May 2, 2011 By Andy Opsahl
CONTEST: DataSF.org 2009
Joachim Pfeiffer still updates TransiCast, a mobile app he launched in 2009 to help users navigate public transit systems, with data posted on San
Francisco’s DataSF.org and other open data repositories around the country. Pfeiffer said he hasn’t been able to monetize the app because few local governments post transit data online and in a usable format to take the app nationwide. Pfeiffer continues updating TransiCast, however, because it benefits his job with consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, where he serves public transit agency clients.
“I use it as leverage in proposals to transit agencies that commission the development of mobile apps,” Pfeiffer said, explaining that TransiCast serves as an example of what’s possible for agencies.
APP: Stumble Safely
CONTEST: Apps for Democracy 2008
In 2008, Eric Gundersen and four colleagues placed high in Washington, D.C.’s Apps for Democracy contest with Stumble Safely, an app that used crime reports and bar locations to give pedestrians safe routes for bar hopping. At the time, Gundersen was running Development Seed, an open source software development firm targeted toward international development. It helped that Gundersen’s team was able to use aspects of a tool Development Seed was already developing for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“We were able to leverage some of the same tools that we were simultaneously using for USAID to track bird flu, and we made a bar map with it. It showed how versatile some of these tools could be,” Gundersen said.
He took down the app shortly after the contest, but didn’t stop using open data. Development Seed helps government agencies refine and use their open and closed data to create maps for tracking elections and other humanitarian-motivated factors.
The firm is developing a map for the Department of Education that shows where schools reside in proximity to certain broadband speeds. The firm hosts numerous data sets taken from government open data programs, which programmers can use for free in their own Web projects. Development Seed recently announced a custom map-making Web tool called TileMill, which Gundersen hopes will be an open source alternative to ESRI’s Arc Server.
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