Open Innovation Drives Novel Ideas to Solve Congestion in Vancouver
An app for safe walking routes to school.
Team Safeway, Canada
Vancouver, Canada has its fair share of traffic collisions and fatalities, like any major city in the world. They are the second-highest cause of serious injuries arriving at the coastal seaport's hospitals. In an effort to provide residents and visitors with a safer environment on the road, the city's council engaged with open innovation and launched the VANquish Collisions Hackathon, in 2018.
During the three-day event, 120 participants worked on ideas that potentially could help the city achieve its goal of zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. Vancouver has adopted an action plan called Moving Towards Zero Strategy by which it hopes to accomplish this.
A hackathon is an excellent way of generating breakthrough ideas by getting inventive and creative minds to focus on solutions following a fixed briefing. "It is a way to get the community together from different perspectives and to collaboratively solve a problem to get different ideas and to actually spark innovation," said Dr. Tyrone Grandison, Executive Director, The Data Driven Institute, and a keynote speaker at the hackathon event.
Diversity as Strength
As ever-increasing numbers of organizations are discovering diverse brainpower is a strength that can increase innovative power. Alternative perspectives can result in more and better solutions.
"We want you to come up with new ideas, things we haven't thought of," said Councilor Heather Deal in an address to participants. "Great ideas that we can implement here at the city."
During the open innovation event, graphic designers, web app developers, data scientists and others worked on solutions for seniors, pedestrians and cyclists, children and access to community amenities.
At the end of the hackathon, three winners were selected. They were:
Team Safeway picked up the first prize check for $5,000 for an application to help pedestrians find safe walking routes as an alternative to those suggested by Google Maps, which are typically based on the shortest distance. The app chooses the safest routes based on set criteria such as traffic volumes, collision history and lighting conditions.
In second place was Team City Flux. They picked up a check for $2,000 for a simulated engine that aggregates real-time data from the city and then creates a simulation of a bike, pedestrian or vehicle traffic for testing purposes. The simulator could be used by governments to design and plan future cities.
The third-place winner was Team SignCyclr for a way to reduce conflicts between drivers turning right and cyclists going straight at protected bike lanes. According to the data, this is a big problem and accounts for 13% of the reported cyclist collisions in Vancouver. The idea is for a dynamic sign that would illuminate with a "bike nearing" message.
After the Hackathon
Following the feverish hours of brainstorming, the contest organizers delved deeper into some of the solutions to see which ones would be possible to develop further. Team Safeway signed a contract with the city to develop their app for safe walking routes to school.
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