By next January, visitors to the National Mall may be able to download an iPhone app to help them navigate the monuments, learn more about historic places and upload their own content to social networks.
The National Park Serviceis asking developers to submit their proposals for an application that can be used on iPhones, Androids and similar smart phones with the goal of having one available for users by January 2010.
What would the app deliver? The NPS wants to give users a "virtual environment for navigating the Mall and surrounding environs," with maps to get from one landmark to another, no matter how obscure they may be. It also wants the app to provide access to NPS photos, videos, podcasts and more.
But wait, there's more. The NPS also wants the following, according to the guidelines provided for potential developers:
Compass mode: As the user turns while holding the smart phone, the map display automatically orients itself in the same direction. Optional audio description would inform visually impaired visitors about the direction that they are facing, what park sites are ahead, and distances.
Tilt sensitivity: Holding the device parallel to the ground shows a plan map viewed from directly above. Tilting the device toward a vertical orientation gradually transforms the map to a perspective view with 3-D buildings. Holding the device completely vertical reveals a ground-level view with building profiles.
Proximity alerts: Vibration, sounds or text messages (SMS or MMS) from the device triggered by GPS location or Bluetooth sensors would inform visitors about nearby points of interest and navigation impediments for the visually-impaired.
Social networking: Links to popular sites that allow users to share photos, comments and location information.
And there was one other nugget of information gathered from the specs: free wi-fi on the Mall.
And we quote the proposal: "... the NPS anticipates the availability of free Wi-Fi coverage - the preferred means of connectivity - for the entire National Mall and data hosting services provided by a private NPS partner. Details about this service will be available to the contractor awarded the contract at a later date."
When contacted Friday, the Park Service said it isn't putting wi-fi on the Mall anytime soon but that the Smithsonian was investigating the possibility.