Since the launch of Vancouver’s open data portal a lot of the talk has focused on independent or small groups of programmers hacking together free applications for citizens to use. Obviously I’ve talked a lot about (and have been involved in) Vantrash and have been a big fan of the Amazon.ca/Vancouver Public Library Greasemonkey script created by Steve Tannock.
But independent hackers aren’t the only ones who’ve been interested. Shortly after the launch of the city’s Open Data Portal, Microsoft launched an Open Data App Competition for developers at the Microsoft Canadian Development Centre just outside Vancouver in Richmond, British Columbia. On Wednesday I had the pleasure of being invited to the complex to eat free pizza and, better still, serve as a guest judge during the final presentations.
So here are 5 more applications that have been developed using the city’s open data. (Some are still being tweaked and refined, but the goal is to have them looking shiny and ready by the Olympics.)
MoBuddy by Thomas Wei: Possibly the most ambitious of the projects, MoBuddy enables you to connect with friends and visitors during Olympics to plan and share experiences through mobile social networking including Facebook.
Vancouver Parking by Igor Babichev: Probably the most immediately useful app for Vancouverites, Vancouver Parking helps you plan your trip by using your computer in advanced to find parking spots, identify time restrictions, parking duration and costs… It even knows which spots won’t be available for the Olympics. After the Olympics are over, it will be interesting to see if other hackers want to help advance this app. I think a mobile or text message enabled version might be interesting.
Free Finders by Avi Brenner: Another app that could be quite useful to Vancouver residents and visiting tourists, Free Finders uses your facebook connection to find free events and services across the city. Lots of potential here for some local newspapers to pick up this app and run with it.
eVanTivitY by Johannes Stockmann: A great play on creativity and Vancouver, eVanTivity enables you to find City and social events and add-in user-defined data-feeds. Once the Olympics are over I’ve got some serious ideas about how this app could help Vancouver’s Arts & Cultural sector.
MapWay by Xinyang Qiu: Offers a way to find City of Vancouver facilities and Olympic events in Bing Maps as well as create a series of customized maps that combine city data with your own.
More interestingly, in addition to being available to use, each of these applications can be downloaded, hacked on, remixed and tinkered with under an open source license (GNU I believe) once the Olympics are over. The source codes will be available at Microsoft’s Codeplex.
In short, it is great to see a large company like Microsoft take an active interest in Vancouver’s Open Data and try to find some ways to give back to the community – particularly using an open source licenses. I’d also like to give a shout out to Mark Gayler (especially) as well as Dennis Pilarinos and Barbara Berg for making the competition possible and, of course, to all the coders at the Development Centre who volunteered their time and energy to create these apps. These are interesting times for a company like Microsoft and so I’d also like to give a shout out to David Crow who’s been working hard to get important people inside the organization comfortable with the idea of open source and open to experimenting with it.