Nov. 5, 2010 -- If a fear of bed bugs is keeping you housebound, an iPhone app developer has the solution for you.
On your way to a movie but worried that you might end up itchy? About to book a hotel room but afraid you'll come home with a suitcase full of the persistent pests?
For $1.99, you can download the application and search any location in the country to see if anyone has reported an infestation or search the directory to find outbreaks near any place you plan to go.
Search New York City, for example, and you'll start scratching at just the sight of all the reported outbreaks that appear on the map.
App List Top 10 U.S. Cities for Bed Bugs
Adam Kotkin, CEO of Apps Genius Corporation, the company behind the app, said he lives in New York and launched the application after hearing of all the bed bug-infested movie theatres, hotels and point of interest around the city.
In the past few months, the prestigious Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the iconic Bloomingdales and multiple movie theaters and retail stores have been accused of bed bug blitzes.
"We're in a pandemic right now. I think we're beyond epidemic at this point," he quipped. "And I was freaked out, for lack of a better word, going to movies, going to public places where you sit in other people's seats, taking public transportation."
When he realized that there wasn't one central database of bed bug outbreaks mentioned in news stories, reported to the health department or listed elsewhere, he decided to create one.
"I thought there was no common place for someone on the go to know what's been reported around them and, unfortunately, when you look at Manhattan, they're almost everywhere," he said.
He said his staff culls infestation reports from a variety of sources around the country and combines them with user-submitted reports to provide users with a geo-tagged database of bed bug outbreaks. s
Users can look at the top 10 cities with bed bug problems or search for reports in any part of the country. Kotkin said his staff tries to verify the legitimacy of user-based reports and removes reports if they are inaccurate.
In the past week, the application has been downloaded a few thousand times, and Kotkin said that even he has been surprised by the thousands of reports from bed bug victims.
"People don't realize how bad it is," he said. "I think it's making users more aware."
"Bed Bug Alert" is just the latest iPhone and iPod Touch application to hit Apple's App store.
Take a look at a few others below:
'Bump' Your Phones and Split a Check?
It's the one major drawback of a group dinner out: The check arrives, and everyone struggles to pay in a chaotic clash of cards, cash and IOUs.
But a new version of an iPhone app from PayPal attempts to take the pain out of splitting the bill.
PayPal, an eBay company based in San Jose, Calif., lets registered users send money securely over the Internet.
Founded in 1998 (and acquired by eBay in 2002), it has more than 78 million active accounts in 19 currencies.
Apple iPhone Apps
Its new app relies on technology from Bump Technologies, which created a way to share contact information by touching two phones together. The app uses the phone's sensors to "feel" the bump, the company said. The information swap is secure and happens instantaneously.
PayPal's new application can be downloaded for free from Apple's App Store. Once someone logs in with her credentials and identifies the recipient (via e-mail address), she can just bump her phone with a friend's to transfer money for concert tickets, a group dinner, a birthday present and more.
The "Split Check" feature factors in tip and tax, and then helps users divide and pay each other for the cost of a meal for up to 20 people.
"Today, you leave the house with three critical things: your phone, your wallet and your keys," Osama Bedier, PayPal's vice president of platform and emerging technology, said in a statement. "PayPal Send Money lets consumers access their wallets through their phones. Because with PayPal, the wallet lives in the cloud – the mobile phone is just one device customers can use to access it."
Virgin Atlantic App Helps Fight Fear of Flying
If a fear of flying keeps you grounded, Virgin Atlantic has a new iPhone application just for you.
Launched in partnership with developer Mental Workout, the application is based on (and named after) the airline's "Flying Without Fear" course, which the company says has a 98 percent success rate.
The application, available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, includes relaxation and fear therapy exercises, frequently asked questions and a video that explains a flight from start to finish.
It even features a "fear attack button" for emergencies, with breathing exercises and quick tips.
"Our first iPhone app will bring the benefits of our successful Flying Without Fear course to millions of people around the world who are now using mobile technology to make their lives better," Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic's president, said in a statement. "The app will put many travelers at ease and enable them to prepare for their first Virgin Atlantic flight."
At $4.99, the it's on the pricier side for iPhone applications. But as proof that the app is based on a sound program, Virgin Atlantic said its Flying Without Fear course recently helped Whoopi Goldberg overcome her fear of flying.
"The program works, I was a skeptic. I hadn't flown in 13 years but afterdoing their program, I understood that while my fear was real, there were many things I didn't know or had misinformation about, which they were able to clear up," the actress said in a statement. "So what happened? I now fly. It's that simple."
Application Remotely Unlocks, Starts Cars
Viper SmartStart promises to remotely unlock, start and warm your car from almost anywhere in the world.
Launched by Directed Electronics, a vehicle security and remote start systems designer, the app can be downloaded for free from Apple's App store.
Although remote starting systems for cars usually have a limited line-of-sight range, Viper says its system has "virtually unlimited range" since your iPhone, not the original remote, communicates over cell networks with your car.
"We think customers will find all sorts of unique and personal value in Viper SmartStart," Mike Simmons, EVP of Directed Electronics' parent company, DEI Holdings, said in a statement. "Whether helping out her husband, who's locked his keys in the car, or securely locking her keys and purse in the car while she takes a jog with some music on her iPhone, we expect to hear about some uses we never anticipated."
Once the Viper SmartStart hardware is professionally installed in the car, the iPhone can also be used to defrost windows, cool down the vehicle in warmer weather, unlock the trunk or activate a panic alarm.
But though the app is free, the hardware that will actually make it work with your car is quite pricey.
The system will only work if paired with one of two Viper SmartStart systems that go for $499 (for those who don't already have a remote start system) and $299 (for those who do have remote start). The first year of service is free but, subsequently, service is $29.99 a year.
App Turns iPhone Into 'Sleaze Detector'
Sleaze ball or sweetheart? An iPhone app claims it can help singles tell the difference.
Launched by information commerce firm Intelius, Date Check lets users perform instant background checks on potential dates from their mobile phones.
Once it's downloaded on an iPhone, the application only needs a name or cell phone number to search publicly available records.
If you activate the app's Sleaze Detector, it scans criminal records to determine if anyone with that name has been charged with drug possession, assault and battery, sex crimes, DUI and other offenses.
If you click Net Worth, it looks for information about home ownership and property value.
It can also check social networking sites, such as LinkedIn to provide employment and education information.
"Date Check is like having a private investigator in your purse," John Arnold, co-founder of Intelius and executive vice president of business development, said in a statement. "Letting a stranger into your life is a huge risk, and in the age of Internet anonymity, a simple online search isn't enough to tell you everything you need to know. "
This application, the company said, "gives singles a safer way to mingle."
But though the app itself is free, the services can cost up to $40, depending on the kind of searches that are selected.
Date Check is available for download in Apple's App store and will be available soon in Android and BlackBerry versions.
RunPee Helps Moviegoers With Bathroom Breaks
Soda. Coffee. Water. Next time to you go to the movies, chug 'em all down.
As long as you have this iPhone app by your side, you'll know when you can escape to the bathroom without missing the best parts.
RunPee (yes, really) promises to be the small-bladdered moviegoer's best friend.
The application features all the movies currently playing in theaters and tells users approximately how far into the movie each "pee time" begins, the cue line to listen for and even what they've missed. (When you're on your way back to your seat, you can hit a button to unscramble text that provides a short synopsis.)
"The idea came from watching King Kong the re-make in 2005," said Dan Florio, RunPee's creator, referring to Peter Jackson's marathon three-hour blockbuster. Throughout much of the movie, he said, he was desperate to relieve himself.
"I kept thinking, I wish they would just kill this ape so that I could get to the men's room," he said.
Like a good fan, he waited until the end, but not without noting a good three-minute sequence he could have done without.
"I just could have gone to the men's room during the scene and I could have enjoyed the end of the movie and the movie would have been better," the Orlando, Fla. developer said.
When he walked out of the theater and saw the lines of people waiting to get into the theater, he wanted to share his secret. But being a bit bashful, he kept it to himself.
The idea stayed in remission until August 2008, when he launched RunPee.com.
He said he's watched about 80 percent of the movies to scout out the best "pee times," but added his family has helped. And anyone who's interested can submit ideas to the site.
In 2009, he partnered with brothers John and Sam Shahidi, and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jordan Palmer, to work on the iPhone app. Download figures aren't available yet, but Florio said traffic to the site has jumped from about 30 unique visitors a day last year to about 3,500 visitors a day.