Edinburgh Apps – Your City

November 19, 2013

Just a wee post about a competition we were successful in recently

Edinburgh Apps is a council run initiative to promote the use of digital platforms to handle big data. The competition ran between the 26th of September and the 8th of November. The idea was to engage local technology enthusiasts with the council. Ultimately the aim is to improve the lives of those living, working or visiting the city.

There were five challenges for which you could enter:

Transport

How do we meet the challenges of our changing city? We are working to reduce congestion, improve air quality, make the streets safer and encourage more citizens to walk or cycle in the city. What solutions would help us provide answers to these challenges, and a more integrated approach to navigating the city?

Environment

The city’s environment is a living ecosystem. We want to find ways to improve it for local people – reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality, reducing littering and improving recycling, and encouraging wildlife in new locations. We are encouraging energy conservation in homes, and developing community energy cooperatives. What ideas do you have to raise awareness and responsibility for our local environment?

Health

Edinburgh’s population is growing and changing. We want to empower citizens to live healthy and independent lives. People want to be comfortable in their homes, mobile in the city and active at every age. How do we help our citizens to achieve these goals?

Economy and Tourism

Edinburgh’s economy needs investment, support and promotion. We want to encourage and support new businesses, find job destinations for young people offering training and qualifications, promote Edinburgh’s festivals, world heritage status and the city as a cultural capital. What can you do to support these goals?

Technology & Innovation

Technology is moving so quickly we want to take advantage of new opportunities to improve the lives of local citizens. Local people are using tablets and smart phones more and more for business and leisure activities. We want to use technology to empower and support them in their lives. In this challenge category we are looking for innovative solutions using existing technologies. The City of Edinburgh Council sponsors this category

You can approach these categories in a number of ways, this could take the form of a mobile application, a visualisation, a concept, or you could enter as a wildcard; which is not required to use one of the for mentioned themes.

Our Approach

In total we had 3 meetings – initially we had a brainstorming session in which we came up with a number of ideas. We then took these ideas to the icebreaker event and discussed them with some of the other entrants. Once our idea was decided upon we met to outline all the application’s functions and features. We were then able to mock up an outline of what the app may look like and put together a brief prototype that outlines what the navigation and feel of the app would be.

The Idea

The aim of this project was to use mobile technology to connect residents of Edinburgh with their surroundings, to create a way of communicating directly with the council about their environment and to create a community of people who care for and take an interest in the environment around them. The approach we took was that of a product concept for a mobile app. This application will produce useful data for the council to invest in finding out the real needs of residents, and spot problems (large and small) that occur in each area. What we have produced is a design and mock-up prototype of how the app could work.

We first began to think about what a resident would require to connect with their local authority, and what the local authority could take from this communication. What we came up with was a reward scheme, whereby users are rewarded with ‘council credits’ for their participation in the app. In return, the council receive current information about events and issues around the city, and can target the most reported areas, depending on the number of issues reported. Other users will also be able to rate reported issues using a thumb-up or thumb -down button, so that the authority can gauge the importance of an issue. This information will allow the council to work efficiently, and prioritise issues around the city The local authority could then offer ways of spending these points or credits in council run buildings, such as sports facilities/parking etc.

We also investigated similar solutions – like fixmystreet.com, and found ours to be much more robust and flexible. With our app the user can notify the council about a variety of issues (more than just potholes and dog fouling), a community is created around the app, the council can easily asses if the matter is important (via user ratings) and it encourages people to contact the council (especially younger ones, who otherwise wouldn’t). By rewarding people for their interaction we improve the council’s image and its relationship with the people of Edinburgh. It also encourages people to lead healthy lives (entries to sport facilities) and will possibly generate future footfall and profit for council run facilities.

Having submitted this concept to Sally, the event organiser, we had to then present it at the pitch/awards ceremony. This involved around 25 other pitches to about 60 people. There were a range of pitches covering a vast number ideas and concepts. One particular idea that caught our attention was Neatebox, an interesting approach to blind people crossing the road. At the end of the pitches there was a period of deliberation between the judges, shortly followed by the awards. We were the winners of a honourable mention within the Economy and Tourism category. In total there were 10 winners, with prizes to still be announced. We were really happy with this, as we hadn’t long to prepare for both the pitch and the submission due to other commitments. Asides from having a successful pitch we were able to meet some really interesting developers and engage in the community, which was a lot of fun! We will definitely be taking part in any follow up competitions ran in this area.

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