Five new apps which aim to improve the lives of people in the Scottish capital were recognised at the annual EdinburghApps competition in October.
The apps, which all use open data from the City of Edinburgh Council, range from a tool to help people with substance addictions to one that helps runners find out more about the city.
The annual contest aims to boost new local tech businesses as well as giving the council new apps to provide for residents.It began at the start of September, with teams given seven weeks to work on their ideas before pitching them to judges at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics on Sunday. 2014’s EdinburghApps contest focused on themes surrounding culture and sport as well as health and well-being.
The competition winners, who will now have the chance to talk about taking their ideas forward with the council, were:
- Find A Player - to help people find teams to play sport with.
- Speech City - a voice-activated visitor information app.
- Bubbal - which uses iBeacons to deliver visitor information, enable people to share reviews, and donate to the upkeep of Edinburgh’s attractions and monuments.
- Run2See - which delivers running routes for visitors to Edinbugh, along with information about what they’ll find on the route.
- ACE (Addiction Companion Edinburgh) - to provide help and easy access to services for people addicted to drugs and alcohol.
Speech City creator Srinivasan Janarthanam, a research associate at Heriot Watt University, said his app would have come in useful when he first came to Edinburgh as a visitor nine years ago. "I travel a lot for conferences and project meetings but I try to make some time to just walk around the city,” he explained. “Most of the time I spend a lot of time doing research on what I should see, but I always thought there should be an app to integrate all these data sources into an immersive touring experience.”
The app’s already being tested, leading to surprises for Janarathanam and his team. “We automatically extract a lot of information from open data systems, so we don’t know what’s in there. It’s a discovery for us as we walk around the Royal Mile testing, as we’ll hear something new, and sometimes it amazes us.”
Run2See, which is at a prototype stage, was presented by Jennifer Tough and Hilde Frydnes. “It's a running app that will engage you with the city,” Tough explained. “If you’re a business traveller on a trip and you want to get your run in, then you either end up just running around in circles so you don't get lost, or you get lost and that’s quite dangerous.
“So Run2See is on your smartphone, you're plugged in with your headphones, giving you ‘turn left, turn right...’ but the other element is ‘coming up on your right is...’ so it engages you with the city as you run, making it a lot more enjoyable.”
“There’s a lot of things we think Edinburgh could improve on,” Tough added, “ so we like the idea of this kind of event, where we can pitch their ideas to the council rather than the council having to come up with its own answers.”
The council's digital services manager Sally Kerr came up with the idea for EdinburghApps while looking for a way to encourage open data developments. “I was looking at ways in which we could encourage sharing and opening up data, so I looked at New York's NYC BigApps and other events around the world. I decided we could run an Edinburgh apps programme, based somewhat on the New York model.
“I think it's unique in the UK, because of the length of time it runs for. It gives you the chance to work with council services, and you can request data as well. I know that other UK cities are starting do something similar – I'm pleased about that.
“For us, it's a great opportunity to find innovative solutions, to think a bit outside the box, to support new young businesses as well as people who are just starting up. We’ll also give them a product with us as a use case, which is great for their portfolio while we get the product.”