The developers of HOMEee at SXSW. This android application helps homeowners track regular maintenance and opportunities for energy efficiency in a fun way, treating your home like a digital pet that gets happier as you make smarter energy choices. | Photo by Ian Kalin.
The developers of Drive Better at SXSW. The Drive Better app uses GPS to track routes taken by drivers to their destinations to improve fuel efficiency. | Photo by Ian Kalin.
When most people talk about the South by Southwest festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, they share stories of new releases, VIP access and sleep deprivation. SXSW Eco, held at the beginning of October, lived up to this reputation. However, for one group of conference attendees, the new releases were all about open data - not the latest music. The VIP access was to resources and staff from the U.S. Energy Department. Sleep deprivation was still about sleep deprivation.
The SXSW Eco Hackathon, organized with the help of Cleanweb Worldwide, featured the latest and greatest application programming interfaces (APIs) from the Energy Department as well as new data from Ford Motor Company’s OpenXC platform and many other sources. Coders, designers and experts were given a unique opportunity to create useful energy tools from this newly released public data. The goal was to invent usable technology products and mobile applications for smarter energy choices. Because this event had a particular focus on vehicle data, new products could be also used to improve safety and fuel efficiency.
Cleanweb Worldwide’s Founder Blake Burris explained, “We are looking to solve the biggest challenges of our generation. We’re building a movement that connects entrepreneurs, developers and creative thinkers with cleantech data resources they didn’t know existed prior to today.”
Dozens of hackers showed up on the day of the event. Ian Kalin, Presidential Innovation Fellow and Director of the Energy Data Initiative, kicked things off by providing context from the White House Open Data Initiative and by presenting the newly released datasets and technologies to the competitors. Ideas immediately began to fly and development teams quickly coalesced around the APIs of interest. The teams were given 24 hours to build their tools and several teams worked through the night to meet the deadline. Five brand new tools were presented and voted on during a public “show-and-tell.”
The winning Hack in the Energy Efficiency Category was HOMEee. This android application helps homeowners track regular maintenance and opportunities for energy efficiency in a fun way, treating your home like a digital pet that gets happier as you make smarter energy choices. The winning team members were Bryan Russett, Joshua Ruedin, Dave Llopis, William Ting, Jessica Galloway and Molly Beth Emerick. The primary open data used in this product were Green Button, weather data from NOAA, and local city data.
The winning Hack in the Transportation category was Drive Better. The Drive Better app uses GPS to track routes taken by drivers to their destinations to improve fuel efficiency. Based on several factors including distance traveled and availability of alternative transportation, the app provides a cost comparison for each trip and offers recommendations. The winning team members were David Rose, Scott Akers and Ben Gully. Open data used in this product were Ford’sOpenXC and Google’s Maps API.
Other honorable mentions from the Hack submissions were:
The Book of Energy, Special Mention for Consumer Impact: This platform provides training for energy efficiency tailored to specific professions. Open data used included the new FuelEconomy.gov API, the Energy Star database, the Green Button, and the DSIRE incentives database.
Dangerzone, Special Mention for Safety Impact: A mash-up of datasets on accident likelihood, this application helps users understand the inherent risks in their driving routes. Open data used in this hack included Ford’s OpenXC, Google’s Maps API, and the Department of Transportation’s national highway safety data.
CBECS Viewer, Special Mention for Most Implemented Application: The Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey is a valuable resource of data but is difficult to navigate. This project is a fully functioning search engine for that dataset.
The products emerging from the SXSW Eco Hackathon were creative and functional. Several creators had already identified potential clients and were working to deploy their tools in the private sector. Others looked to future hackathons and additional data sets to finish what they had started. Given the rapid integration of newly released data into these unique tools, open data is clearly an engine of entrepreneurship and innovation.