Leveraging Snow Plow Data to Clear a City’s Roads

Published Nov-05-18

Leveraging snow plowing data to address snow removal from the City of Syracuse’s public roads.

School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, United States

The Story:

Leveraging Snow Plow Data to Clear a City’s Roads Every winter when the elements dump a lot of snow on towns, cities and roads out come the snow plows and gritting trucks to help people move about. In the United States, the city of Syracuse is one of the snowiest places in the country. Every year it is covered in many feet of snow and approximately 400 miles of roads have to be cleared to allow for safe transportation. In 2018 city authorities started to wonder if there was a more effective way of doing the job and so launched a hackathon in conjunction with AT&T and the School of Information Studies (iSchool) at Syracuse University.

The Ploughing Through the Data Hackathon was designed to engage technologists, designers, developers and anyone else with an interest in using their skills to address snow removal from the city's public roads. Organizers released data from GPS trackers on its snowplows in the hope that participants could extract useful insights and develop interesting solutions. They were encouraged to use the data in any way they thought would best help the city and its residents. All of the data was available on the city’s Open Data website.

Novel Ideas

More than 90 participants took up the call and formed 36 teams.

The overall winner was a project that allows the city to see where roads have been plowed and the amount of time elapsed since they were last plowed. The winning team was awarded a check for $3,500.

In second place was a project to allow people to easily search which streets have been plowed and at what time. The second place prize was a check for $2,000.

The third place award of a check for $1,500 was given to a team for a project that looked into the analytics related to plowing. It focused on how much work the trucks were doing at different periods to create a route optimization algorithm.

"Applying this thinking to snow removal, and seeing the results from this Plowing Through the Data hackathon will help us get better and ultimately deliver better services," said iSchool alumnus and City of Syracuse Chief Data Officer Sam Edelstein.

"All of these projects were impressive and prove that when we release data to the public, people will take it and find creative ways to interpret it to benefit everyone.”

Implementation of Ideas

The winning projects gave city authorities plenty of food for thought and they may be implemented in future projects to improve the efficiency of snow plowing in the locale and to provide residents with easily accessible information.

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