NYC BigApps Competition Wants Your Big Ideas to Improve Life and Work in New York City

By Katja Schroeder, Expedition PR

Wanted are technology solutions that help improve resource management, education, health and public safety, among other challenges

On May 6, a diverse mix of of developers, engineers, designers, marketers and content experts, gathered at the AppNexus office in Manhattan for the NYC BigApps 2014 kick-off.  New York City’s 5th Annual BigApps is a four-month competition that awards technology products that best solve major challenges affecting New York City residents, visitors, and businesses. Participants can win cash prizes, products, special recognitions, and the chance that their product will get adopted by a civic group or city agency.


By giving access to government agency data, NYC BigApps has helped launch nearly 300 apps designed to improve the life and work of New Yorkers since its creation in 2009. Last year’s BigApps Grand Prize winner was HealthyOut, an app that helps users find and order a healthy restaurant meal for delivery, takeout or browse for healthy dish suggestions when dining out. Since then, the app has expanded its geographic footprint outside of New York. Today’s HealthyOut users can order nutritious meals in more than 500 cities, choosing from more than 20,000 restaurants.


This year’s BigApps contestants are encouraged to submit projects that fit into one of the four categories:  Live, Work, Learn, and Play.  At the kick-off event 44 BigApps partners, including city agencies, private companies, civic organizations and educational institutions, had set up a booth to discuss projects needs, ideas and available data with the attendees. Projects can run the gamut from mobile and web apps, connected devices, data tools, games, and other technology products.


The new administration emphasizes the need to develop tech products that address the City’s challenges, such as public safety, pollution and energy waste. For example, Mayor de Blasio has asked NYC’s tech community to take on the issue of street safety, supporting his Vision Zero Action Plan that aims to end traffic deaths and injuries on New York City streets. By getting access to NYPD data, developers will have the opportunity to build useful tools that reduce or even help prevent street accidents or improve the city’s response system. The winning team of the Mayor’s Office Vision Zero challenge will meet the Mayor and tour City Halland Gracie Mansion.

To come up with winning projects, contestants have access to more than 80 mentors from tech and civic organizations in New York City and can participate in events to find project partners and choose their product development projects.


Participants already started listing their big ideas on the BigApps project page. One of the projects is Dangerous Roads, a web based app that identifies the top dangerous street intersections, addressing the Mayor’s Vision Zero objective by helping prevent accidents with information about dangerous street corners.


One of my favorite projects listed on the project page is Radiator Labs Cozy, a smartphone app that promises New Yorkers the ability to finally control the temperature in their own home. This is a very exciting proposition to anyone who lives in a building that does not have individual temperature controls for the apartments. Sadly this is the case for many New York buildings. As a result New York apartments turn into a sauna during the winter months. Room temperature can only be lowered by keeping windows wide open – resulting in a huge energy waste.  Imagine the energy the City can save by avoiding overheated apartments. I also would like an app to control the AC setting in office buildings.  Read our column ‘Is Energy Waste Giving You the Office Chills’ .


Here are also some of the other ideas that BigApps partners need help with:

–          Cleanweb New York challenges participants to use existing data on air pollution in New York City to develop solutions that monitor and analyze the air quality

–          NYC Acre is looking for a tool that directs New Yorkers to opportunities around distributed power generation and demand response to help reduce the strain on the NYC electrical grid.

–          The New York Department of Health wants to promote healthy eating habits by pointing New Yorkers to the nearest healthy food options at local farmers’ markets, green carts and Shop Healthy bodegas or supermarkets.

–          Similarly, Grow NYC has set the goal to make it easier for New Yorkers to cook like professional chefs after shopping at Greenmarket Farmers’ Markets.

–          Pure Energy Partners encourages submissions to design a simple, low-cost sensor system and user experience to help restaurants, markets, and households compost smarter & seamlessly.

–          The New York City Department of Education wants to use mobile technology to help NYC schools and families connect and engage.


To see all of the challenges listed by BigApps partners, click here.


Submissions for all of those projects – or for your own ideas – are due by July 12th. After the submission deadline, a panel will select up to 20 finalists out of all eligible entrées. The 20 finalists will have the opportunity to refine their products for a live judging event and final Award Ceremony in September.


To find out more about the BigApps competition and participate, click here