MongoDB’s first UK Public Sector Hackathon
April 29, 2014 | Updated: May 22, 2015
MongoDB is helping developers build and scale applications rapidly across the UK Public Sector. It has been adopted by a fast-growing number of UK government agencies and departments as they embrace open source technology and evolve their digital services and big data capability.
The Government Digital Service (GDS) use MongoDB for gov.uk. The Met Office host space weather predictions and The National Archives use MongoDB to underpin their Discovery Platform to host terabytes of archived content, including the recent publication of diaries from World War One marking the centenary.
To support this continued innovation of public sector digital services and use of open government data, we hosted an all-day hackathon at our Silicon Roundabout office in Shoreditch.
Over 75 of the smartest developers, designers and system/database administrators from across the public and private sector travelled from all over the UK to take part in the day. More than 12 different government agencies and departments were represented. Armed with laptops, ideas and plenty of enthusiasm, everyone set out to develop interesting and novel solutions to a variety of problems and challenges - all in just a day of coding!
13 teams self-organised and worked tirelessly, aided by copious coffee, bacon butties and giant burritos, to hack on ideas crowd-sourced on the day. We created a website to collect ideas and enable live voting, which we'll also feature in future hackathons.
Winners were determined based on votes from the audience and special guest judges Paul Downey, Technical Architect at Government Digital Service (GDS), Simon Wardley, Researcher at CSC’s Leading Edge Forum, Sam Pikesley from the Open Data Institute (ODI) and Sean Roberts, Technical Operations Lead from Rackspace. The following winners were announced.
- 1st Prize: Crisis Control An incident management system providing a single operating picture for managing small-scale local incidents (i.e. mountain rescue) in real-time. The prototype was developed using an open source stack including Python, Angular/jQuery and Leaflet and will be open source itself in the near future. MongoDB’s document model provided flexibility with the variety of resources that could be managed using the system. Congratulations to John, Simon, George, Gavin, Jason and Chris.
- 2nd Prize: What is happening in my river? An API and web interface providing access to historical and live hydrology data from the Environment Agency, including search for river stations and data by postcode and river. The hack is live online and the alpha version is based on a one-month archive and live streaming of 100,000 measurements per day. The team used Swagger with MongoDB. Well done to the team: James, Simon, Jack, Danny, Vincenzo, Jairo, Alessio G and Alessio C.
- 3rd Prize: WWI war diary data analysis and visualisation Using crowd-sourced data from the National Archive’s World War One war diaries, the team demonstrated visualisation of troop movements throughout Europe. Their work involved georeferencing data using Geonames into GeoJSON and aggregation using the Aggregation Framework. Well done to Steven, James, Tom, Chris, Alok, Aleks and the two Matts!
Special mentions from the judges were also given to the following apps.
- Air Pollution Alerts: Providing alerts about high levels of air pollution via SMS, email or push notifications, based on UK-AIR data feeds from Defra. The app was built with a Ruby on Rails and MongoDB backend and Phonegap mobile and web apps.
- Maps from Nothing: Using open data from Geonames, this innovative hack from a team at The Registers of Scotland demonstrated how to turn point data in MongoDB into a hierarchical set of intensity maps which were visualised as map tiles. The technique means interesting maps can be created from very little source data and the total space required to store the data is independent of the source data.
Other hacks built on the day included:
Ordhack used Ordnance Survey data, alongside flooding data from the Environment Agency and weather data from The Met Office, to provide detailed information about households in Exeter.
SpotHoles is a crowd-sourced system for cyclists to warn them of upcoming potholes in the road, featuring audible warnings and photo uploads.
UK County News Aggregator (UKCNA) used open source data on news from around the UK and aggregated at a county level, providing geo-visualisations of the results.
Poll.it is a tool that offers simple real-time public opinion feedback to governments with the option of linked demographic data characteristics.
Bookmark your house, a joint concept being built by the Land Registry in collaboration with GDS, intended to help discover what would it mean if you could find information about a property via Google, and bookmark a registered title and mashup your house.
Congratulations to all the teams on building some truly innovative apps in such a short timescale. And thanks to everyone involved for making the day fun and successful, including our co-sponsor Rackspace for providing super fast cloud hosting and expertise.
MongoDB are proud to donate to the winning team’s nominated charities:
- British Lung Foundation (Crisis Control);
- Royal British Legion (WWI war diary data analysis and visualisation);
- Water Aid (What is happening in my river?).
Rackspace will also be providing free cloud and ObjectRocket MongoDB hosting to get the winning team’s code and applications online to a wider audience.
Developers found the flexibility and versatility of MongoDB, with its dynamic document model, helped to enable quick and iterative development on the day. Developers could therefore focus more on the functionality and usability of their applications. Many used MongoDB’s GeoJSON-based geospatial features to query location data. Aggregation Framework was also widely used to harness rich and often very large open datasets, some of which were available for the first time on the day.
For the full list of apps and more information, please see http://www.publicsectorhackathon.org. Catch a highlight reel from the event here. Keep an eye on the website and the MongoDB events page for details about further events of interest.*To find out more about MongoDB in public sector, come and visit us at the Public Sector Show 2014 at [ExCel London](http://www.publicsectorshow.co.uk). Companies House Chief Architect Chris Smith will be talking about their use of MongoDB in a new online unified service which will provide web and API access to over 3 million active companies throughout the UK*