7th April 2014

Building prototypes at Glasgow’s Future Cities Hackathon

Luke Hampson


With more and more of Britain’s population now living in urban environments, is it possible to harness the power of technology more effectively, to make cities a better place to live in? This is a question the UK’s innovation agency – Technology Strategy Board – posed to 50 cities back in 2012, inviting them to bid for a £24m funding award that would enable the winning bidder to become a ‘Future Cities Demonstrator’ – an initiative that, through the use of technology, aims to improve the integration of services and the urban communities that rely upon them. After taking part in the open competition, Glasgow City Council was awarded with the funding.

‘Everything happens somewhere’ is a mantra you’ll often hear us cite; and we believe that location data plays an integral part in the development and improvement of city services. Ordnance Survey already works closely with a wide range of public sector organisations across England, Wales and Scotland and since Glasgow were awarded with the funding, we’ve been actively supporting the Glasgow Future Cities initiative in a number of ways.

Firstly, in a historic deal, Ordnance Survey entered into a new trial agreement with Glasgow City Council that enables the Local Authority to release information that’s been produced using licensed Ordnance Survey data and mapping.

Glasgow Clyde by night © 2014 craigburrow/Shutterstock.com


Secondly, we’ve been providing support in kind to the four separate hackathons that the @openglasgow organising team are running. Each hackathon has a separate theme – these being ‘Public Safety’; ‘Energy’; ‘Health’ and ‘Transport’. I attended the second event that focused on ‘Energy’. The event ran for 48 hours, during which time participants form teams to build a prototype venture; aiming to address significant problems and/or opportunities associated with the given theme. The prize up for grabs in each hackathon is £20,000 which makes for a competitive yet still collaborative environment!

At the start of the event I delivered a presentation to over 100 participants and supporters, covering information about Ordnance Survey and how we’re supporting the initiative as a data provider. Throughout the weekend, I worked with Scottish colleagues to ‘mentor’ the teams – helping them make use of our products/services/tools for the prototypes they were building. There was a LOT of interest in the highly accurate geospatial data we offer and most teams made use of the data in some way – a great result!

If you’re interested, to know who won – why not read Glasgow City Council’s blog to learn more about what the winning team ‘Mavericats’ built during the weekend. The organisers also recorded all of the pitches, so why not check out this link to view these – teams called ‘Happy Homes’ & ‘Heat Swap’ provide information about how they used OS datasets in their hacks.

A short promotional video from the event has also been produced; click the YouTube link below to view this:



The next two Hackathon’s cover ‘Health’ and ‘Transport’ themes and are sure to be well attended. So, if you are interested, free and available to attend either of these – you can find out more here.