Hack Week: Students solve real-world problems

How could information about a city—such as artworks, buildings, bus routes, toilets, trees and playgrounds—be used to create services that meet the needs of residents and tourists?

For two weeks, about 15 students from various programs at Malmö University and Lund University have worked hard to solve challenges provided by the City of Malmö (Malmö Turism and Malmö Gatukontor), Skånetrafiken and Lund municipality in an event called Hack Week.

“It has been exciting. There have been opportunities to change our view on how Malmö can be experienced”, says Fredrik Påhlsson who studies interaction design.

Open data
The research project Data Innovation Arena, which is funded by Vinnova, explores how public and open data can be used to create services that are based on people’s needs. The researchers have identified a number of obstacles that hinder the development of such services. To overcome this, researchers Patrik Berander, Fredrik Hall and Johan Holmberg—together with students at Malmö University—have developed a platform that enables public organizations to make their data available and for software developers to quickly and easily be able to develop services based on this data. As part of the evaluation of the platform, the project wanted to explore what solutions could be developed based on challenges that have been formulated by some of the project partners, as well as the usability of the platform from a developer perspective.

The solutions are about packaging information about the city—in a modern and attractive way—to create dialogue with citizens, to market Malmö for tourists, and to provide an improved public transport travel experience. The result is presented in the form of digital solutions such as apps, quizzes, games and by linking webpages to physical services.

“The students have been good at taking on the challenges, and there are definitely seeds to a few really good concepts. It has been fun to see how they solve our problems”, says Ola Nilsson, project manager at Malmö Turism.

The students have worked forty hours a week, in two rounds, to meet the needs of the City of Malmö, Skånetrafiken and Lund municipality.

“They have new ways of looking at one’s work and an outside perspective that is very useful”, says Ola Nilsson.


Malmö of Love and Culture
Create your own customized tour of Malmö based on your needs and interests.

The concept describes a new, digital tourist center at the Malmö Central Station. This new tourist center is data driven and lets the tourist plan his or her visit in Malmö on his or her own. Being data driven, information is more up to date and more reactive to what is currently going on in the city.

Citizen dialogue
Use the physical web to explore the city and participate in its planning and development processes.

By equipping future development sites around the city with so-called beacons, the public is presented with on-site information on the proposed developments. The public can then give their input and have a say in the matter.

Challenge your fellow bus passengers to a quiz using your phone and the bus infotainment system.

Using the in-vehicle infotainment screens together with the commuter’s mobile phone, the commuters can play a shared quiz game. The results for the current bus are shown on screen after each question.

Collaboration across disciplines
Johan Holmberg, Fredrik Hall and Patrik Berander were in charge of Hack Week, and they have also coached and given technical support to the students. “A Hack Week can be described as an event in which teams develop prototypes such as apps, websites or games, often with some form of time limit”, says Johan Holmberg.

Why Hack Week?
“We evaluate the platform during Hack Week and we think that a week is the time it takes to get acquainted with the platform and create something useful with it”, says Fredrik Hall.

The students have been handpicked based on their skills; this to enable the development of as good prototypes as possible.

“We have chosen to work with students from different educational programs because we want different skills to work together in order to be able to create elaborate and feasible concepts”, says Fredrik Hall.

The opportunity to work with students from other programs has been appreciated.

“It was useful to work together with students from other programs. Everyone has been very committed and we have been able to develop our thoughts and ideas, and that is great,” student Fredrik Påhlsson continues.

Text: Filippa Törnwall. Translated from Swedish; originally published as “Studenter löser verklighetsförankrade problem under Hack Week”.

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