Open Data Innovation to Monitor the Health of Trees

Published Jan-14-19

The development of a new app that catalogs a city’s trees allowing citizens to keep an eye on their health.

The City of Waterloo, Canada

The Story:

Open Data Innovation to Monitor the Health of Trees A civic hackathon is an open innovation concept that has been gaining a lot of traction in recent years. Cities all over the world are sharing data so that developers and other interested parties can develop apps and provide services that citizens may find useful. By liberating data city authorities are creating new opportunities for creativity and innovation to flourish.

Among the other benefits of civic hackathons are:

• They can act as a showcase for talent.
• They bring together people who want to make a positive impact in their
• They help citizens to learn about local concerns and give them a platform to do
something about them.

Waterloo’s First Hackathon

In 2015 the City of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada hosted its first ever hackathon, the Waterloo Codefest. They decided to host it because they had been releasing a lot of data in previous years and wanted to encourage the development of apps.
The open innovation event attracted more than 100 coders and hackers and ran for 36 straight hours although there were breaks for meals, snacks and socializing.

Participants brainstormed ideas and used city data to create apps that could do everything from describing local attractions to tracking city gentrification.

The hackathon followed a short consultation period that took place a few months previously in which the community was asked to share their ideas about which data sets should be used.

Therefore, in addition to existing sets, participants were also able to access new data sets such as parks information, details about places of worship, bike lanes, roads, heritage buildings and more.

Rooting for the Winning Team

The contest was won by a team that comprised of three students who used publicly available data to create an app that maps every single one of the 30,000 or so trees owned by the city. The Timber app allows people to monitor the health of trees and report any that may be damaged or in distress. The app also informs citizens about the types of trees planted in the city and the difference between those that are privately owned and those that are city owned.

In an interview with local news program The Morning Edition Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky said: "This was an elegant, simple solution," said Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky in an interview on The Morning Edition. "Taking the city data, latitude and longitude, and mapping it on Google Maps—I think that one can come to reality."

The winning team received a check for $1,500 and kept the intellectual properties rights to the app.

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