Appathon Winners Illustrate Potential for Smart Cities

As part of our commitment to Smart Cities, we were delighted to partner with Microsoft, the City of Barcelona and the Smart City Expo World Congress to sponsor an “Appathon”  that ran between November 2014 and January 2015.

Over the two and a half months of the project, 80 participants in 25 teams sought to develop innovative tools to enable more efficient energy management, a subject to which Schneider Electric is passionately committed. Applicants came from Spain’s growing community of over 30,000 app developers in the Microsoft ecosystem and each entry needed to be submitted into the Microsoft Windows Phone App store.

As an organisation we’re conscious of the importance of promoting the development of sustainable, innovative and open cities and our sponsorship of the Appathon allowed us to further demonstrate this. The challenge was to create apps focused around sustainability, with three themes for competitors to choose from.

At the individual level, the theme was to help educate residents to overcome any lack of energy literacy. Everyone uses electricity but there is less understanding of how it is produced, distributed, consumed or what are simple and effective ways of better managing consumption in the home.

Within the community sector, the theme was how using game theory or positive peer pressure might enable energy “heroes” to be identified and celebrated for their excellence. The challenge involved using app technology to help unlock the greater good of community engagement for sustainable energy use and harnessing the collective impact of engaging many individuals within a community.

For the city level theme, the idea was to facilitate the creation of apps that can help collectively inform citizens of how they can personally and positively impact energy use in the city. This was different from the community approach of using game theory but these apps would encourage citizen’s direct participation in sustainability and energy efficiency to benefit both individual households and applying it to the municipality as a whole.

Schneider Electric and Microsoft put in place a team of mentors during the programme to give advice on technical feasibility of proposed projects as well as assistance in developing the apps. The teams competed for cash prizes and there was an excellent level of interest from a range of teams with a wide cross section of backgrounds.

The winning Appathon entry, called BCNSunny, is a clever idea to help citizens understand the energy potential of their roofs, a typically underutilised part of our urban landscapes. Developed by a three women team consisting of a professor of psychology, a freelance designer and a web developer, the app provides a list of sustainable alternatives for using roof space. In the winning first version, BCNSunny helps users easily uncover the solar potential of their roof. Planned future updates will include further alternatives such as urban gardens and solar cooking.

Second place in the Appathon was awarded to CommuniThermo. This app is based on the idea of enabling citizens to vote on the temperature level in public places like libraries, offices and shopping centres. Heating and cooling is a major cost, so allowing citizens to feedback directly could enable smarter and more effective energy management, enabling people to feel more comfortable in spaces and reduce running costs at the same time. The engineer behind the app had noticed people complaining about the temperature whilst riding on buses and has found a way to help channel their efforts and influence change.

The third place winner was BCNatura, which uses Open Data information from the Barcelona City Council to encourage the use of public services like recycling or public transport to help citizens reduce their carbon footprint.

In fourth place was e-Recharge which helps users locate electric vehicle charging stations including determining which are already in use and how to reach them.

The final prize winning entry to the Appathon was Plugit which is a game that challenges players to create rooms with the maximum energy efficiency but choosing different combinations of appliances.

From our perspective, the Appathon project has been a great success. We feel that it has indeed delivered innovation and fostered the development of possible new solutions, harnessing technology to improve energy efficiency in ways that can positively and directly impact the lives of residents.

Barcelona is making strong progress in its Smart City endeavours and this competition is another good way to foster new ideas and models for a more efficient and sustainable future. Other cities take note!

Our congratulations to the winners and our thanks to every participant and expert who took part in the Appathon, we hope they feel as energised as we do from the project. We look forward to actively supporting more endeavours like this in the future.

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