said Rosa.
Updated every 15 minutes, the app also gives customers a convenient way to get the latest news from Hydro One. The news feature gives users tips on things like cottage opening, energy conservation, and summer safety.
Rosa believes the app can be a serious asset for cottage owners.
“It’s great for anyone who has dual properties. For example, if you’re a city customer, not a Hydro One customer, but you have a seasonal property, it gives you the ability to check out your property before you even arrive,” Rosa said.
However, the best way to stay up to date on all of Muskoka’s news, trends and local events is our very own The Muskokan App. Available on all major platforms, the app is the mobile version of the newspaper you’re reading right now. It provides an easy and portable way to read through stories from the print edition immediately after they are uploaded to the Cottage Country Now website.
There are also app versions for all of Metroland North Media’s publications, including the Muskoka Sun.
And there are plenty more where these came from. Search through the iPhone’s App Store, the Android Marketplace or the Blackberry App World to find thousands of cottage useful applications.