Crowdsourcing Apps to Improve City Life

Published Oct-06-14

Innovators make ambitious use of data to improve the lives of New Yorkers.

BigApps NYC, United States

The Story:

Crowdsourcing Apps to Improve City Life Data sharing and collaboration enables and accelerates knowledge creation. There is innovation gold hidden away in data that can be rooted out if brilliant minds are allowed to get to work.

BigApps, New York city’s crowdsourcing contest goes from strength to strength, providing other cities with a template of how to garner innovations from the release of data to members of the public. The city challenges the Big Apple’s citizens and other interested parties to use data sets as the basis for concepts that can solve some of its biggest challenges.

Often, big data just sits idly in the inner recesses of a computer, gathering the digital equivalent of dust and barely seeing the light of day. Open innovation releases it into the world where bright minds can wrestle it into a form that can be used to benefit society. Anyone can contribute be they software developers, engineers, bankers, artists, entrepreneurs or students.

Big Apple’s Big Challenges

In 2014, BigApps NYC 2014 took two forms: In “BigIdea Challenges” civic organisations were asked how technology could make New York a better place to learn, work, live and play. Participants then had to build innovative solutions to address these areas. Then there was “Choose Your Own Adventure” in which teams developed concepts for issues that were important to them.

“Technology has the power to transform our world, and with this challenge, we’re empowering the sharpest minds in tech, design and business to help solve some of the city’s toughest civic challenges,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

More than 100 teams seized the initiative and pitched and developed ideas during a series of public events including BigBuild Brooklyn and BigBuild Manhattan. They were provided with access to over 1,000 public data sets.

From this first tranche of participants, 20 finalists were selected to compete for more than $100,000 in prizes. Ultimately, seven winners were chosen based on such criteria as the use of data, technology and design and the potential positive impact of their concepts on New Yorkers.

Big Winners

Among the winning ideas were:

Heat Seek NYC - the $25,000 winner of LIVE and Best Connected Device. The innovation is a suite of open-source hardware and web software along with temperature sensors and an app that will be distributed the city’s most needy tenants. It will help them in disputes with their landlords as well as issues of negligence.

The system will produce automatic temperature readings that tenants, landlords, lawyers and organisations can keep track of. The device will also send out alerts if readings fall below a set level, i.e. if apartments are too cold. Low temperatures are often the reason for many landlord-tenant disputes.

Explore NYC Parks - this was the winner of PLAY and Best Data Tool and a $25,000 prize. The product is a mobile-friendly app that enables users to find out information about parks close to them, such as forthcoming events. It also makes suggestions about possible activities. The app uses NYC park data and Google Maps API.

Kyle Kimball, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said: "As the tech ecosystem continues to grow, it will help increase opportunity and fight inequality—continuing to make the City an ever better place to live, work, learn and play for all New Yorkers".

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