A Hackathon is defined as “a gathering where programmers collaboratively code in an extreme manner over a short period of time” and that is exactly what the Mubaloo team did! On Thursday 10 March 2016, everyone in Bristol put down their instruments at midday and prepared themselves for half a day of designing, coding and presenting their products, hacking on the Bristol City Council Open Data.

“Bristol is using smart technologies and digital connectivity to meet the city’s environmental, social and economic challenges and opportunities and become a truly Smart City. Open Data Bristol is a key part of this as it opens up access to Bristol’s data in order to make it easier for citizens, researchers and developers to access, analyse and share information. This will allow new solutions to the city’s problems to be developed.”

Seeing that Mubaloo was founded in Bristol, it seemed only right to have the first hackathon on a theme that will affect the citizens of Bristol and Mubaloo’ers. The City Council has opened up the APIs across many different categories that affect Bristolians’ lives, ranging from education, health, energy, government, environment, public transport and safety. The teams were tasked with using this open source data in their apps.

Teams x5

Public transport was the first choice for many of the teams, so what did they do?

1) Vision & Ideation

Everyone was broken up into 5 teams, mixing up skills and abilities, and they were set to work with coming up with the concept. At this stage, full creativity was flowing with everyone looking at possible outcomes and concepts that could be created from the available data. The teams were asked to think about what the minimum viable product (MVP) could look like, as well a vision for the future.

Gems team

2) Strategy & Building the Business Case

The product owners next step was to look at the overall product and its potential, in order to build the business case to go to market. At the core of the business case is the user, so teams had to demonstrate the real value that would be delivered to the user by the product. In addition to UX, the teams were asked to do a high level evaluation of their concept against the remaining Mubaloo 5 Key Success Factors (UX, Integration, Security, Change Management and Technology), in order to fully assess and validate their products. At this stage of the day, the teams were also asked to look at the existing market, complete a high level competitor analysis and include any benchmarking criteria, in order to prove that they had a product with a clear USP.

Board room team

3) Product Building

The design, development and QA teams were then tasked with developing the prototype/proof of concept/proof of technology for the MVP. The key here was to see what could be designed and developed in the time allocated. The best way to explain the vision was to create one simple user journey, that was visually appealing and confidently conveyed the use case. The added bonus was using the live data available from the APIs from the Open Data URLs.

Hannah's team

4) Presenting the concept

We rounded up the day with presentations from all the teams, with various criteria for judging the concepts. We were privileged to have Paul Wilson, the MD of Bristol is Open, and Tom Hallam, Mubaloo Innovation Lab Technical Lead, as our esteemed judges. The judges were looking for the most innovative solution, creative presentation, along with the overall winner. There were some wild videos, crazy hats, emotive music complications and very imaginative use of socks – all of which brilliantly described the incredible concepts that had been created throughout the day.

Lou's team

Well done to the overall winners Ollie Lane, Karl Loudon, Leo Awadzi, Rich Hodgkins and James Gaisford for their artistic video and ingenious concept. Team Sausage Squad, as they were known, developed a sensor to strap onto bikes to measure pollution levels, in order for cyclists to take less polluted routes through the city.

Winning team

Further to providing cyclists with cleaner route options, the idea would also help to publicise issues surrounding air pollution. The team had also considered the social impact of the solution, which will bring a community of cyclists together to share knowledge on new, safer cycle routes.

The long term plan would be that with more knowledge of routes, and the growth of the community, the app could help cyclists discover more scenic routes, or provide information on the best lit routes, for example. Data collected could also be used to provide information to cyclists showing the difference in pollution levels over different times of the day, journey history, or help them compare how clean their ride was in comparison to previous journeys.

All in all, it was a very successful day, with incredible concepts created in a five hour period. Thank you to the teams and to the judges. More to come in the future!

By Heli Metsmaa-Petersons

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