The Swissnex Urban Data Challenge

By Sina Blassnig

Sina Blassnig is Junior Communications Manager at swissnex San Francisco. As a public-private venture, swissnex San Francisco connects the dots between Switzerland and North America in science, education, art, and innovation.

Apr 22, 2013 | Smart Cities | 0 comments


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Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.

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Busses, trams, pedestrians, and cars zoom about modern cities. But with urban growth comes challenges—one of them is how to improve transportation.

The Urban Data Challenge competition invited participants to explore mobility data sets from three cities—San Francisco, Geneva, and Zurich—and were challenged to draw meaningful insights through visualization. Over 60 designers, programmers, data scientists, and artists completed the challenge from Zurich, Geneva, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Paris, and Singapore. (Watch the highlights from the awards above.)

Frustration-indexThe results are impressive:  Transit Quality + Equity gets political by overlaying transit data with income levels, the Frustration Index incorporates the emotional aspects of using public transport. Dots on the Bus, recieved the Fusepool prize of $5,000 to develop their visualization into something truly useful by bringing humor to the difficult issue of public transport – rush hour can be hilarious.

Or watch a visualization that let you fly over Geneva along a bus route in A City’s Heartbeat.

The Urban Data Challenge proves the power of Open Governmental Data. Antoine Stroh, project manager for Public Transport Geneva, is amazed with all the work put into the project and the results. They opened up its first data set for the Urban Data Challenge. For Antoine Stroh the results of the challenge seem to point into the right direction. “This is a first step,” he says. “I am sure that we will carry on with open data.”

This is only the beginning. Now, we will see how the three cities move forward and follow the insights, actions, and implementation, there is also a touring exhibit of the projects planed, an Urban Data Challenge 2014 with more data sets and more cities. Stay tuned.

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