logo (1)Wellington is running it’s first Civic Hackathon the first weekend of November to tackle transport issues in and around Eastern Suburbs and the wider city. We’ve got a bunch of people involved already and we’ve still got spots open if you want to join in. We’re looking for freaks, geeks, and companies that want to showcase their Smart City and Internet of Things devices, so get in.

A group of like-minded individuals are coming together on the 1st and 2nd of November this year to participate in Wellington’s first Civic Hackathon. A hackathon is an intensive session where a group of people are giving a civic problem, data, tools, and bring their own skills & resources to solve that problem. Hackathon comes from merging “hack” and “marathon”.

A number of sponsors have come forward already and are providing us with raw data and sensing devices that we can utilise to capture data that has otherwise been unavailable. We want more of course, so if you have hardware in the Internet of Things and Sensing area, we’d love you to loan it to us in the run up to, and over the weekend, so that we can play with it.

While this has been branded a “Miramar” Hackathon it is open to everyone within the Wellington region. We expect that if this is successful then future hackathons can be established across the city to solve various problems and tackle challenges. The long term goal of these events is to help Wellington City become “Smart”, as in Smart or Sensing City. That is, using people, ideas, art, technology, and a slew of other factors to increase the happiness, well-being, and productiveness of a city.

You can register here and vendors who want to help out can contact us here.

The Challenge

One of Wellington City’s greatest challenges and contentious issues is that of traffic management and flow. Traffic being pedestrians, cyclists, public transport, taxis, freight, and private vehicles.

Therefore the challenge is:

“How do we increase the quality of transport around the Eastern Suburbs Peninsula and to and from the Central Business District?”

We know that traffic around Miramar and Strathmore in particular can be very dense at certain times of the day and weekend causing issues with movement for all traffic types. We know that getting into and out of the CBD can be problematic with increasing delays over time. We know that within Eastern Suburbs and to and from the CBD that the amount of traffic is increasing. We know that traffic ebbs and flows and that it’s behaviour is subject to a variety of factors such as events, weather, time of the year, and the airport.

Open Data

We have been up-front that any and all material created as part of the hackathon will be made available to the world for free. All of the material will be published as part of the Miramar Hackathon Wiki – http://hack-miramar.wikispaces.com/ No one will have proprietary rights to what is created.

We believe that open sourcing we lead to far better outcomes and more innovation. While we understand that some of our sponsor’s technology, particularly the hardware and hosting elements, belong to them, any data that is created as part of using those is expected to also be made open.

Early Ideas

A number of early ideas have come out already as people have started to work on the hackathon. These are examples only, and participants shouldn’t constrain themselves to these in particular. Also, we expect that some ideas are going to concern residents, and want those people to understand that these are just ideas. That any future implementation of ideas will have to go through the usual processes, in particular where it affects the community.

After that long caveat:

  1. Using data from airlines and the airport gates, can we determine peak flow to and from the airport? The premise being that at certain times of the day, several thousand (20,000 over the period of a day) taxis, buses, tour operators, cars (and other traffic) move too and fro. If we could let people know when peak flows are, we could avoid travelling at those times.
  2. Parking anywhere in the Miramar Enterprise District for a maximum of ninety minutes. We know that at certain times of the week, such as Friday night and Saturday morning shopping, the vehicle movements in Miramar are high. This is because each commercial operator has flagged carparks as their own, meaning that you have to move your car between various car parks in order to do your shopping. If there were a flat parking rule, or similar, then people could walk between shops reducing traffic flow.
  3. Don’t travel at all into the CBD for work, at least once a week. Flexible working practices don’t work for everyone, however, in the 21st Century a lot of us can work from our own place at least once a week. This would reduce the overall traffic load and if we provided an open place to work in the Miramar Enterprise District, would significantly support local businesses.
  4. Take real-time GPS information from public transport that shows the bus number and it’s location. Many people in Eastern Suburbs would likely utilise public transport if they knew where their bus was and how far away. This could reduce travel times for individuals by minutes to an hour each day. They could have a stress free coffee knowing that their bus was twenty to thirty minutes away. This is NOT to be confused with the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s electronic signs, which require you to be at the bus stop before you get the information.
  5. Can we represent traffic flow in a three dimensional way with other overlays and make it generally available to the residents? The Wellington City Council has excellent modelling tools that allow you to visualise the city. Can we use those tools as a base to create quick visual representations that impart information fast and efficiently (as opposed to a text based system)? This theory is based on the idea of “Enchanted Objects” where colours are used to show people “at a glance” the state of something. For example, red means traffic is heavy and green means now is a good time to travel.

Outcomes

The outcomes from the hackathon are generally aligned to solving the challenge and also providing an opportunity for the participants to take their own ideas further. We think the outcomes are:

  1. Producing a set of ideas, prototypes, applications, and designs that show how we could improve traffic in and around Eastern Suburbs and to and from the CBD.
  2. For those ideas, prototypes, and designs that we think have the most likelihood of succeeding (we’ll all vote as a group) running a “Dragon’s Den” type presentation approach with the Mayor and City Councillors, and other groups as well. E.g. Greater Wellington Regional Council and New Zealand Transport Agency.
  3. Document and refine the hackathon approach so that it can be applied to the entire city, other suburbs, with the same, or different, challenges. For example, another challenge may be: “How do we increase engagement from residents on Council consultations?”

Hackathon Weekend Agenda

We want to keep the agenda as open as possible so that we don’t restrict creativity, as such, it is a guide only.

We are already underway remotely, with data being collected and analysed, and we expect this to continue up to and including the weekend.

Saturday

0930 – 0945 – Coffee and instructions for the weekend

0945 – 1015 – Brief presentations by organisers on what we have so far and grouping of participants

1015 – 1800 – Hack (we’ll provide sandwiches and coffee)

1800 –  late – Gasworks for drinks and dinner if you need it

Sunday

0930 – 1000 – Town hall on where we are at

1000 – 1500 – Hack

1500 – 1700 – Town hall and brief discussion about the ideas we have come up with and where to from here along with group presentations on ideas

1700 – 1900 – Gasworks for informal debrief and beer

Data Sources

As at writing we have a number of data sources available, though we need a lot more to come online as soon as possible.

  • Wellington City Council is lending us one of their most excellent GIS specialists for the weekend.
  • A request has been made to the Wellington City Council to see if we can get static, or preferably, live data feeds from New Zealand Bus GPS.
  • In addition, we’ve asked Wellington City Council to see if they can facilitate access to airport gate data showing traffic movement.
  • We think we can scrape Waze to pick up information on traffic around the city.
  • We have approached Google, who have chosen not to respond to our requests for help.
  • We can scrape data from the “real time information system” from Metlink.
  • We can scrape data from the Wellington Airport’s plane boards.
  • Araflow is collecting data in various locations on “phone movements”. I.e. Non-personal data that shows travel times.
  • We have asked the Wellington City Council for “rubber strip” volume data.
  • Other data sources are national and may not be as valuable.
  • We are pursuing sensing hardware that can be utilised prior (Araflow) or during the weekend.

Sensing Hardware

Araflow is supplying their hardware in exit and entry location points around Eastern Suburbs to give us data on phone movements.

We need more companies to supply gear that we can play with in the run up to, and over the weekend. Contact us please if you are keen on helping.

Cloud Services

Catalyst will supply storage services in the run up to and for one month after the Hackathon for data storage.

More!

Free (but limited) registration: http://goo.gl/xwpDqh

Follow Twitter: @HackMiramar: https://twitter.com/HackMiramar

Get onto the inside email list: https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!forum/hack-miramar

Mike Riversdale: Cheer-leader @miramarmike

Ian Apperley: Pleasant Press Officer @ianapperley

Ben Wilde: Creative Muse and Motivator @benrwilde

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