Mobile apps burst onto the scene a few years ago, never to go back. Some apps have become quite well know for their entertainment value (think Angry Birds). Other apps are developed for productivity and business. If you can think of it, there probably is an app for it (or one is coming soon).

Over the past year, the United States Department of Labor has jumped into the app market with both feet. First, this past May, the Department made available an app for use on mobile devices that allows workers to independently track the hours they work to assist them in determining the wages that they should be paid. Next, in July, the Department announced two contests (contests!) with $70,000 in prize money for software applications that use data collected by the Department in innovative ways. One contest calls for use of Department data “to assist individuals in planning their education, considering a career change, moving to a new geographical area or negotiating pay and benefits” and the second is to develop an app using Department data to “empower workers and consumers to make educated choices regarding the hotel, motel, restaurant and retail industries.” The Department is also making its data publicly available in a computer accessible format.

Most recently, on August 11, 2011, the Department announced the release of another app that allows workers and their supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites to prevent heat-related illnesses. The app is currently available for Android devices only.

In short, the Department appears to have embraced the digital era and has begun rolling out apps for mobile devices. If the Department continues this trend, it may soon offer a suite of apps designed to assist workers. Indeed, the Department already has created its own website dedicated to its mobile applications, at Mobile Applications.