App for That
Ninety-six apps were submitted to the New York City BigApps competition, a city-run contest that encourages developers to play with government data. The winning apps were eligible to earn up to $50,000 in prize money as well as fame, fortune, and two NY Tech Meetup demo slots, two TechStars finalist spots, and membership in the inaugural mentorship network, BigApps Founders Network. The winner of the Best NYC Mashup, the category for apps that use city data alongside the data of a participating company like Foursquare, the New York Times, or Vimeo, will also get a meeting with the participating company.
The city frequently touts its Big Apps competition as one of the highlights in its campaign to foster the local tech industry. Developers get access to all kinds of city data and the grand prize winner receives a $50,000 prize. Last year’s winner was Roadify, but as Fast Company pointed out today, the app doesn’t seem to be doing a great job fulfilling its mission.
The premise of Roadify is that users can find parking spots, avoid traffic jams and figure out which trains to catch. But to generate data on open parking spots and snarled traffic, its needs a critical mass of users. Betabeat downloaded the app today and fired it up. The app found zero parking spots in Manhattan and didn’t seem aware of the vehicular backup growing nearby our office.
This is a guest post from Steven Romalewski who blogs at Spaciality. Mr. Romalewski directs the CUNY Mapping Service at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). A theme throughout his work over the past 20 years has been public access to data – identifying, obtaining, analyzing, and providing widespread access to data sets that help people understand their local environments. He has previously blogged about New York City’s OpenData initiative here.
@nycgov posted a tweet on Friday touting the map of WiFi hotspots on the new NYC OpenData site. I was impressed the city was trying to get the word out about some of the interesting data sets they’ve made public. It was retweeted, blogged about, etc many many times over during the day.
The map is nice (with little wifi symbols marking the location of each hotspot). And it certainly seems to show that there are lots of hotspots throughout the city, especially in Manhattan.
But when I took a close look, I was less than impressed. Here’s why:
This morning, the NYC Digital Tumblr featured a big, bold link to NYC Open Data, advertising a catalog that “offers access to a repository of government-produced, machine-readable data sets.” Given the city’s penchant for exposing this data, we wondered if this catalog was new.
“It is new – it’s a big deal for us,” replied the city’s chief digital officer Rachel Sterne. “First time we have API- enabled data, which has long been a goal.”
In response to the announcement, entrepreneur and investor Mark Birch wrote, “The age of open sourcing government is upon us and it starts with open access to data.”
The exodus of corporate types to the start-up world typically focuses on Wall St. or the tech giants like Google, but the fever seems to be going around the Zagat’s offices.
In March, Zagat’s head of mobile headed to WeWork lab’s Consmr and just yesterday, Steve Rowe, its chief revenue officer jumped ship, for local start-up MyCityWay, reports Business Insider. For MyCityWay, the message is clear: time to make the paper.
O.K., let’s say you are a New Yorker and you want to use technology to improve the city. You heard the city has created over $5 million in software with just $50,000 in prizes through its Big Apps competition. But you don’t actually know much HTML, much less how to actually develop an app (we’re guilty of this too).
Not to fear fine citizens, the city has a contest for you. Big Ideas let New Yorkers submit their ideas for what mobile and desktop apps would most improve NYC. The winner took home $100 in cold cash.
“As expected, the Ideas Challenge has built upon the success of BigApps and demonstrated the tremendous amount of talent and innovative thinking that exists among developers and non-developers here in New York City,” said Seth W. Pinsky, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. “This competition has given a voice to New Yorkers with creative ideas on how to improve their city, but who don’t necessarily have the technical capabilities to create an app themselves. These winning ideas will now help shape the future of web, desktop or mobile apps, and, most importantly, will benefit the lives of New Yorkers across the five boroughs. I congratulate all the winners on this terrific achievement.”
And your winners are:
Here’s a little anecdote to get the day started. Some dudes in Balitmore with a parking app and a panda for their mascot totally left that town and headed to the Big Apple when they landed a spot in the innagural ER Accelerator.
For anyone who’s been paying attention, New York is throwing a sort of start-up summer camp this year, with half a dozen accelerators and incubators putting young start-ups through the paces. The L.A. Times, which doesn’t even mention ER by name, seems blown away by the idea of a company getting $25,000 and a spot in Times Square.