Edinburgh apps designed to make city life easier

A recycling centre. Picture: Julie Howden
A recycling centre. Picture: Julie Howden
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A unique event to find Edinburgh’s top locally made mobile and tablet apps has named its first winners.

The labour saving computer gadgets could now be developed to help make life easier for people across the city.

Winning ideas included apps that help with the recycling, that make it easier to distribute and collect equipment used by the elderly, and to help the blind get from A to B.

The competition, the only one of its kind run by a Scottish council, challenged residents to develop an app, product concept or website that would improve the lives of people working, living in, or visiting Edinburgh.

To help make the new projects as tailored to the Capital as possible, the council provided entrants with data sets including real–time car parking information, winter gritting routes, cycle parking locations and information on businesses in Edinburgh.

Andrew Bone, 31, of Corstorphine, and business partner Alistair Andrew took away the Health and Wellbeing Award after developing an app to help a council fleet of delivery trucks operate more efficiently.

The “joint equipment store” app helps organise mass deliveries of things like walking sticks and bath hoists – essentials for elderly residents.

The app works out optimum routes, delivery times and allows depot managers to plan more than one day ahead – something they had struggled to do manually in the past.

Andrew said: “We are now in discussions with the council to try and get it live.”

Another winning app has also been designed with some of the city’s more vulnerable in mind.

Gavin Neate, 45, of Roslin, who has spent 18 years training guide dogs since leaving the Armed Forces, has created a mobile phone app which will allow the visually impaired to virtually press the button at a road crossing using their phone, which will also tell them when it is safe to cross.

Mr Neate, who has now taken a year out to concentrate on developing his Neatebox app, which won both the transport category and technology and innovation support, said: “There is a cone called a tactile indicator underneath pedestrian crossing boxes that the visually impaired can use to tell them when it’s safe to cross. However, as the crossing box is often located a little bit away from where you actually cross the road, it can be quite inconvenient to use. This app means that people with sight problems can cross safely.”

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, the city’s Finance & Resources Convener, said: “I’m incredibly impressed by the range of entries to Edinburgh Apps, all of which made great use of open data to benefit the city. Technology is key to ensuring Edinburgh is a thriving and successful place to live and work, and events such as this demonstrate the breadth of ideas on offer.

“I look forward to seeing the winning projects progressed and developed and I’m excited to see the innovative solutions future events like Edinburgh Apps produce.”

Apps are a modern phenomenon. Short for “application” people download them on to their smart phones or tablet computers. The 50 billionth app was downloaded from the Apple Store in May. Around 800 apps are downloaded every second.

The competition was judged by Professor Aaron Quigley, chair of human computer interaction in the School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews, Claudette Jones, chief information officer for the City of Edinburgh Council, and Dave Meikle, head of digital in Sopra Group’s Public Sector & Utilities division. It was divided into five sections – economy and tourism, transport, environment and health and wellbeing plus technology and innovation.

Locate your nearest recycling bin

Health and well-being winner: Joint equipment store app

The download helps council deliveries and collections to run more efficiently, meaning elderly and/or disabled residents are unlikely to face delays in receiving essential equipment such as wheelchairs and zimmer frames.

Co-designer Andrew Bone said: “We wanted to do something that would make a genuine difference to a lot of people and we’re really pleased at the response. It was a very complex process but it’s a great cause and we’re very proud that we could help provide a better service to thousands of people. We’re in talks with the council at the moment.”

Environment award: Trashman app

This app allows you to locate your nearest recycling centre, out of the 4000 across the city.

Creator Jamie Lemon, 40, of Duddingston, is an Interactive Consultant at Precedent, a company specialising in “digital transformation”.

He said: “Everyone needs to start recycling more, but there are a lot of different places around the city. This app tells you where the nearest centre is where you can recycle all that you need to – just put in your location. You can also keep a record of what you’ve been recycling and compare and share your total with friends. We’re hoping it will make recycling easier and maybe even encourage some friendly competition!”

Wildcard winner: The Efzin recycling app

This app, designed by Antigoni Makri, is similar to the Trashman app, but instead finds the location of your nearest recycling bins, wherever you happen to be in the city.

Antigoni, 26, who lives in Holyrood and works as a web designer for Realise Digital, said: “I think people do want to recycle, but if they don’t know where to do it they’re likely to just put everything in the one, general bin, especially when they’re out and about.

“This app tells you where your nearest bins are, and also how far away that is. You can also filter by type, for example, if you wanted to recycle glass and plastic.”

Technology and innovation and transport award: Neatebox

This phone app allows the blind and visually impaired to cross the road safely and quickly using only their mobile phone.

Creator Gavin Neate, 45, said: “This app means that blind people don’t have to use the cone-shaped tactile indicator located under the crossing box, which rotates when it is safe to cross. The crossing box can sometimes be a bit away from the actual crossing, but the app allows someone to virtually press the button using their phone, which will then vibrate when it is time to cross, meaning they don’t have to worry about getting from the box to the crossing point in time.”