Hoggetowne Hack gets ideas, info, flowing
Published: Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 7:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 7:41 p.m.
Gabriel Coleman, 27, hacked away for six hours Saturday, along with his fellow team members, who created a web-based prototype app.
First Place: ParkGnv, an app that will help people find free parking downtown in real time.
Second Place: Safe City, an app that promotes safety by helping identify crime-prone areas of the city.
Third Place: Cross Platform Xpress, an app that helps find which RTS routes to take by using one's current GPS location, address or selecting a location on a map.
House Rank: Helps find a place to live by looking for safe neighborhoods, transportation nodes, utilities and code violations and providing a combined overall ranking for each home.
Civic Reporter: Allows citizens to report issues to the city by taking a picture, rating the severity of the issue and noting its location.
Where's My Money?: Allows people to view city expenditures and vote on whether or not they approve of them.
The app puts all the houses for sale or rent in Gainesville together on one map where results can be filtered based on different criteria.
The team used data made available through the city's open data portal to allow the app to provide information regarding area crime rates, traffic accidents and public transportation, in addition to information about the houses themselves.
Coleman said he thinks the portal is a great resource that one could potentially find many different uses for.
“It's allowing for a lot of innovation around Gainesville,” he said. “Because all of this information is available, it's allowing people like us to take it and compile it into something that can be usable for the general public.”
The city of Gainesville, in coordination with International Open Data Day, hosted the city's first Hoggetowne Hack at the Hippodrome State Theatre on Saturday. The one-day competition had citizens and local computer science professionals competing in a six-hour app-development challenge.
Those competing formed teams and came up with an idea for a mobile or web-based app that, ideally, made use of the city's recently created open data portal. The portal is a collection of data sets that make raw data accrued by the city government available to the public as part of the city's Government 2.0 initiative.
Of the 13 teams that competed, most were independent groups formed that day or in the days leading up to the event. Some groups were composed of members of an organization or business. And while most of the participants had a computer-science background, others came from unrelated professions
Teams were able to work on apps already in partial development and layer city data on top of that to make them more locally accessible, but many started from scratch.
Lila Stewart, an event organizer and member of the city's Innovation Academy Team, said the city identified data sets and ideas that correlated with the city commission's strategic goals in areas such as public safety, environment, transportation, and economic development and redevelopment. Project ideas, however, were welcome from participants, who were also able to make use of data sets other than those found in the portal.
Toward the end of the competition, the groups gave short presentations covering their apps and a panel of three judges determined the winners, who took home cash prizes totaling $2,750 (first place taking home $1,500). All participants received open-source, cloud-based software from Google valued at about $2,000.
Everything developed at the event was open-sourced, meaning none of the software is proprietary. Apps, however, can be monetized and marketed as long as the software uses open-sourced programming, said City Commissioner Lauren Poe.
The event was organized by members of the city's Innovation Academy Team, which is made up of 12 people selected by the city manager from those nominated by the heads of government departments, Stewart said.
The team was formed after the city applied to be part of the Alliance for Information's Innovation Academy program and was selected as one of eight organizations from across the country to be a part of the academy's inaugural program.
Each team has to take on a project to be presented at a conference later this year. Stewart said the team decided to hold Saturday's event as their project.
Poe said that while the city has recognized its competitive advantage in the innovation economy for more than a decade, when the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce began promoting its Innovation Gainesville branding the city wanted to move from being a cheerleader to becoming a participant through the Government 2.0 initiative.
“Just like any business would want to be innovative, we wanted to say, 'OK, how can we do government better and kind of bring it into the 20th century?' ” he said. “So, this whole initiative is really kind of walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”
Part of this initiative was the creation of the open data portal. While the portal was launched in early December, Poe said Saturday's event was really the public launch.
“What we want to get out of this is showing people (who) are saying 'Well, what is that or what do we do with it?' products and what we did, and then build on those,” he said.
Poe said he'd like to see the public buy in and take ownership of the portal while also informing the city of what they need if it is not being provided.
“The analogy that I've used is that we're providing the canvas and the paints,” he said. “We want everybody out there to take those and create whatever they want with it.”
While the portal's infrastructure is still in development, Poe said the goal is to get all of the data sets made available and automated so they produce real-time updates within a couple of years.
Coleman was impressed with the portal and lauded the city's effort to be more transparent.
“Transparency is always a good thing in my book as far as open communication,” he said. “That's how progress is made … The more people are talking, the more problems we're solving.”