Like many, thanks to the pandemic, Waterfront resident (and Salem native) Tim Barr suddenly found his job status changed to: remote working. As a result of this unexpected life twist, he and his wife decided to make Smith Mountain Lake their permanent home, moving down from their pre-COVID residence in Northern Virginia.
I'm sure you can relate to having a bit of extra time (and brain space) on your hands when that first wave of lockdown hit. Some of us dove headlong into the world of sourdough bread baking. But Tim dove headlong into the world of learning how to build an app.
Following a series of water-level-related catastrophes (remember the flood of 2020?), new full-timer Tim noted that there seemed to be a need for two things:
1. Gathering general lake vitals into one easy-to-understand format.
2. Getting the word of any emergency alerts out to people who live here quickly and easily.
His job is in Artificial Intelligence with a background in data science. So though this new venture included plenty of data-gathering, the web developer side of things was definitely a foreign language. But let's circle back to the ‘extra time on our hands' quotient. Time and determination are powerful tools, and Tim got right to work leveraging them both.
Collecting lake data such as water levels and temperature from various sources that are updated every 15 minutes, the app, named Smith Mountain Lake Plus, gives you the latest readings from around the area. Wind forecasts are part of the app, which can greatly affect your boating experience and the safety level of various water sports. Finally, the beloved Ice Cream Boat also agreed to have their GPS tracking system fed into the app for up-to-the-minute cold treat locating (in season, of course).
Perhaps most importantly, there is an option to enable push notification to your phone. When you activate this option, you will receive any emergency reports or warnings that are broadcast through AEP right to your phone. Tim's hope is that helping to raise the percentage of lakefront residents who are abreast of developing emergency situations will allow more people to secure their watercraft and prepare for unusually high lake levels in the future, should they arise (pun intended).
The Smith Mountain Lake+ App was initially launched in the Summer of 2020 to Apple users but has since undergone several updates and just a few weeks ago became available for those with Android phones! To download the free app, follow the links below based on your operating system.
Thank you so much, Tim, for this valuable tool that you have brought to life for the community and for sharing your COVID story!
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