The future is open

The city of Ottawa is slowly opening up to a more transparent future thanks to some passionate and intelligent people working both in and outside the city infrastructure. Open Data Ottawa is loose collection of developers that formed to organize a hackfest and work with the city of Ottawa into a new era of data distribution. The basic idea is to encourage the municipal government to release usable sets of data from information it is already gathering and organizing. With that data released, developers are free to create unique and useful ways to make that information more accessible to the public.


Vancouver has been at the forefront of this in Canada and have created an Open Data Catalogue, and you can see from this Wiki some of the projects that have emerged including and Vancouver Find a Fountain! The city of Ottawa IT folks are working with the Open Data group to bring info out to the public soon and we hope by this summer to have some of sets formally released to for use. In the meantime of course some of this data is publicly accessible and members of the group have been collaborating to hurdle the municiple beaurocracy and bring you very useful little applications like our own Ottawa trash! As developer Willem van Bergen explained getting info about when you need to put out what on your street could take you downloading up to 2 PDFs to figure out the what where and when. The data from these PDFs where diligently transfered into a more usable format to power the elegant little site, and now you only have to type in your address to get all the info you need. Go ahead . . . try it out!

Artengine couldn’t resist getting involved and so we are messing about with Open Data Organizer Daniel Beauchamp to adapt the Artlist Community Calendar into a mobile friendly web site that will use your location to show you what’s on right now around you. Tentatively we are calling it “Where it’s at”, but we’ll see what makes the cut on Hackfest day.

What is of course way more fun is the process we are working on to turn bus stops in the city into musical compositions. With each route a note or sound we have been compressing the daily traffic of different stops into short lengths. We are still in the early stages but our noodling brought a great work of xylophone theater scoring was derived from stop number 1552. Eventually we hope to have a project online where people can download MIDI tracks for their own stop or just choose an instrument and download their own MP3. From the rapid fire movement of rush hour at Mackenzie King Bridge to the slow meandering beats of late nights at Fallow Field we are sure their will be some great hits!

Of course we where not the first to translate transit information into creative expression. Check out this project from Ryan Habbyshaw, Brad Simpson, and Todd Vanderlin. They visualized the 24 hour cycles of routes on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority which actually ran a live data challenge for developers.

Above is a visualization of all lines over 24 hours. Click on the image to see more of the project.

Check out the Open Data Ottawa blog for continued updates, and come out on Saturday, April 24th from 1-5PM to The Champlain Room at City Hall to check out the applications and meet some of the developers, and of course listen to some great bus stop music masterpieces!


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