February 10, 2010 By Russell Nichols
Photo: WayFinder NYC
In the nation's most populous city, jam-packed with some 8 million people, it makes sense that the grand prize of a New York City innovation challenge would go to an application that helps travelers find their way around.
WayFinder NYC, a program that helps users locate the nearest subway station by looking through their camera display on Android phones, won $7,500 in awards in the city's first "NYC BigApps" competition, which was launched last June by the city's Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).
"The applications will generate millions of dollars in economic impact -- a figure that will only increase as more entrepreneurs become aware of the opportunities available here," NYCEDC President Seth W. Pinsky said in a statement.
As more local governments push to improve transparency, competitions like New York City's allow citizens to convert data into shared apps that serve the public and help cities save money. Mirroring other innovation contests like Washington D.C.'s Apps for Democracy, NYC BigApps gave software developers access to more than 170 data sets from 30 city agencies: traffic updates, taxi info, citywide event schedules, property sales, recreational facilities, restaurant inspections, etc. Using at least one data source from the NYC.gov Data Mine (www.nyc.gov/data), programmers had to develop innovative tools that the public could use online.
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