From among a record 96 entries, New York City officials on Wednesday selected the winners of its third annual mobile app development competition. The winner: an app that makes it easier to dig into the city's open data portal.
"Three years ago, Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg offered an innovative challenge to New York's emerging tech community: we'll make the data available if you show us your best ideas," Robert Steel, New York's deputy mayor for economic development, said in a statement. "The developer community has responded enthusiastically, with innovative ideas that leverage city data to create apps that are in high demand."
This year's BigApps contest, which kicked off in October, awarded a total of $50,000 to app developers who built apps that do everything from planning subway trips to providing maintenance reports on apartment buildings. In order to attract developers this year, the city issued a call for ideas and gave prizes to the best ones, including a parking rules app and an API to transit data.
[ Read about the DOD's recent challenge for apps that promote K12 education in science, technology, engineering, and math. See DOD Challenges Developers To Improve STEM Education. ]
Cash wasn't the only prize this year, however. Two winners get to compete for seed funding from the TechStars venture capital contest, while others get to demo their apps at NY Tech Meetup events and receive mentoring and networking opportunities as members in the new BigApps Founders Network.
The top app in the contest, NYCFacets, simplifies access to New York City's Open Data portal for both users and developers. The app ranks the quality of the city's data sets, makes it easier to navigate the portal, improves the site's search and discovery features, and lets users browse metadata, discuss data sets, and analyze how the data sets were constructed. Future plans include bringing in other sources of New York City data.
The second-place winner, Work+, suggests places where home office workers can work outside of home. It identifies places that offer free Wi-Fi, easy access to coffee, and peace and quiet. The app lets people log hours spent working at particular locations, rate the locations, and save them in a list of favorites.
Winners in other categories include a New York City travel app and an app that alerts users when they stumble upon the scenes of New York City movie shoots.
The BigApps contest started in 2009 and until this year had drawn more than 140 applications. But while the contest is popular and has attracted some press, it's notoriously difficult for even the most innovative developers to find huge commercial success. For example, last year's top app, Roadify, has few users, and the second-place app can't be found in Apple's App Store.
Mobile app development is just one piece of New York's open government strategy. It also includes the data portal that inspiring the winning contest entry and a newly passed open data policy.
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