BigApps Winner Aims to Streamline City Data

Georgia Kral |

Mayor Bloomberg announces the winners of BigApps 3.0 at the IAC Building. Image courtesy of NYC EDC.

“Information wants to be free” is a catch-phrase in the information age.  In March, the city passed a law requiring city agencies to make available online all the data they produce. Now how does one sort through all that information?

On Tuesday night at the IAC Building on Manhattan’s west side, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the winners of the third annual BigApps 3.0 competition, a city-sponsored contest in which tech start-ups create web or mobile applications that use city data. The grand prize winner’s app specifically addresses how to make sense of the city’s more than 860 available data sets, making it easier for other developers to mine the data.

NYCFacets “seeks to streamline and simplify the process for accessing, understanding and utilizing” the city’s data, said the city in a statement. Using a “crowdknowing” approach, the app ranks the quality of the data with an algorithm combining semantics, statistics and feedback from users. The app will help developers find data sets, “slice and dice” metadata and make “smart, federated queries” useful to their potential projects.


NYCFacets explains its application, which helps open data platform users better understand what’s available. Video courtesy of NYCFacets.

Other winning apps focused on the average New Yorker’s concerns: finding parking, free events and the best travel routes;  learning about buildings they’re considering for an apartment rental or schools nearby; and even some fun alerts, like letting you know when you’re near a famous film set location. The judges of BigApps are leaders in technology, venture capital and city government.

Bloomberg used the ceremony, which awarded $50,000 in prizes to 11 winning teams, as an opportunity to tout the city’s bold and aggressive quest to become the next Silicon Valley.

“New York City is home to the most creative people, the most talented engineers and the fastest growing technology community,” said Bloomberg. “Thanks to our administration’s work on initiatives like BigApps, our technology incubators and the new Cornell NYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, we’re making sure New York City has a bright future as a tech capital.”

Here are the other winners, below.

Second Prize: Work+

Using Foursquare and NYC WiFi Hotspots, Work+ helps New York City’s growing freelance workforce find suitable places to work. Users tell Work+ about their ideal set-up, including access to WiFi, coffee and a quiet working environment. This app was also the winner for the Best NYC Mash-Up category.

Popular Choice Award Grand Prize: NY Trip Builder

A travel site for out-of-towners, this app gives users an easy way to map their trip to the Big Apple. Itineraries are accessible through Foursquare or Facebook accounts.

Popular Choice Award Second Place: Scene Near Me

With this app, alerts will be sent to your phone when you are near locations where famous movies were shot, including locations made famous in such films as “Annie Hall,” “Ghostbusters” and “Spider-Man.”

Investor’s Choice Award: The Funday Genie

Based on user preferences, this app creates a personalized “funday” schedule of all the free events in the five boroughs.

Best Mobility App: Embark NYC

Designed to make riding the subway simpler, this app allows users to plan commutes — without WiFi. Yes, it works underground!

Best Green App: 596 Acres

This app works to connect Brooklynites with unused land in the neighborhoods. This public education app, through printed maps, signage and an online, interactive and social-media-connected map, gives users the tools to work with the city to adopt vacant lots for urban farming. Since the summer of 2011, four groups have negotiated agreements with city agencies.

Best Education App: Sage: Pre-K and Elementary Schools Search

Users can search by address or school name to figure out which schools their children are zoned for or are close-by. Additional data, including state exam results and NYC progress report grades is also available.

Best Health & Safety App: Personal Safety App (Lite) for NYC

This personal safety app creates a customized emergency button on a user’s phone, which, if tapped, will automatically connect with a local police precinct or emergency number with a pre-scripted voice message.

Best Student Award: ParkAlley

Imagine simplifying the search for parking in New York City. This app enables users to swap parking spaces. Using the app, users can log which spot they are using and for how long, as well as a price they would require for giving their time to accommodate another individual’s needs. The next user can then sweep in and take that spot, if  the price is agreed upon.

City Talent Award: Uhpartments

For the many New Yorkers looking for apartments, this app gives users a one-stop place to check out city records on the buildings they are considering. An Uhpartments Report gives a grade to a building based on 311 reports and includes issues such as vermin, leaks and heating problems. Other data from StreetEasy and Foursquare are also incorporated, including local attractions and businesses.

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