Tech City UK challenges Britain's leading developers to create flood apps

Britain's leading developers joined forces this weekend at an emergency flood hackathon to create new technologies that could be used to help the people affected by the recent flooding in the UK.


Britain's leading developers joined forces this weekend at an emergency flood hackathon to create new technologies that could be used to help the people affected by the recent flooding in the UK.

The #floodhack, held at Google Campus on Sunday and attended by over 200 people, was conceived at a No. 10 Downing Street meeting on Friday afternoon in a bid to help those who have been impacted by the national crisis.

The day-long event opened the government's flood level data from Government Data Services (GDS) and the Environmental Agency to individuals as well as developers and engineers from the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.

In addition to developers, the event was also attended by representatives from Tech City UK, the Environment Agency, the Government Digital Service (GDS), the Open Data Institute and the Cabinet Office.

Over 20 teams used live data, predominantly provided large by the Environment Agency, to come up with digital solutions that could be used to help people affected by the flooding.

The event ended with pitches from sixteen teams who were each allocated two minutes to present their hack to a Cabinet Office judging panel.

Winning projects included automated SMS services to maps that show how high water levels will be the next day. The full list of winners can be found at the end of this article.

Joanna Shields, chair of Tech City UK and former executive at firms such as Google and Facebook, spearheaded the event, alongside Gerard Grech who recently took over as Tech City UK CEO.

"There is a plan to support the projects and teams," Shields told Techworld in an email this morning. "[It] definitely supports the case for more open data!"

However, at the time of publication no details of the support had been received from Tech City UK or the Cabinet Office.

Joshua March, who helped organised the event and is also CEO of social media management platform Conversocial, said: "The hackathon shows the power of the open data movement. By opening up the flood data to third party developers, powerful tools have been created that have the potential to help thousands of people - in a matter of days.

"It's been amazing to see what can happen when the government works hand in hand with the UK tech community. Everyone - big companies, public sector, start-ups - rallied together and gave up their weekends to try and make a difference."

Hackathon participants that built their web or mobile app on Google Cloud Platform were offered $2,000 of credit to get started. This included $1,000 in Google App Engine credit and $1,000 in Google Compute Engine credit.

The live data opened up is to be available for the next three months to allow anyone to develop services to help with the crisis and its aftermath.

The chosen apps were:

Don't Panic - a system that allows people with and without web access to request and receive help, ranging from the delivery of materials, to local information. The system will record data for future analysis and real time response planning.UKFloodAlerts - an alert system that allows people to select a predefined specific alert, such as power loss, a burst river bank, flooded roads/paths etc., with those in the local area being instantly alerted by app or SMS.Flood Feeder - an aggregation tool that visually presents a feed of flood (and related) data, such as geographic granularity, warnings, alerts, mobile phone mast locations and transport routes.FludBud - using Twitter to spread the word about; locating Twitter users near flood affected areas and tweeting them information about and potential volunteers in the vicinity.ViziCities - a tool that visualises flood levels in 3D using the ViziCities platform.Who do I call when I have a power cut? - a service that lets people look up their Distribution Network Operator (DNO) based on their postcode, connecting them with the right people when their power is cut.Citizen Flood Journalism - a service that located people tweeting from flood-affected areas and messages them to request photographs and descriptions which are then compiled into a geo-linked feed of flood-related information.MyState - a service that allows people at risk of flooding to register themselves and their state using their phone to access the best information to help themselves and request help from others. They can also opt-in to receive warnings for their location should conditions in their environment escalate.

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