A new smartphone app provides beach advisories and other environmental information in real time.
The myBeachCast app provides hourly updates from beach databases in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, said Christine Manninen, communications and web programming director at the Great Lakes Commission, the Ann Arbor-based agency that developed the widget.
Illinois will join soon.
The other four Great Lakes states will be added before next May when the second version of the app will be launched, she said.
The app also provides weather conditions and a five-day forecast and wave height from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The GPS enabled app shows information about the beaches within a 20 to 50 mile radius from where you are and tells you how to drive to them.
The app is available to Android users. An iPhone version is in the works, said Manninen.
A mobile friendly website will be launched within the next few weeks. Users who cannot access the information through the application can obtain the same information online instead, she said.
“Beach managers are very excited since this is a great way to get information out to people”, she said. “[It is a way of] protecting human health”
The advantage is that it puts information at people’s fingertips, said Corey Schwab, a registered sanitarian for the Ohio Health Department.
“It is a very great way to utilize technology coupled with old time enjoyment [in an effort] to be safe”, said Tess Pollock, public information officer at the Ohio Department of Health.
Another app, the Swim Guide, launched by the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, has some similar features although it focuses on historic advisories of a beach.
The myBeachCast provides hourly updates, Manninen said.
The developers have no immediate plans to extend the app to include Canadian beaches. The funding for its development came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. But they’re open to such an expansion.
“We would love to if we get additional funding”, Manninen said.