The weekend of September 7 and 8 saw a congregation of 115 developers, coders, designers, energy experts, utility representatives, behavioural economists and MaRS volunteers descend on MaRS to participate in the first-ever MaRS Energy Hackathon.
While hackathons are becoming a regular feature at MaRS, this particular hackathon distinguished itself as part of a much larger effort to enable access to standardized electricity consumption data in Ontario. This effort began in September 2012 when MaRS produced a report titled “The Market Impact of Accessible Energy Data” to engage electricity stakeholders on the value of making electricity data accessible. In November 2012, MaRS followed up its report with a partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Energy to lead a cross-industry working group with Ontario energy regulators, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and seven utilities to promote the adoption of the Green Button standard in Ontario.
Ten months and 2.6 million (and counting) Green Button-enabled homes and small businesses later, the MaRS Energy Hackathon is just one of many events and activities that MaRS plans to conduct to encourage the developer and innovation ecosystem to access electricity data that will now be available for consumers to access and share in an electronic, standardized and secure format.
The MaRS Energy Hackathon attracted a very focused group of participants who were driven to use this new data stream to solve very specific problems. The hackathon’s challenge was to develop solutions that would help consumers engage with their electricity consumption data. Objectives included:
The 36-hour event resulted in 11 excellent solutions that demonstrated a diversity of consumer engagement approaches ranging from the use of simple text message–based notification systems for customer electricity consumption alerts to the use of physical green flamingos as visual cues to leverage peer pressure or social persuasion measures (similar to Ontario’s successful blue-box recycling program).
Over 33% of the people involved in the MaRS Energy Hackathon were women, which showcases the increasing diversity in participation at the hackathons held at MaRS.
The focus of this hackathon and other supporting events and activities in the coming months will be to provide ongoing support and feedback to developers who are building Green Button data-enabled applications. This will offer developers the opportunity to leverage the first-mover’s advantage in this nascent but growing energy data marketplace, while also offering Ontario consumers more choice in how they interact with the electricity data enabled by the Green Button standard.
Read on for information on the MaRS Energy Hackathon’s winning applications.
Winner of the Best App Award: Electric Company with their project Barkly
Prize: $1,500 – Chagpar & Associates-backed Prepr Innovation Grant
First runner-up for the Best App Award: Qriket with their project Wattage
Second runner-up for the Best App Award: Space Bears with their project Spring Gauge
Winner of the Pivot Design Group Award for Best UX/Design: Energy Tipper with their project of the same name
Prize: Pivot Design Group Award (approximate value: $5,000; prize also includes consultancy services with Pivot’s Creative Director, Ian Chalmers, as well as 10 hours of free space at Pivot offices)
Winner of the MaRS Future Impact Award: Power Inform
Prize: Consultancy with MaRS Data Catalyst
Honourable Mentions: Emmit and Green Flamingo
Prize: Tuts+ Premium memberships and free Squarespace accounts (approximate value: $500)