The goal of the Big Ocean Button Challenge is to use data from government, academic and research sources to build apps that are useful in the public.
(TNS) -- The XPrize Foundation said Wednesday that it’s kicking off a $100,000 contest to build mobile apps from the deep pool of data that’s already available on the world’s oceans.
The goal of the contest, called the Big Ocean Button Challenge, is to use data from government, academic and research sources to build apps that are useful in the public.
Each day, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collects 20 terabytes of data, said Matt Mulrennan, manager of the Oceans Initiative at XPrize. Tapping it could eventually create an industry similar to what’s occurred with distribution of National Weather Service data.
“So much ocean data is being collected, but so little is being used by the public,” said Mulrennan in an interview. “This Big Ocean Button Challenge is $100,000 to create mobile apps to turn ocean data into products that we need.”
Mulrennan announced the apps challenge at San Diego BlueTech Week, a conference put on by the Maritime Alliance focused on the cluster of marine technology companies in the local region.
Apps must be focused in one or more of five categories – fishing, shipping and trade, ocean acidification, public safety and exploration.
“As long as ocean data remains disconnected, we are unable to address the critical challenges that our oceans face,” said Mulrennan.
Fishing apps, for example, could tell users about sustainability, species identification or where not to fish in protected marine areas. Shipping apps could provide data about weather or use for empty containers. Public safety apps might center on water quality, jelly fish blooms or red tides. Exploration apps could display maps of the sea floor or species discovery.
"We are on the edge of an exciting emergence of a new blue economy, one that's based on information and environmental intelligence,” said Rick Spinrad, Chief Scientist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “As with the growth of commercial weather services, the development of value-added information about the ocean is bound to become a fruitful economic sector."
The non-profit XPrize Foundation is running the apps challenge through a spinoff operation called HeroX Challenge Platform. The website is somewhat like Kickstarter but for innovation competitions.
XPrize typically organizes larger contests – challenging inventors to come up with revolutionary new technologies to solve big problems. One of its ongoing competitions is the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize, where teams are trying to create a mobile medical diagnostic device akin to the Star Trek tricorder.
The Big Ocean Button contest has its roots in last year’s $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPrize, which aimed to develop sensors to measure the rapid acidification of oceans as they absorb more carbon from the atmosphere. Sunburst Sensors of Montana won the contest with pH sensor technology that’s now being deployed across the globe. Wendy Schmidt and her husband, Eric -- former chief executive of Google -- created the Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009.
The Big Ocean Button Challenge is a smaller endeavor. But Mulrennan thinks the contest will spark interest from app developers who want to help improve ocean health and enjoy working with large, somewhat untapped data sets.
“You are not going to break the bank for with this prize, but you may create a platform that is very valuable,” said Mulrennan. “The goal is to show the app community the value of ocean data.”
The mobile apps must be built for Android 4.4 KitKat or higher, or using Apple’s iOS software development kit. Developers must submit initial proposals by March 31. A winner will be named in each of the five categories in early 2018. Information is available on the HeroX website under the Big Ocean Button Challenge. Existing groups with ocean apps are allowed to compete but they must create new or improved capabilities.
©2016 The San Diego Union-Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.