Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Kiwi-made apps to transform your life

Want to help save the world, give to charity, boost your health or just find a mate? Science and technology reporter Jamie Morton looks at 10 clever, Kiwi-made apps to improve your life.
10 clever, Kiwi-made apps can improve your life. Photo / AP
10 clever, Kiwi-made apps can improve your life. Photo / AP

1. Rediscover New Zealand

It's New Zealand, but probably as you've never seen it before.

A Kiwi tourism company has developed an app that unlocks historic insights into hundreds of spots around the country, through colourful two-minute video segments.

Tuhura's Discover NZ Tourism matches different places with geo-located quick clips and animations, many featuring archive footage giving a glimpse into local heritage.

Visit Kaikohe and you can watch a video of Queen Elizabeth's 1954 visit there; stop by Ohinemutu in Rotorua and see a clip of Sir Howard Morrison being knighted there in 1990.

The app has had more than 5000 downloads so far and is about to expand through new partnerships with Whakarewarewa village in Rotorua, the Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo and the New Zealand History Federation, bringing together 180 museums.

The free app, available in English and basic Chinese, also points visitors to local tours and attractions.

2. A smart way to support charity

Each year, more than $400 million in tax credits for donations goes unclaimed.

A new app has found a way to claim those credits from the Inland Revenue Department and give them to charities that desperately need the funds.

The EasyGiving app, launched by Christchurch-based tax refund company WooHoo, allows people to claim a 33 per cent rebate from the IRD for all donations over $5.

It gives those wanting to give to charity a single app for all their donations, a record of their giving history and a quick way to claim tax credits without needing paper forms or receipts.

WooHoo charges 5 per cent of every donation to cover costs and credit card companies will charge a further 2 per cent, leaving 93 per cent of each donation for charities.

3. Slash your risk of stroke

The award-winning Stroke Riskometer app is something close to the heart of its developer, Dr Valery Feigin.

The Auckland University of Technology researcher made it his mission to learn more about stroke and how to prevent it after his father's death.

The app evaluates a series of risk factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and health that influence your likelihood of a stroke, using an algorithm developed from the world-renowned Framingham Heart Study.

It also takes into account diet, physical inactivity, alcohol, stress and family history of stroke or heart attack, and allows users to assess their risk as many times as required and to save and monitor a progress in stroke-risk reduction up to four times a year.

Voted the number one app in medical conditions among more than 100,000 health-related apps worldwide, the app won Feigin the World Stroke Organisation President's Award and the MacDiarmid Medal of the Royal Society of New Zealand for contributions to stroke research.

Parents and kids spend quality time together.
Parents and kids spend quality time together.

4. Spend more quality time with your kids

An app that began as a useful helper for parents struggling after the Christchurch earthquake has become a hit with mums and dads elsewhere in the country.

Called Tiny Adventures, and developed between Skip (Strategies with Kids, Information for Parents) and Canterbury's All Right? campaign, the app includes a large range of cheap and fun ways for parents and kids to spend quality time together.

The two groups had created oversized playing cards that offered ideas, games and activities for parents and kids, but had such high demand they expanded Tiny Adventures into a free app.

Depending on how much time they have, users can select from activities that take from as little as one minute, to five, 15 or 60 minutes, ranging from making sock puppets or egg carton caterpillars, and playing copycat and dress-up.

5 Car-pool with your smartphone

For around the price of a bus fare, you can grab a ride from someone else heading in the same direction. That's the idea behind the app recently launched by Wellington-based Chariot.

Passengers browse listings or create ride requests and, once a ride is confirmed, the passenger and driver establish a price up front.

Users who drive passengers can rent up to three seats in their car and share the cost of travel. Passengers can catch regular or one-off short trips and long-haul rides with others.

The price is automatically calculated before a ride is accepted or offered, so users know the fare before setting off.

The start-up's main focus is on targeting commuters in Wellington and Auckland, and there are plans to roll the app out across the rest of the country.

The DrinkSmart app lets users click on icons to record details of the type, size, quantity and cost of drinks.
The DrinkSmart app lets users click on icons to record details of the type, size, quantity and cost of drinks.

6. Watch what you drink

Tackling rates of alcohol-related harm is the aim of an online and mobile app that helps young people control their drinking.

The DrinkSmart app, developed by Kiwi start-up Social Code (now Melon Health), with support from ACC, lets users click on icons to record details of the type, size, quantity and cost of drinks.

A personalised "drink diary" shows how many drinks the user has had, together with the cost and calories.

People can take on an initial seven-day challenge, then receive a report of results, at which point they set their own goals and challenges. A built-in automated "drink buddy" offers users encouragement to stick to their goals and reminds them to track drinks.

It sends motivating messages such as: "You had a drink-free day yesterday, cool. That's awesome." If users record a high number of drinks within a short period, the drink buddy will send messages such as: "You're over the limit, make sure you don't drive, how about having some water."

DrinkSmart can be downloaded for free from iTunes, and an online version is available at: drinksmart.co.nz

7. Find mates like you'd find a date

Tinder has changed the world of dating - and now an app created by young Kiwis Tyson Bennett and Chris Paulin is using a similar concept to help people find new mates.

The Primate app works by searching for people in your area who are looking for friendship.

Just like Tinder, you swipe right if you are interested in friendship, or swipe left if you aren't.

When two users swipe right on each other, both get notified and can start chatting in a private chat window.

"Our users have a range of interests - our top-five-most-common are: movies, music, travel, food and photography," Paulin says. Some of the more unusual ones included "ghost hunting" and "buying stuff on Trade Me in the middle of the night".

The free app, launched earlier this year, is available globally but most of its 1500 current users are based in New Zealand.

8 Measure the carbon footprint of your power usage

Ever wondered what impact your electricity use is having on climate change?

The Choice! app designed by New Zealand power company Flick Electric - but available to customers of all companies - gives Kiwis information about the carbon impact of their usage in real time.

Through the use of live generation and price data, and alerts, the app encourages people to use electricity when there is less carbon impact, and to cut back on use when non-renewables are high.

"The app also shows if electricity is scarce or abundant and how that impacts on the price at different times of day," Flick chief executive Steve O'Connor says.

Because New Zealand's renewable energy generation is at a rate of around 80 per cent, O'Connor says, some people think we can use as much as we like.

But the power we use from non-renewable sources had a "huge carbon impact."

"It's confronting when you get an alert that tells you there are more than 500 tonnes per hour of CO2 equivalent being emitted from our electricity production," says O'Connor.

App users will be able to find businesses his group has accredited and learn about positive steps those companies are taking.
App users will be able to find businesses his group has accredited and learn about positive steps those companies are taking.

9. Shop ethically

A Kiwi social enterprise that singles out businesses for sustainable practices is soon to launch an app that will send ethical shoppers their way.

Following a successful PledgeMe campaign, Wellington-based Conscious Consumers has been developing its Good Spend Counter app that will track the spending of users and reward sustainable businesses with their custom.

"We want to make it easy and rewarding for consumers to find businesses that share their values - for example taking action on climate change, paying their workers a living wage or providing vegan or vegetarian options," Conscious Consumers chief executive Ben Gleisner says.

App users will be able to find businesses his group has accredited and learn about positive steps those companies are taking, such as buying large amounts of fair trade produce each year.

They can also register what they care about on their profiles, which can be viewed by stores they shop at, and receive rewards and deals for shopping at the accredited businesses.

The concept has also grabbed the attention of overseas charities, which are keen to see it launched in other countries.

10. Connect your family

Is there a better platform than Facebook for families? A group of Wanaka-based developers have just created it.

Called kin2kin, and already drawing users from more than 50 countries, the free app is designed with modern families in mind. One household can establish a group and add members such as grand-parents, aunts, uncles and cousins to the app, where they can see and comment on the private photos posted by the house­hold.

"The inspiration was actually watching my father trying to have a relationship with my kids," says founder Hamish McGregor.

He noticed his dad was stuck between different technology - email and phone calls - and trying to maintain a relationship with the kids.

"So I thought: imagine if I could share a photo in a private space, and dad could love or comment on that photo, and that would go to the kids and not me," he says.

"Because all other social media - whether it's LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, is really prioritised around the author, whereas in a family, I'm just looking to build stronger relationships between other people, not just myself."

McGregor says the app has met strong interest from groups including Alzheimer's New Zealand, the Parenting Place and SeniorNet, a community tech training network for people over 50.

- Herald on Sunday

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