NYC Cleanweb Hackathon: Crowdsourcing Killer Energy Apps

The Internet is no longer just traditional web applications and storefronts. Increasingly, smart things, like appliances, electric vehicle chargers, solar panels, and other in-home devices are becoming networked and connected to the Internet. This ‘Internet of Things’ is a significant departure from the current generation of Web apps and is fundamental to enabling the cleanweb.

This departure has in part been wrought by the emergence of hackathons. Hackathons are the democratization of Internet technology—a chance for anyone with a great idea and the skill to execute it, to make fundamental changes in the way the people interact with energy. In fact, as a company, we have long maintained that it’s important to remain humble about predicting the killer app, and rather than trying to predict the killer app we need to create the conditions for the creation of the killer app. As part of that belief, we opened our APIs in an effort to leverage the collective creativity of the open developer community and maximize the potential for the creation of killer energy apps. This potential was never more obvious than at the NYC Cleanweb Hackathon this past weekend!

Friday night was the perfect kickoff for the NYC Cleanweb Hackathon. The view was stunning from the 40th floor of the New York Academy of Sciences. The music made everyone want to dance and the high energy at the beginning of the hackathon was palpable. It was very exciting to talk with people who either had ideas that could change our way of managing resources on this planet or who are already doing innovative work to nudge us toward sustainability.

Introductions were made, judges and organizing sponsors were acknowledged, APIs and datasets were presented, and then came the best part – the sharing of ideas for apps to be built over the course of the weekend. Idea after idea for energy awareness, energy efficiency, energy education, solar, transportation and social equity were presented. Groups began forming and discussing their project’s architecture and workflow. The race was on.

Saturday was freezing cold with high wind and wet snow blanketing the streets as we made our way to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Interactive Telecommunications Program. Attendees checked in, grabbed coffee and bagels, and staked out the tables where they would work for the weekend. Computers quickly covered the tables and tangles of power cords appeared. Coffee cups began to pile up as teams figured how to make maximum use of the next 30 hours.

The Tendril team got to work answering questions about our APIs, sample user profiles, and home area network devices. We watched as app keys were assigned and API calls began flooding through our developer site at dev.tendrilinc.com. First user information trended up, then devices, and then Green Button API calls took and held the lead. Teams continued working into the night as they hit their stride and apps began to take shape.

The following morning was mostly cloudy and very cold but it was no longer snowing. Project teams returned to work and were highly focused as the hours flew by.

In all, a total of 15 apps were created this weekend, countless cups of coffee were consumed, and many hours of sleep were missed. But it was all for an excellent cause – combining Internet technologies with innovative solutions for sustainability.

The brilliance of a cleanweb hackathon is evident in the list of apps created this past weekend:

1. eMotivator – a portal where individuals are rewarded for reducing their electricity consumption

2. Green Carrot – Inform consumers of their energy usage; compare usage and share insights with friends on Facebook

3. Movable Feast – sends real-time energy alerts to your inbox when energy usage is unusually high

4. CleanGPA – Computes normalized residential energy consumption; users compete with friends, family, and community and win titles and badges

5. Econofy E-Star – Energy efficiency comparison shopping for appliances and more

6. NYC Municipal Buildings Faceoff – Ranks NYC municipal buildings by energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions

7. Audit Trigger – Calculates which properties will benefit from an energy audit

8. Watt Quiz – Answer questions correctly and generate watts that are donated to charities

9. Automagic Wireless Thermostat – Puts thermostat in away mode based on location of residents’ smart phones

10. Watt – Summarized energy consumption into a Watt score. Get a better score by influencing others to decrease their energy usage.

11. 1>99 – Visualizes the gap in social equity

12. Mosaic map – Connects users with the solar projects that they’ve funded and presents real-time activity in the solar sphere

13. Solar List – Educates consumers about solar and helps them find installers

14. Trip Watchers – Tracks vehicle miles traveled and provides suggestions for reducing impact

15. Auto Power Saver – a screen saver for your home power usage based on the geolocation of your phone compared to your house. Turns appliances off when you are not home and turns them on when you are returning home.

Out of the 15 teams at the hackathon, five used Tendril APIs to create apps, including eMotivator, Green Carrot, Movable Feast, Auto Power Saver, and CleanGPA.

From these five we had the hard job of picking the winners of the first-ever Tendril Energy Internet and Smart Energy Home App Contest. After much debate and consideration, we’re proud to report that eMotivator won first place in the Tendril Energy Internet and Smart Energy Home app contest and walked away with $3,000. Green Carrot took the $2,000 second place prize (they also won $1,000 “best user experience” prize from the organizers of the hackathon). We’ll be giving the attendees of DistribuTECH a closer look at both these apps—as prime examples of the types of innovation that is coming out of the app dev community. If you’re at DistribuTECH, stop by booth #771 to see these winning apps as well as others already integrated on the Tendril platform.

The Hackathon also recognized its own set of winning apps. Overall winner went to Econofy, who also won the Audience Choice award. Their prizes include round-trip travel to San Francisco and one week in the Greenstart clean-tech accelerator program and $1,500 for the Audience Choice award.

Congrats to the winners and all the teams that participated. The innovation displayed at the hackathon has left us awed.

Many thanks to the key organizers of the contest: Blake Burris, co-founding organizer, Cleanweb Hackathon, and CEO of Dynamo Labs; Sunil Paul, co-founding organizer, Cleanweb Hackathon, and founding director of Spring Ventures; and, Nicholas Eisenberger, co-founding organizer, Cleanweb Hackathon, and founder and managing partner of Pure Energy Partners. Additional thanks to Matt Solt from Civvic, Micah Kotch from NYU Poly, Sameer Rashid from Pure Energy Partners, Nick Allen from Spring Ventures, David Gilford from NYC Economic Development Corporation, David Yeh from Generation Investment Management, Harry Charalambides from the NY Academy of Sciences, Jean Barmash from EnergyScoreCards, and Jay-E Emmingham from the Pratt Center.

Additional thanks to the judges who had the tough job of choosing the hackathon winners, including Fred Wilson, principal, Union Square Ventures; Rachel Sterne, NYC chief digital officer; Frank Rimalovski, managing director, NYU Innovation Venture fund; Evan Korth, co-founder, Hack NY; Mike Shimazu, innovation and business development at NYSERDA; and, Maria Gotsch, president and CEO, New York City Investment Fund.

It was amazing to see the power of the cleanweb in addressing significant environmental and behavioral challenges. We had a fantastic time at the NYC Cleanweb Hackathon and we’re excited to start working on the next Cleanweb Hackathon.

Eric Shiflet and Chrysa Caulfield, Tendril Application Developer Program