HackFest and Brisbane Toilet Finder

Post date: Dec 4, 2011 1:23:12 AM

Unleashing Brisbane's Data

Last Saturday, I entered an exciting and rewarding competition called HackFest. About a week before the competition the Brisbane City Council (BCC) released all of their data. It included datasets such as the locations of bus stops, the number of city cycles at each station and the locations of public toilets. HackFest was a one day version of a bigger competition being ran by the BCC called Hack::Brisbane.

BCC ran their competition to motivate developers to create applications for people who live in Brisbane using there data. In my opinion it is a great way for the Council to enable developers to give back to the city that they live in. Furthermore, it is more cost effective to run a competition and have multiple applications developed to exploit the data's potential.

On the day I developed a consumer application for android phone called Brisbane Toilet Finder (follow link to install). I won the open category of the competition with the application. The apps that other people created were great however, the judges felt that my app was most likely to be used by the general public of a regular basis. My app had very clear core competencies that it did very well. Where as some of the other apps used more data sets but they essentially just made them easier to search and displayed them on a map. I think to win the big competition developers will need a very consumer focused approach.

About the App

Brisbane Toilet Finder is an app that locates the closest public toilet to a person using an Android phone. It was developed using the public toilet dataset. The longitude and latitude of each toilet provided by the dataset is used with the geolocation capabilities of Android phones to direct a user to the closest toilet with only one click.

Looking at the UI, it is evident that all of the additional information about a restroom provided by the dataset is shown to the user such as, accessibility and opening hours. Furthermore, using the Google Street View API it was possible to display a thumbnail picture of the toilet to the user.

The app also allows users to view the average cleanliness of a toilet for a given day and rate it. The data generated by users rating the public facilities has the potential to be used by the BCC in the future when planning the allocation of resources. These ratings are stored in the cloud using a webservice built upon Google App Engine.

Finally, users can get direction to the toilet from their current location by a single click. This was implemented using the Android Google Maps API.