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A look back at CongestionHack, a Transport for NSW open data hackathon

After months of preparation and anticipation, CongestionHack went ahead on the weekend of March 23rd to 25th at UTS Hatchery. The event was a great success and was the first hackathon organised and run entirely by the Transport for NSW (TfNSW) Open Data and Innovation Team!

There were over 200 participants, forming more than 30 teams that took part in CongestionHack over the weekend. Teams were pre-formed before the event (for the most part!) and their task was to come up with innovative ideas to help ease congestion on our roads through 4 set challenges, however were given the option to address other congestion related issues if they liked. The teams presented some great ideas, and after 34 pitches, a winning and runner-up team were announced for both the Open and “In the Know” Teams. The winners received $5000 to share across their team and the runners up received $2000 to share across their team.

The success of CongestionHack would not be without the support from our partners and sponsors. A big thank you goes out to:

Day 1: Friday 23rd March 2018

The TfNSW Open Data and Innovation Team worked hard to organise the event and to get all 31 datasets published for the participants. At 6:00 PM, CongestionHack was officially underway with an intro by our Innovation Lead Richard Tubb, followed by presentations by Marg Prendergast, Coordinator General of the Transport Coordination Division at Transport for NSW and Dominique Winn, Principal Manager for Congestion and Technology Innovation in Transport for NSW’s Freight Strategy and Planning Division from Transport for NSW who outlined the importance of easing congestion and the challenges that we encouraged the teams to solve.

After the opening presentations, the teams didn't waste any time and rushed upstairs to their tables to start brainstorming and planning their ideas. All the teams were very focused and keen to start working on their solutions. The venue closed at 9:00 PM and by then most teams had some kind of idea down on paper that the could develop further over the weekend.

Day 2: Saturday 24th March 2018

The coffee machines were running overtime on Saturday morning as the teams geared up for a huge day of hacking. Breakfast was also a hit with many pastries, buns and yoghurts ready to fuel the brain power needed for a full day ahead.  The TfNSW Open Data team were kept busy talking with the various teams and discussing their projects. Most of the teams were trying to narrow down their ideas to a more focused product or solution and were looking for some feedback to gain a Transport for NSW perspective. The teams worked very hard all day and only briefly stopped to grab some delicious catered food or to attend one of the workshops that were organised throughout the day.

There were two workshops, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The workshop in the morning was run by Igor Zevaka from Nearmap Australia, which involved learning how to use their map imaging API. Igor gave an overview on how to use their API and some examples on how it can be applied to the teams' projects. The workshop in the afternoon was run by Benjamin Chong from Right Click Capital and The Founder Institute. Benjamin’s session was focused on how to deliver an effective pitch. The ability to pitch is an integral factor in hackathons and Benjamin offered some great tips and ran through example pitches, inviting participants to come up with their own examples.

After a long day, which finished up at 9:00 PM, the teams needed to leave the venue and prepare for the final day.

Day 3: Sunday 25th March 2018

The last day of CongestionHack was all about fine tuning the ideas, practicing the pitch and putting in the finishing touches. Teams had until midday to submit their project form and officially enter the competition. The project form outlined each idea and let us know additional details and documentation. At 2:30 PM, it was time for the pitching to begin in front of our panel of judges. The hackathon was split into two competitions:

  1. Internal/”In the Know” (IKT) for any team who had experts in the subject, professionals or connections to Transport for NSW and 
  2. Open for the general public

By the time the pitching arrived, a few teams had dropped out.  There were 22 teams for the open competition and 12 for the internal competition - a total of 34 pitches. The standard of the pitches was very high and it was great to see a big variety of solutions with a lot of thinking outside the square. The ideas included an innovative mix of apps, business products, infrastructure projects and new ways of thinking. The judging panel needed to decide on what the best ideas were by following the judging criteria of: 

  1. Innovation; 
  2. Feasibility; 
  3. Easing congestion.

The judges had to decide on a runner-up and a winner for each competition.

Judges included:

  • Natalie E Pelham: Executive Director, Innovation Research & Reform, Transport for NSW (TfNSW)
  • Alastair Bor: Deputy Executive Director, Business Change and Solution Delivery Group IT, Transport for NSW (TfNSW)
  • David Scott: Director Network & Asset Intelligence, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS)
  • Adam Griffin: CEO of Chargebar
  • Jan Kollhof: Director of Engineering at Nearmap

Winners and Runners-up

Winner of the In the Know (ITK) Category:

Team SKY with Adaptive Mobility Behavioural Insights (AMBI)

The AMBI Project uses data to display prompts in real time that inform customers of better times and ways to travel. The AMBI Project will leverage existing smart infrastructure (such as Variable Message Sign, Interchange announcements screens, and mobile apps) to prompt customers to reconsider their travel choices. AMBI uses comparisons of real time and historic travel data to present customers with alternative choices which seek to minimise their travel time. This will alleviate congestion and help match demand to transport capacity.

Runner-up of the In the Know (ITK) Category:

Team UNSW students with Event Congestion Management 

Dilute peak congestion by occupying patrons at public transport hubs which provides direct transportation to and from the venue to reduce the volume of private transportation. Locations are chosen based on vehicle capacity, distance and geographical location around Sydney.

Winner of the Open Category

Team Transtrack with the TransTrack app

TransTrack is developing a reward-based camera application to help Transport Management Centre (TMC), better respond to key road incidents. This means quicker response times to avoid bottlenecks. We do this by rewarding Opal dollars to reporting pedestrians.

Runner-up of the Open Category

Team Potato Bird with goFlex

The faster way to work. GoFlex is designed to educate and convince business owners about the reasons they should adopt remote/flexible working strategies. GoFlex uses a unique algorithm to calculate the huge amount of benefits and savings a business has access to by harnessing remote strategies. It presents this information in a personalised and beautiful interface that is engaging and informative. It aims to relieve congestion by reducing the need for physical proximity and encourages utilization of existing technologies.






The Open Data and Innovation Team hope the participants had an amazing time at CongestionHack because we sure did!

Thank you again to all participants, mentors and judges for making CongestionHack as successful as it was and we look forward to seeing you at our next event. To keep up to date with any upcoming innovation challenges or hackathons please visit the innovation page on the Transport for NSW Open Data Hub and follow us on Twitter!