Three teams of local coders and urban planning enthusiasts shared a prize pool worth $10,000 at LakeMacHack. The two-day event pitted some of the area’s sharpest minds in a fast-paced contest to revamp the local transport scene.
Liftango, NEWnet and Cycollage took the plaudits with their projects to improve the local bus network, cycle experience and commute time between Lake Macquarie and Sydney.
The hackathon event was created by Lake Macquarie’s Economic Development Company, Dantia, in response to projections of a population growth of more than 25,000 in the Lake Macquarie region over the next 20 years.
Entrants were asked to pitch an idea on Friday 16 June to one of three transport issues, with teams developing business and software plans over the Saturday. Applicants were competing in the following three areas:
- Bus and beyond: how can we innovate, optimise or combine our use of existing transport options?
- Pedalling for impact: how do we make cycling experiences a more user friendly, integrated option in Lake Macquarie and beyond?
- Lake Mac to Sydney: T-90 how can we optimise the use of rail and other transport modes to unlock the potential of our proximity?
The team at Liftango took top place for ‘Bus and beyond’. Taking their experience building a ride share app that matches passengers with drivers, Liftango developed software to track bus movement in the area. Liftango CEO Kevin Orr said the innovation would allow transportation providers to monitor vehicles and develop better bus routes. The software came with a feature where users could request new routes, alerting the bus company when they received high demand for a new service.
“We’re really at the stage where we’re looking at Uber’s technology and going ‘why is that not being used for other forms of transportation?’ There’s obviously barriers, but I think we’re getting to that tipping point where people are used to Uber, they’re used to Lyft, they’re used to using their mobile phone to book transportation and we need to get on board with that for other types of transport,” said Mr Orr.
NEWnet, a team of computer society students at UoN, created an algorithm to improve the commute from Newcastle to Sydney. Finding a staggering number of train routes between the two cities – more than eight nonillion (an eight with 30 zeroes) – the team worked on finding the most efficient route that would benefit the most people, but failed to find a feasible route that would take less than 90 minutes. However, with more accurate Opal card data, team member Richard Berry said he was confident of creating even better routes.
Rounding off the trio was Cycollage, who worked on making cycling to the new university campus in Newcastle city centre less daunting. The idea behind the project was to make an experienced cyclist’s knowledge available to those making the trip for the first time. The cyclist films a trip into the city centre, uploads it to YouTube and adds comments and links to Google Earth to help people prepare for their trip more easily.
Dantia CEO Peter Francis said he was impressed by quality of the work by the locals in such an intense, short event format.
“It’s helped show our region is ready and willing to get on the front foot and explore what regionally relevant technology innovation looks like as a way of building, connecting and showcasing our beautiful location and community. We’re humbled by the generosity of the organisations that saw the value of this initiative and look forward to working with them as we build on this inaugural event,” said Mr Francis.
As well as main host and sponsor Dantia, prizes an support were supplied by The University of Newcastle and NSW Department of Industry as part of the i2N incubator, Lake Macquarie City Council and QuietRush bicycles.
More information about the winning submissions can be found at www.lakemachack.com.au