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Britain’s biggest digital talent step up to the plate at Flood Hackathon

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200 sign up to Government-supported Flood Hackathon to help national crisis

Developers from across the country came together this weekend to put technology at the heart of the national flood rescue operation at an emergency Hackathon.

Conceived in a meeting at Number 10 Downing Street as late as Friday night, the event had over 200 attendees signed up by 9am the following morning.

Armed with live data released specially from the Environment Agency, over twenty teams descended on Google Campus on Sunday to propose their ideas.

Winning projects to help Britain tackle the worst floods for a generation ranged from automated SMS help services to maps predicting tomorrow’s water levels.

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‘Working non-stop’

The meeting was attended by Tech City UK, the Environment Agency, the Government Digital Service, the Open Data Institute, the Cabinet Office and leading technology firms.

It was chaired by Joanna Shields, chair of Tech City UK, and also attended by her successor as CEO Gerard Grech.

gerard_grech_flickr_thinkingdigitalGrech told Tech City News the sense of purpose at the this particular hackathon was extraordinary.

The Environment Agency have been working non-stop since our meeting on Friday to make all their data available.

Both they and the Government Digital Service have been inspired by the speed at which today’s developers have been able to create new services from scratch.

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We will fight them on the beaches

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 02.24.56Klaus Bravenboer was part of MyState, an SMS service to register your situation and request help from others – and one of the hackathon’s winning projects.

He said some of the presenters from public bodies such as the Environment Agency were literally shaking from their lack of sleep.

Though quite chaotic and loud, the day has been very inspiring and at points almost had the mood of a wartime effort.

So much so that the day’s efforts were recognised in a tweet from the Prime Minister himself:

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Following through

With no guarantee of momentum, it’ll be up to the volunteers themselves to take their projects to the stage where they can be put to use across Britain.

Anthony Simon, Head of Digital Communications at Number 10, told Tech City News that being not a Government scheme but a Government-supported scheme, the follow-up from the hackathon can’t be pushed too firmly by the Cabinet Office.

We want to help wherever we can when it comes to promoting these new services, and hope they’re able to take them to the next level.

But he insisted that other hackathons, which to some have a reputation for not following through with the ideas conceived, didn’t match the mood present in Campus this weekend.

What makes this one different is that people don’t have to imagine the distant future for the technologies they’re creating – they can see the immediate need right in front of their eyes.

Medals of honour

Josh March, CEO of Conversocial, was asked at Friday’s meeting to organise the hackathon.

One of the key points to the event was working with Tech City UK and the Cabinet Office to publicise the services today’s teams have created.

He told the evening’s audience that Google is giving $2,000 worth of hosting on Google Cloud for every participating team.

The teams singled out as particularly impressing the judges were:

Project Name

Prize

Don’t Panic 3 months of hosting & support from Twilio
UK Flood Alerts One year’s part-time membership at TechHub
Flood Feeds and FludBud £2,000 development grants from the Nominet Trust
ViziCIties 3 months of Azure hosting from Microsoft
Citizen Flood Journalism and MyState Unspecified
Who to call if you get a Powercut No. 10 Mug

 

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Everyone’s a winner

See below for the full list of projects.

Project Name

Team Members

Description

UKFloodAlerts Rob Cresswell (@robcresswell), John Davidge (@john_r_davidge), Jack Peter Fletcher (@jackpeterfletch), Juan Garcia (@juanjsebgarcia), Nicholas Panayiotou (@nicolas_panayio) App (plus website and SMS) to register and receive local alerts
FloodRelief Public collaboration platform to gathers data on relief needs
Don’t Panic Paul, Rich, Courtney ‘998’ service for people to report issues for varying levels and get the appropriate response
Flood-level visualisation within ViziCities Uses terrain levels and water levels to predict dangerous and safe areas so people can move to safety
My flood defence is broken! Uses QR codes on signs near broken flood defences to link to an app to report problem
fludbud @riceo100 @ambrowning @tarnfeld @VictoriaDomalik @molintosh @paulscott @lvdeason @tomhennigan Actively find twitter users near affected areas and tweet them info on floodvolunteers.co.uk and potential volunteers nearby
MyState Klaus, Paul, Ed, Jamie, Tom, Alex, Anthony SMS service to register yourself and your situation and request help from others
Flood.UK Real time chat/video hyperlocal platform @alokmatta, @nw3biz Automatically sets up chatrooms, hashtags and platform integration for affected victims to talk to each other and to helpers
Citizen Flood Journalism Gareth Lloyd Actively finds twitter users reporting incidents and messages them for photos/details
Who do I call when I have a power cut? Jason (@jasonneylon) Waldemar (@velrok) Lookup your Distribution Network Operator (DNO) based on your postcode, so you know who to ring when your power is cut
FoodTrade Twitter and SMS integration for the existing FoodTrade platform for connecting food businesses with farmers
Flood Feeder Dan Smith (@danpaulsmith), Brendan Quinn (@brendanquinn), Greg Nwosu (@greg_nwosu) Visual construction of an aggregated feed of flood data and related data
DownStreams Connects downstream communities with upstream ones to help collaborate on flood prevention
DataEnvAgency MEMO janhusar (@janhusar) DataEnvAgency (@dataenvagency) Alan Jones (@A1ANJ0NE5) General information for easy relief and recovery, reaching and coordinating help or looking for updates
Flood, sweat and tears Chris, Joe, Katie, Matt, Carlos and friends Communications plan to get the message out there about all the great ideas and help available
Flood Visualizer Francesco Puppini Displays flood data on Google maps with interactive navigation based on some parameters
Flood Flash Chris Alexander Send your town or river name to 01782 435576 and get flood alerts relevant to you by SMS

 

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Moving forward

The event was supported by the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Twilio.

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 true success of the weekend’s activities, however, will be depend on the follow-through of completion and promotion over the coming days and weeks.

As one developer put it, “if we don’t find a way to make this memorable and public-facing this will all get lost in the computer”.

image credits: @EatHackney 

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