The Manchester Hackathon not bad for No.1

For those of you who missed it, the first Manchester Hackathon occurred last weekend. Manchester City Council, FutureEverything and ourselves came together to create 24 hours of coding deliciousness.

The hackathon was part of Manchester City Council’s commitment to open data and was the motivation for the release of datasets, APIs and documentation for the event. Data can be found here on the MDDA website The variety of data available ranges from trees which is all the more pertinent as Ash Dieback spreads through the country, Contact Centre data and Contaminated Land which is a hugely contentious dataset. A lot of the data released was in consultation with the Open Data Manchester community.

The format of the Hackathon created an intense atmosphere in MadLab as 45 coders and designers strove to create something demonstrable by the 5pm deadline. In the end 16 teams presented their creations in two minute quick fire presentations.

The winners were:

Best Under 21’s Creation – £600 – Bus Tracker by 19 year old MMU student Bilawal Hameed, the Bus Tracker app will let you find the nearest bus stop to you, direct you to it and give you the times and destinations of the next bus due.

Best Visualisation and Developers Prize (voted for by everyone taking part in the Hackathon)- £600 for each prize, was won John Rees for his app called Sat Lav. If you are caught short in the City, you just open the app and it will direct to nearest public toilet including those in shops and bars which allow the public to use.

Best Locative Application, the £600 prize was won by Matt Schofield for his Taxi Rank Finder app. Matt’s app shows the nearest taxi rank to you and directs you to it. It also shows if it is a marshalled rank and its opening times.

Best Solution for an Identified Problem (£600 prize) was won by Slawomir Wdowka and Imran Younis for their Manchester Voice which would allow the public to submit ideas to the council, then checks records to see if other people have made the same suggestion. When an idea is developed it would allow the public to vote on it.

The grand prize of £1,000 + £3,600 in development funding was won by Data Crossfader, created by James Rutherford and Ashley Herriott, a visualisation tool that plots information on a map of Manchester to allow people to compare important sets of data. For example, using postcode details it shows the locations of road traffic incidents on a map, and then adds where speed cameras are, so if they is a particular area where accidents happen which are not covered by a camera, it easily shows that on a map.

By the end of the event a number of developers had been approached to develop their ideas further and we’ll try and keep track of where that gets to.

For a much more in depth post by James Rutherford click here

ODM – September 2012 Edition

6.30pm – 8.30pm, Tuesday 25th September
Venue: MDDA, 117-119 Portland Street, Manchester M1 6ED

Sign up on Eventbrite

After a brief summer hiatus Open Data Manchester is back and temporarily at a different venue.
The last event saw James Cattell from Digital Birmingham, Andrew MacKenzie from the UK Governments Open Data User Group and Jag Goraya from GIST Foundation in Sheffield talking about how open data initiatives were developing in Birmingham and Sheffield and Birmingham City Council’s adoption of a corporate open data strategy.

Since the last meeting there has been quite a bit of activity mostly around some forthcoming hackdays and support for open data initiatives in Manchester. Last Tuesday we had the launch of Tech Hub Manchester in Carver’s Warehouse on Dale Street, Manchester. This is going to be a new co-working space networked into Tech Hub London and a wider international digital start-up community and we will be having the Tech Hub people coming to talk about the initiative and Start-up Weekend a two day hack event utilising open data.

The City of Manchester is also looking at developing open data as far as part of a new Technology Strategy Board – Future Cities Demonstrator project. This is a large £24 million fund that will help the creation of digital services within the city. Anne Dornan who is working on the project will explain how open data fits into this.

If you are interested in public transport, and a lot of people are, Move*Manchester is an Innovation Challenge that will be running in March 2013. The planning is being finalised, but it will entail a weekend event based around a hackathon that will lead to product development and support. The prize fund and support package to develop products and services will be approximately £35,000 and is part of the CitySDK programme run by FutureEverything and Manchester City Council with the support of Open Data Manchester. More details to follow.

Also we will be looking at the latest data releases on DataGM, TfGM, cool developments and anything else people want to show

Open Data Manchester March meeting

March’s meeting was an opportunity to help shape Manchester City Council’s forthcoming open data Hackathon. Stuart Baldwin – an ODM regular – spoke about Manchester’s plans for an event in October to coincide with the Manchester Science Festival.

The driver behind this is the recently announced Manchester Digital Strategy and a recent trip that Chief Executive of MCC, Sir Howard Bernstein made to New York. Whilst a guest of Mayor Bloomberg, Sir Howard was apparently impressed with what New York was doing with their open data initiatives such as 311 and App Challenges.

Open Data Manchester and MDDA advised MCC, that for a Hackathon to work it needed to work with the developer community to make the event relevant and developer friendly.

The conversation was mainly focussed on the types of data that developers wanted releasing and there is a list from Duncun Hull @dullhunk here

What was notable was the willingness to listen to what the community wanted and by suggestions from MCC itself, such as Contaminated Land data which has traditionally been contentious.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/36540620 w=400&h=300]
Visualisation by Jonathan Fisher more details here

After the Hackathon discussion attention focussed on Road Traffic Collision data and the work that Steven Flower, Jonathan Fisher and Jonathan S. – There has been discussion about forming a sub-group around RTC data and its use. So if people want to get involved in that contact Steven Flower on the Google Group. Jonathan Fisher’s visualisations where discussed and also the variation in data quality that exists. It was noted that although data was provided to TfGM who collated the data for the Department of Transport. Different flavours of the data existed in different places. TfGM upload monthly data to DataGM which lacked detail on casualties and vehicles involved. The complete RTC data gets forwarded it to the DfT who then make it available via the DfT website and and data.gov.uk with more detail but in two different versions. We are trying to find out why DataGM only holds a less detailed version.

January meeting with TfGM

January’s Open Data Manchester was a transport special, with Craig Berry and Dave Busby from TfGM giving an update as to the types of data that TfGM hold, and what they are trying to release. Open Data Manchester people may already know of Craig Berry as the Information Manager who has been tasked with identifying and releasing open data. Dave Busby’s brief is for integrated ticketing and real-time information.

TfGM reinforced its position with regard to open data at the meeting. There has been a number of rumours over the past twelve months as to what the organisation was trying to release to DataGM – Greater Manchester’s open data portal . TfGM are currently releasing data with regard to bus schedules, NaPTAN stop locations, fixed and mobile speed camera locations and monthly Road Traffic Collision updates. There had been mooted some realtime data would be released.

Greater Manchester has been crying out for an intelligent integrated ticketing system. To many a lack of such system has made travel by public transport around Greater Manchester more difficult than it should be. To this end TfGM are developing a specification that will go to tender in the 1st half of 2012. The system will initially cover Metrolink and then encompass Greater Manchester buses. The system will use contactless technologies in a similar vein to TfL’s Oyster Card but with the added functionality of being able to use contactless bankcards and NFC phones. It was interesting to note the certainty that NFC will be adopted, by most handset companies within the next year. Paying by Google Wallet was also mentioned as a possibility. The ticketing system will also have fare rules that will calculate the best price for journeys undertaken.

Although getting Integrated ticketing to work with Metrolink would be a relatively easy task and a useful test bed to prove the utility of the system, getting Greater Manchester’s 40+ independent commercial bus operators to adopt the system maybe more challenging and may need a certain amount of political will. Anonymised journey data from the system or personal access to journey history wasn’t discussed in detail, although the later seems to be fairly standard in smart ticketing systems, access to anonymised data could offer huge potential for applications and services that look at gate loading on routes, passenger density etc.

The advent of the oft mooted, realtime data from TfGM looks closer – although there was no specific timescale mentioned. There will be access to the Metrolink Passenger Information Displays data, although how this will manifest itself is uncertain. Developers present at the meeting suggested that JSON would be preferable. The main challenge with accessing real-time Metrolink location data is that the Tram Management System currently being implemented isn’t currently functioning throughout the network. The initial release of data will cover the South Manchester line and Eccles lines.

Although it doesn’t look like there will be any real-time bus data soon, TfGM would like to release the location information of the free Centreline buses that are being operated on TfGM’s behalf. This data will be location data that won’t identify the actual service the bus is running. It was suggested that as there are only three distinct Centreline routes it wouldn’t be that complicated to identify, even where the routes overlap. There is also an Informed Personal Traveller pilot that is being run in Bury by Logica, ACIS and First Bus. It uses a number of technologies including an AVL system that has been fitted to approximately 100 of their buses. The IPT application hasn’t been released yet and there are indications that the system is closed.

TfGM recently submitted a bid to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and written into it is the provision of open data and the development of an intelligent multi-modal Journey Planner pulling all relevant data that TfGM has at it’s disposal, how developers could access the Journey Planner was discussed and whether it would exclude the provision of other types of journey data.

There is a move to make other data available through the LSTF, these include Car Park updates, real-time disruption data, journey down roads data and feeds off TfGM’s SCOOT adaptive traffic control system. SCOOT controls half of the approximately 2000 traffic control signals in Greater Manchester.

The lack of transparency with regard to bus fare structures within Greater Manchester has been a subject that has come up many times, especially regarding anecdotal evidence that dependant communities are charged more per mile than others having viable transport alternatives. TfGM stated that Greater Manchester is one of the few places where bus travel is generally more expensive than rail. To this end TfGM are interested in developing a project similar to one that Open Data Manchester was developing over a year ago that encouraged travelers to submit the details of their journey and price.

At the close of the discussion TfGM were encouraged to use the Open Data Manchester Google Group as a resource to ask questions and to highlight initiatives and challenges.

Open Data Manchester – November Meeting

November’s Open Data Manchester.

Paul Gallagher – Head of Online for Manchester Evening News gave a presentation regarding the role of the MEN during the Manchester Riots. He described how the Manchester Evening News had used Social Media during the riots and how his team had started to collect data regarding the riots and the subsequent court cases to give insight into some of the possible causes of the riots.

Most interesting was the resources that the MEN had put into reporting on the court cases following the riots and by having court reporters sitting in on each of the trials they created a schema and dataset show the areas that people lived in, mitigating circumstances, age, type of offence, sentence etc. This is data that can only be created if you attend the trail. This allowed them to map offences against depravation indices and changes in the way that sentencing was delivered over the course of the trials.

The discussion also touched on news organisations becoming huge archives of sentencing data and how this can effect people’s lives even after their convictions have been struck off. MEN does have a policy where certain details are redacted from the historical archive but this is done on a case by case basis.

There was also an update as to the preparations for the International Open Data Hackday and the responses to the Governments Open Data and Public Data Corporation consultations.