The information is out there. The technology is available. All it requires is a fair bit of inspiration and a little bit of perspiration to develop small scale applications that can really make a difference to people’s lives.
A map can tell you which direction to go in, but it cannot tell you what your journey is going to be like.
Take ‘Hills Are Evil’, a winner from Bristol City Council’s recent open data competition. It is a geolocation application for smartphones that will overlay a map with information about terrain for a given route or area. With a modest grant from Media Sandbox the team at Overlay Media were able to design and develop an application which tells you where there are hills, cobbles and any ground features that can affect perambulation. This clearly will be of huge benefit to cyclists, skaters, walkers or those with restricted mobility; a claim testified to by the testers of the application. The aspiration is for a complete picture of terrain data to be built up by crowdsourcing.
Spending data doesn’t have to be dry and boring.
A simple spreadsheet or chart such as that above can be a turn off to most people, but with some creativity such information can become accessible and even interesting. ‘I heart my city’, was another winner from the same competition. With their Media Sandbox commission, Delib developed a set of visualisations of the council’s spending data. The idea was to highlight the good work that the council was doing and make citizens feel good about where they live. This was achieved by presenting the data mapped in a ‘very sweet way’ so that even people who don’t normally engage with data could understand it.
How well do you understand your environment?
You may have seen tables of air quality data, or read about polluted rivers, but do you understand what these factors mean to you, your fellow citizens and the flora and fauna that share your living space? ‘Blossom-Bristol’ is a wonderfully creative application that encourages people to engage with and understand their environment via game-play. Developed by Mobile Pie, the game invites users to plant virtual crops in locations around the city, and the success or failure of the crops is dependent on environmental factors such as air quality, water quality, temperature or weather. An attractive game, it is another example of how inspired applications using open data can enhance everyday lives.