Motivating more Londoners to be active at the Active Travel Hackathon 2018

In this post, I share with great pleasure my experience of winning the Active Travel Hackathon 2018 on 12-13th June. The 2-day event was sponsored by Cloudreach, in partnership with Transport for London, AWS and Met Office.
The hackathon challenge

The aim of this hackathon was to come up with solutions that encourage Londoners to choose active travel in order to reach the target of making 80% of all journeys made by foot, bike, or public transport by 2041. As a postgraduate student studying how to marry digital technologies with sport business, I found myself immediately interested in this vision - "to make London a more engaged, physically active city that leads to a healthier society".

Whilst I was looking forward to the event, I was afraid I would be the only 'non-techie' in the room as the registration as the event seemed to be 'calling the developers'. It was definitely beyond my comfort zone, but I decided to jump in to the challenge.

Start with the WHY

After the informative orientation from TfL, Met Office, Geovation and Cloudreach, we were given a chance to team up. Four of us - Howie Chau from TfL, Debbie Wilson from SGN, Bhavesh Patel at Hubble by and myself, were all from different backgrounds; but we found that there was a couple of common challenges we face as commuters in London.

Due to the nature of a hackathon, there was limited time; however, we all agreed to invest enough time to understand the root of the current problems, by looking closer at TfL reports and data available from various organisations.

Carpe diem: Seize the Day

From TfL reports, we learned that Londoners were aware of the benefits of active travel, but there were so many reasons not to choose the active modes of transport, such as bad weather, pollution or traffic. We began to wonder what if we could help the commuters in London to have more ‘informed decisions’ by providing data and encourage them to stick to active travel methods by adding gamification. We started prototyping the mobile application called 'Seize the Day'.

What we built was inspired by our own frustrations - the 'cycling-to-work motivation' fades in the morning, but we end up regretting not cycling when we become stuck in traffic on the way back home. The target audience of the application is people who would like to start some changes in their daily commute, but need a little 'push' to seize the opportunity, like George (shown below)!

How it works

Combining data from TfL, Met Office and user preferences, the algorithm recommends the best day in a week for cycling and provides personalised routes for active travel. For example, every Sunday evening, George gets a notification telling him the best days to cycle next week based on weather predictions and public transport alerts so he can make more 'informed' decisions. In the weekday mornings, the notification is focusing more on motivating and influencing the user’s behaviour.

By adding a gamification feature, we aim to support Londoners to stay within the active travel community, for example, competing against boroughs of London. ‘Seize the day’ is designed to benefit wider stakeholders including local government for policy making, NHS and commercial partners.

Diversity wins

It was such a nice surprise when Pritesh from Cloudreach announced that 'Seize the Day' had been selected as the winner of this hackathon. Through this challenge I realised the importance of having a diverse team. I was confident in the avenue of sports marketing, but not too sure if I could contribute to the team with my limited knowledge in technologies. However, as we were all differently skilled and provided different expertise, the diversity allowed us to better understand the challenge and drive what we were best at.

I very much enjoyed this experience of turning concepts and technologies into action. It was amazing to see all teams came up with solutions that drive meaningful changes and tackle the real problem. Throughout the two-day event, we had support from the experts in Cloudreach who provided advice and mentorship. The hackathon also provided a perfect chance to network - it was lovely to meet Idelkys and Pritesh and hear about Women in Tech events in Cloudreach. I’m looking forward to these upcoming events as well! I would definitely recommend anyone to participate in future hackathons - you just never know who you might meet and what opportunities will arise from the event (like this chance to feature on the Cloudreach blog)!

I would like to thank Cloudreach for sponsoring this amazing event. I’ve been to several hackathons before, but this was the best organised one! Last but not least. big thanks my wonderful team – it was a true pleasure to meet you and work with you!

  • hackathon
  • aws
  • geovation