Teenagers show UK Govt how web/mobile services should be done

If we assume that the secret to successful tech startups is an elegant solution to a common problem, easily monetized and marketed to a receptive audience, then Young Rewired State probably saw the birth of five or more successful startups of the future, hacked together by a group of very motivated teenagers over 24 hours.

The hack day, organised by Rewired State, was held at Google’s London Victoria offices over the weekend. It brought together 50 young developers aged 15-18 (of which, only three were girls), giving them access to experienced mentors, non-personal government data and as is customary at events like this, an unlimited supply of sugar and caffeine.

A total of 16 hacks were presented. The winners were:

Most likely to be bought by Google: TFHell

This mobile web app solved the problem of knowing whether or not your London bus is running on time, using the data that buses relay to bus stop display screens indicating how long before they arrive. It relied on screenscraped data from Transport For London, which is notorious for walling off its data. Google Maps already supports this feature in the US, making this app the strongest contender in this category.

“Wish I’d thought of that!”: Will Work For Peanuts

This website to connect teens looking for tech work experience with companies in need of talent garnered much praise from the audience, but it definitely rankled for me. The UK labour market is already horribly skewed towards the exploitation of unpaid interns in the name of “something impressive to add to your CV”. Working for peanuts, I can understand, especially if it’s for charities and non-profit organisations – but this site advocates working for no nuts, as it were.

Most likely to antagonise the CIO council: How’s my Train?

This nifty hack created very informative visualisations of statistics for individual train routes, based on an archive of existing train punctuality data. This made a more relevant service for commuters than the officially published statistics which only show the performance stats for a route per quarter.

Best in Show: School Routr 2.0 Beta

This project aggregates news reports about street crime from Google/Yahoo, extracts road and town names and then mashes them up with Google Maps to help users plot the “safest” route to school, avoiding places where stabbings, muggings and other assaults have been reported.

A few hacks gained special mention:

Theory Test: ‘liberated’ the driving theory test data to create an open/free practise site;
Blogotics: plots public opinion of Parliamentary bills based on blog posts mentioning the bill;
Unicloud: creating a better search interface to UCAS data; and
Blab to Betty: SMS-based sexual health Q&A service.

The hacks were judged by Mark O’Neill, CIO at Department of Culture, Media and Sport; Ben Hammersley, associate editor of Wired UK; Craig Elder, communities manager for the Conservative Party; Helen Milner, CIO of UK Online centres; JP Rangaswami, MD of design at BT; Diana Johnson, MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools; Mike Hoban, who recently took up the mantle of communications and engagement at Directgov; and Dan Heaf of Channel 4’s 4iP innovation fund.