Guest post: Impressions from the Volta Apps4Halifax Hackaton

Here is a bit of info about our Hackathon experience over the weekend (Friday, September 13 – Sunday, September 15). It was a fantastic event that offered a chance to meet new people, build new sills, and benefit from the mentorship offered through the Volta Labs network  – all while contributing to positive change in our community!

The Hackathon competition:

Individuals and groups gathered on Friday night to explore the ideas submitted by HRM citizens through the app4halifax contest, come up with creative solutions, and present their final ideas to other competitors with the goal of forming teams of ‘developers’ and ‘idea guys’.

We were invited to work in the Volta space between Friday and Sunday afternoon (48 hour access) where we enjoyed mentorship and cordial cross-team support from our fellow competitors. On Sunday afternoon, six teams delivered their 5-minute pitches and demonstrated their prototypes. The judging criteria were outlined as follows:

Quality of the idea (the benefit to HRM)
Execution of the idea (creativity and inventiveness of the app) Functioning prototype

Judging was peer-based and our fellow competitors were asked to vote for the top two projects.

Submissions to the app4Halifax contest described the ‘pain’: As you can see on the apps4halifax website, there was a broad range of suggestions for app development, but what stood out for our team were the appeals to improve the transit system: people want an easy and reliable way to know the current location of their next bus. Metro Transit offers a “Go Time” call-in service for commuters to retrieve updates, but there is no available real-time tracking information.i

Our app solution is fairly simple: We designed an app prototype that uses crowd-sourced data to collect continuous, real-time transit information that can be instantly shared with (and between) commuters in HRM. After downloading our app on their Smartphones, users can voluntarily and anonymously transmit GPS tracking data during their commute so that other riders can track the location and expected arrival of their next bus (or other buses that are part of their commute).

As a result, by improving the transit experience, our app may help to increase bus ridership. More people on the bus means a lot of great things for our city such as: fewer cars on the road, a healthier environment, more parking downtown and greater accessibility to spaces and places in the HRM.

Our (proposed) name and slogan reflected the simplicity of our approach. A play on the “Go Time” system, we adopted the name “KNOWtime: Now you’ll know… in no time!”

As our app development continues we are considering options to allow users to provide additional information about their commute (such as how full their bus is), provide an alert to notify riders when they reach their preferred bus stop and enhance user accessibility (such as providing voice notifications). We are hoping to provide Android and iOS apps to Metro Transit users in the near future.

As first-place winners we split some really great prizes including: An invite to pitch our concept at next week’s Invest Atlantic event (http://www.investatlantic.ca/), two $500 gift certificates from SMU, two ASUS Memo pads, and a ticket to the Halifax Pop Explosion (http://halifaxpopexplosion.com/).

The KNOWtime team plans on continuing with the apps4halifax competition (closes November 29, 2013).

More photos from the hackaton you can see here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/62427615@N05/sets/72157635549483736/

 

Heather McPeake

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