The following guest post is from Dominic Byrne from Fingal Open Data. This post is cross-posted from the Fingal Open Data blog.

We were at Ireland’s first Open Data 18 hour Challenge. Here’s what happened …

Ireland’s first Open Data 18 hour Challenge took place in Dublin on 4th and 5th July, 2011.  Fingal County Council were partners in organising the event along with the Inventorium programme at the National Digital Research Centre, Dublin City Council, Microsoft and the Irish Internet Association.

We went along to help out with the event and to answer any questions that participants might have about Fingal Open Data datasets.  The event started at 12:00 noon with lunch and an opportunity for participants to meet and get to know each other.  Then it was on to setting the stage with a variety of presentations on Open Data including

With the stage set, the work started and the participants got stuck into generating ideas – the room was buzzing, as was twitter with #opendatachallenge trending in Ireland.  There were lots of questions from the teams as they explored the Fingal Open Data datasets and pre-release data from DUBlinked which was made available specially for the Challenge.  28 ideas were generated by the teams over the course of the afternoon.  A poster presentation was developed for each idea and the teams made their pitch.  After a break for refreshments it was time for voting – the ideas with no votes were eliminated and after some mergers of similar ideas, 10 project ideas remained.  The participants then selected the projects that they wished to work on for the remainder of the Challenge.

Open Data Challenge Working
Participants at work on Open Data Challenge

For the remainder of the day and over the course of the following day, the project teams worked up their ideas into storyboards and mock-ups.  With assistance from commercial developers, graphic designers and Council professionals, the technical and market feasability of the projects were developed, assessed re-worked and presentations prepared.

By 6:00pm on the second day, after 17 hours of work, it was down to the final hour and presentations to the judging panel.  In a Dragon’s Den setting, each team made their presentation, outlining their idea and business proposal to the seven judges.  The proposals used a range of open data sets from heritage information, to live environmental pollution and trafficking feeds, demographic statistics and amenity locations, utility and energy consumption data. 10 excellent ideas were presented leaving the judges with a very difficult decision to make.  The judges retired to make their decision and the entertainment, food and drinks commenced.

Finally, after an hour of deliberating the judges returned with their verdict –

1st – BizFit – a website to enable the user to find the best fit location for their business, the website uses demographic and other open source data to match them with the best available locations.
Team: Conor Cahalane, Gary Leeson, Annette Farrell, Robb Mitchell, Udo Reulbach, Sandra Garcia

2nd – Just Park – an app that helps you to define cost effective and convenient parking based on your location and needs. This app will use just in time data and other open data sources.
Team: Jason Roe

3rd – Distil – enabling developers to refine, purify and filter open data. It allows open data applications to work seamlessly across multiple non standardised data sets.
Team: Brian Daly, Sean Rice, Gerard McDonald

Open Data Challenge Winners
1st, 2nd & 3rd prize winners (Photograph by Ian Pearse)

In announcing the awards, Mark Kearns of Inventorium and chair of the judging panel, commended all the teams on the high quality of all the ideas developed.

The overwhelming verdict was that the Open Data Challenge was a resounding success.  As one tweet put it “If you’ve never done something like #opendatachallenge, do it. Awesome people, excellent fun, and months’ worth of learning in two days.”

We launched Fingal Open Data in November 2010 to open up data for use by citizens and businesses.  The Open Data Challenge has demonstrated the value of opening up this data and hopefully we will see the development of many more innovative applications of Irish Open Data in the future.  We look forward to seeing more Irish Open Data sites, now that the value has been demonstrated.

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