Streams

Winning App Helps NYers Make Sense of City Data

Friday, February 05, 2010

City officials want to make it easier for you to get around town, and they want technology to help you do it. So last fall, Mayor Bloomberg released 170 data sets to software developers around the country and challenged them to build applications that better connect people to the city. The winners were announced last night. WNYC's Lisa Chow reports.

REPORTER: Last year, not all bankers were focused on Wall Street profits.

PATCHIRAJAN: I work for Citigroup.

ARUNACHALAM: I work for Bank of America.

BHATIA: I work for Merrill Lynch. That's our day job and this is our passion.

REPORTER: Playing banker by day, technology geek by night, Archana Patchirajan, Arun Arunachalam, and Sanpreet Bhatia won the popular vote and the "Investors Choice Award."

PATCHIRAJAN: Our goal is to become the one and only app that you'll ever need.

REPORTER: Their app is called NYC-Way. You download it onto your phone, and suddenly your phone can direct you to the nearest street vendor, wifi hotspot, coffee shop.

MEHTA: You get to see if a subway is running late. If you're driving you get to see live traffic cameras.

REPORTER: Puneet Mehta, and the other four members of his team, spent more than forty 20-hour days building the app. It's free to download at the Apple iTunes store, and so far 75,000 people are using it. The team is working on versions for androids and blackberries and they hope to make money, charging the retailers who may want to appear as more than just a name on a screen. Steven Lao from another team took a different approach.

LAO: It was just something that we thought was a useful app for anyone in New York who needs to get around.

REPORTER: Their technology is called augmented reality, which combines the camera image on your phone with information online. It basically turns the streetscape around you into a living guide of where you need to go. The app is called Way Finder, and developer Victor Sima says its slice of augmented reality is subway stops.

SIMA: If you look up you can see lines further away. There's a NJ Path line at 14th Street...

LAO: ...you can actually point your phone and walk, and it'll constantly update to wherever you're directed.

REPORTER: The two are about to release another version for Vancouver, in time for next week's winter Olympics. Each team won $5,000, not your typical bankers bonus. But the the main prize here was visibility and a chance to mingle with potential investors.

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