Smart Data Hack

The Smart Data Hack is a 5-day event during the University of Edinburgh’s Innovative Learning Week that brings students to work together to build cool solutions for real-world problems. It encourages interdisciplinary teams to combine their skills in digital technology, business analysis, ethnography and design.

It is hosted by the School of Informatics in partnership with The Business School, The School of Social and Political Sciences, The Global Development Academy and Edinburgh Living Lab

Last year’s Smart Data Hack was a runaway success, and this year we are expanding the event by including more challenges from more partners!

When and where?

It’s happening Monday 15th – Friday 19th February 2016. Day 1 will be the Informatics Forum, then hacking will take place in the Forrest Hill Drill Hall. See the schedule for more details.

Keeping in touch

To keep in touch with mentors, the organisers and other participants, we recommend that you join our Slack team. You can self-register using your address.


For Students

What is it?

The biggest event of the year — a 5-day Hackathon. Join a team to create cool applications around data, share ideas about design and explore business opportunities!

We’ll provide a great venue for hacking, plenty of free food, workshops and mentors, and prizes at the end of it all. Use this as a chance to finally make a great idea you’ve had, to learn some new programming languages and skills, to have more great ideas, and if you like, to take up one of our challenges.

Projects from Previous Years

Feeling stuck for inspiration, or just want to see what people have done in the past? Take a look at teams and winners from previous years!

Who is it for?

This event is open to all University of Edinburgh students who can join a team to do something innovative with data, creating a working prototype by the end of the week. Many Informatics students will be interested because it allows them to stretch their programming skills. But you don’t have to be a programmer to get involved. Useful skills and areas of interest include:

  • Marketing
  • Visual design and user experience
  • Web development and programming
  • Data analysis and problem solving
  • Coming up with and pitching great ideas

You can register individually, and form teams on Monday &mdash we’ll set time aside for this specially. Teams will be a maximum of 5 people.

What do I need to know?

There’s no specific knowledge or experience required to take part in this event. Whether you’re a designer, statistician or programmer, all you need is a willingness to get stuck in, work with other people and learn what you can.

In fact, if you’ve never made a web or native app before, this is a perfect opportunity to add some of these skills to your resumé.


You’ll come out of this event with new technical skills to show off, an appreciation of working with large datasets or unfamiliar APIs, and if everything goes to plan, a flashy app or website to add to your portfolio. You’ll also likely have just spent a week working with up to four other people… evidence of ‘teamwork’ for your CV!

If you give it your all, there’s a good chance you’ll win one (or more!) of six awesome prizes. At the very least, you’ll get free food every day.

You’ll also get a warm, fuzzy feeling from creating something that could give real benefit local people or community groups.

What should I make?

Look at the challenges, check out the data and think about what kinds or problems you want to address. Then think about the skills in your team, and look at what you can learn from the workshops and mentors to help you decide if you want to make a web app, a visualisation, or a native app for some device. Anything goes! Some of the challenges are pretty broad, and it should be easy to make something that fits under more than one…

Sign Up Now


The Smart Data Hack will run from Monday 15th Feb to Friday 19th February 2016. The rough schedule is shown below (this is subject to change; keep checking back as we add details of side events!).


IF: Informatics Forum, 10 Crichton Street

G.07 Is on the ground floor of IF, just inside the entrance.

FH: Forrest Hill

Forrest Hill Drill Hall is the big computer lab on Floor 1 of Forrest Hill.

Sponsors and data providers are invited to the lunch on Monday, to the Show’n’Tell session on Wednesday, and to the prize-giving on Friday evening.


09:00Welcome to the Smart Data Hack!IF G.07
09:30 Sponsor challenges

09:30Welcome and Intro
10:00City of Edinburgh Council
10:30Dixons Carphone
11:00Coffee Break
11:15Aquila Insight
12:15Médecins sans Frontières/Global Development Academy
12:45UoE Information Services

IF G.07
13:15Lunch (hot meal)
Chance to talk to lots of new people.
IF Atrium
14:30Idea-pitching & Team FormationIF G.07
16:30Hacking beginsFH Drill Hall


09:00Project space availableFH Drill First floor
11:00AppGyver presentation and demo1.B31
11:00Value Proposition Canvas workshop1.B32
11:00Deadline for uploading project and team detailsonline
13:15Lunch (pizza)FH Kitchen areas
14:00Project space availableFH Drill Hall


09:00Project space availableFH Drill Hall
(You must attend this to get lunch at Mosque Kitchen on Thursday!)
FH Drill Hall
Lunch (sandwiches)FH Kitchen areas
14:00Project space availableFH Drill Hall


09:00Project space availableFH Drill Hall
12:00Lunch (Mosque Kitchen)
(You can only get this if you took part in Show'n'Tell on Wednesday)
Mosque Kitchen
14:00Project space availableFH Drill Hall


09:00Project space availableFH
11:30Deadline to submit project infoOnline
12:00Setup demosFH
12:30LunchFH Kitchen areas
13:30Demos beginYour team will be allocated a room in FH and judges will visit you.
15:00Demos finishMove to the IF
15:30PitchesIF G.07
16:30Drink ReceptionIF G.07 Atrium
17:15Award CeremonyIF G.07
18:00Congratulations you made it through the week! Drinks reception v2.0IF Atrium


If you fancy helping students squash bugs and build great stuff during the hack week, we’d love to have you! Students will have varying levels of technical knowledge and programming experience, so it’s really important that there’s plenty of opportunity for them to learn. We’re looking for people with appropriate skills to mentor students or deliver short workshops over the course of the week. Useful topics include:

  • Frontend web app and native app stuff (HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, mobile-first development; Android, iOS)
  • Web and app user interface design; data visualisation
  • Server-side stuff (PHP, Python, Ruby, and relevant frameworks)
  • Processing text (e.g., newswire and social media, sentiment analysis)
  • Data wrangling and analysis
  • Planning for sustainability, understanding user value, marketing
  • Design, rapid prototyping, user experience
  • Idea generation, presentation skills

Mentors are welcome to spend as much or as little time as they like present during the week. The hacking will take place on the 1st floor of Forrest Hill.

Snacks and meals included! (If you’re around at lunchtime).

Register as a Mentor

Information for Students

Students, if you get stuck during the week, you can ask mentors for help. They are listed here, so you can figure out who to ask about what, and whether to contact them electronically or to look for them in Forrest Hill.

  • Hayden Ball — School of Informatics
    • Ruby on Rails, CoffeeScript, Backbone, Marionette
    • In FH all week, or email
  • Dimitar Dimitrov — School of Informatics
    • JS, JQuery, HTML5, Google maps API, python/django
    • In FH all week, or email
  • Andrew Smith — School of Informatics
    • Java, python, language processing, so good at parsers and incredibly useless hackathon ideas
    • In FH …., or email
  • James Friel — School of Informatics
    • All things python — like literally everything. All sorts of NLP stuff, Java, Data analysis, general API stuff, Git, Web stuff - hosting, html/css etc. Scala and prolog, but I doubt that’s of any use.
    • In FH …, or email
  • Paul Sinclair — School of Informatics
    • Front end web development (HTML5, CSS3, JS, Bootstrap, plus UI/UX in general), Back end web development (esp Django and Flask), working with APIs, how do I Git, Python, Java
    • In FH all week, or email
  • Aseem Narang — School of Informatics
    • Python, iOS dev
    • In FH …, or email
  • Hamish Hutchings — School of Informatics
    • Frontend, react js, Python/tuby/java/scala And common lisp if anyone wants!!
    • In FH …, or email
  • Mattias Appelgren — School of Informatics
    • Python, numpy, sklearn, matplotlib. Also limited knowledge of Django and Flask. Machine learning and natural language processing. If not to explain things at least enough to point them in the right direction.
    • In FH …, or email
  • Gary Martin — Freelance
    • 3D design/modelling (Blender), slicing (Cura), 3D printing prototypes (Ultimaker2), Python, JavaScript, QuartzComposer, D3js, SVG, vector or raster design work, electronics prototype hacking, sensors, soldering, debugging, PCB layout, Arduino, PIC micro-controllers, RasberryPi, generally digging about in data (often via Linux command line sed, grep, awk and python scripts and IPython/Jupyter).
    • Contact: Slack,, @garycmartin (Twitter), garycmartin (Skype)
  • Wolfgang Merkt — Consultant, Startup Executive, UoE PhD Student
    • Native apps (iOS), Hybrid apps, MVC frameworks, Hardware development, Backends
    • In FH …, or email
  • Yordan Hristov — School of Informatics
    • Python, Java, C, Haskell, Scala, JavaScript and Web development, SQL
    • In FH …, or email
  • Simon Rovder — School of Informatics
    • Java, Python, SQL, HTML JavaScript, JQuery, Flask Django, C and all the google appengine technologies.
    • In FH …, or email
  • Faye Richards — School of Informatics
    • Android development with Android Studio, SQLite database for android, Java, User experience testing & prototyping
    • In FH …, or email
  • Paul Scherer — School of Informatics
    • Python, Java, PHP, Unix, Numpy/Scikit/Pandas/Ipython, Bioinformatics related tasks, General Data Science / Machine Learning Tasks
    • In FH …, or email
  • Nikita Samarin — School of Informatics
    • Programming-wise it’s mostly Frontend & Backend web application development, in particular JavaScript + Node.js and various frameworks (eg. Angular, Express, Backbone). Also databases, eg. MySQL, mongo. Can advise good learning resources. I can also provide help with refining ideas, coming up with high-level project design, developing business plans and project management issues.
    • In FH every day for a few hours, or email
  • Martin Asenov — School of Informatics
    • I have some experience with web development (Django and Nodejs). I am also quite interested in machine learning.
    • In FH every day for a few hours, or email
  • Eric Grosso — School of History, Classics and Archaoelogy
    • GIS, OpenStreetMap
    • In FH Wednesday midday, or Slack or
  • Ewan Klein — School of Informatics
    • Twitter processing, Sentiment analysis, NLTK, Python
    • Contact me as @ewan on Slack


How to win

You will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Novelty (how original is your idea?)
  • Execution (how well does your project function and do what it should?)
  • Data Analytics (how well have you managed to extract information from raw data?)
  • Design (how well does your project address and satisfy real user needs?)
  • Business potential (do you have a credible plan for making your project sustainable?)
  • Teamwork (how well did you work together and distribute tasks?)

You don’t need to score points in all of these, but the more you do the better you’re project is likely to be. That’s why it is really helpful to have a team of people from mixed backgrounds — programmers, designers and business people — all working together. But if you don’t have a mixed team, you can make up a shortfall in one dimension by doing really well in another.


Judging will be carried out in two phases.

Phase 1: 13:30 - 15:00, Forrest Hill

You will be allocated a table somewhere in the Drill Hall or nearby. Judges will come to visit you and talk about your project. It’s up to you whether you want to talk to more than one judge at a time. This is opportunity for you explain your project in depth.

At 15:00, make your way over to G07 in Informatics Forum.

Phase 2: 15:30 - 16:30, Informatics Forum

You will be given 5 mins to pitch your project to the judges (and anyone else who’s interested). You won’t have time to explain your project in depth, but at least some of the judges will have already talked to you. In order to structure your pitch, we recommend that you use the Value Proposition Canvas model.

After the pitches are over, the judges will confer about prizes, and we aim to have the awards ceremony at 17:30.

Special Prizes

Dixons Carphone Best Overall

Dixons Carphone will offer a prize for the Best Overall project.

Dixons Carphone

eCommerce & Customer Experience

Taking the Currys product and review information as a starting point, design an innovative customer experience for online shopping or for connecting the in-store and online experience.

Examples include:

  • Build an upselling tool to encourage higher-value sales on the Currys PC World websites.
  • Combine the product specification data for products (e.g. laptops) and peripherals (e.g. cases, software) to create a tool for suggesting product bundles to customers.

Key Datasets: Revoo API (An API key will be supplied)


  • Christopher Ward, Christopher.Ward1[AT]
  • Adam Woodhouse, Adam.Woodhouse[AT]


Transport Data Analytics

In all societies, the transportation system is vital because it connects people, goods, and services. In recent decades, significant increases in urbanization have placed a burden on most cities transport systems around the world. The goal of this challenge is to provide a holistic view of the public transport network of a city like London in order to predict demand and optimise capacity, assets and infrastructure.

Key Datasets:

Or, for Edinburgh:


  • Pedro Baiz, Pedro.Baiz[AT]

Aquila Insight

Geographic Business Intelligence

Organisations are constantly looking at how they can efficiently communicate with the users and customers they serve. Whether it is a bank, retail company or local council, understanding geographical differences can make the difference between success or failure.

Consider supermarket brands such as Waitrose — they would have a desire to (i) place their store optimally to attract people who might be interested in their brand and what they offer and (ii) avoid spending money on advertising in an area that does not have a Waitrose store.

There are typically a number of elements organisations look at when focusing on a particular geography:

  • Regional activity levels for the type of product — is it a buoyant market or in decline?
  • The population density of the area.
  • People who are likely to buy a specific product type or use a service, e.g. wealth and need profiles.
  • The transport network — is it convenient for staff and customers to reach the business or service?
  • The extent of existing physical outlets in a given area — existing stores/branches, partners, competitors.
  • Marketing expenditure within the area.

Key Datasets:

We can provide access to data that has some relevant data such as:

  • Postcode lookup file
  • Population segmentation data
  • Land registry data

We would like you to explore how open data could be incorporated, e.g.


  • Steve Farquhar, steve.farquhar[AT]
  • Euan Robertson, euan.robertson[AT]

City of Edinburgh Council

Data as Art

Data is not always easy for people to read or understand, and the Council is interested in exploring new ways of presenting data so that it is immediately understood and indeed stimulates the viewer to relate to the data in a new way — communicating the work of the Council, but also helping them to see a new use, or to identify with the data in their own lives or work. The aspiration might be to generate new and innovative thinking, simply by presenting data in a way not previously considered. This would benefit not only citizens but staff in the Council and our partners.

How can you inspire, inform and educate with our data? 3D modelling and printing, physical and or virtual design, physical products or installations — all of these outputs would offer the city a new way of understanding and using data. Some of the examples below are not data examples but the product or the materials could be used in the same way. The key is to represent data in a completely new way.

Datasets and Examples

Council data and data use examples

Data as art examples

Art related


Information Services, Learning Teaching and Web

How can we make MyEd more relevant and useful?

MyEd can get up to 100,000 logins per day, including up to 20,000 from mobile devices. However, the information offered on MyEd can often seem confusing and overwhelming. How can we present the information in a way that makes more sense to students?

More specifically, what improvements can be achieved by:

  • combining existing data with user attributes, and
  • combining location data with other information sources.

Virtual Edinburgh Mobile Maker Platform

Build a cross-platform app for Virtual Edinburgh with AppGyver mobile maker platform

Key Datasets: See (requires EASE authentication)


  • Hristo Meshinski, hmeshins[AT]
  • Mariss Warner-Wu, marissa.warner-wu[AT]
  • Martin Morrey, martin.morrey[AT]

Médecins sans Frontières & Global Development Academy

Missing Maps

The Missing Maps Project aims to map the most vulnerable people in the world, in preparation for or during humanitarian crises. This is a collaboration between the American British Red Cross, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). Base maps are created using OpenStreetMap.

The challenges are:

  • Visualising Missing Maps data contributions so that remote mappers and local communities can get feedback about their progress in providing missing information.
  • Developing a JOSM plugin that makes it easier to upload to OSM data captured in the field

Key Datasets: TBC


  • Pete Masters, @pedrito1414, Pete.Masters[AT]
  • Jamie Cross, Jamie.Cross[AT]


The teams listed below successfully made it through to the final day


Manager: Alexander Pietz

  • Thomas Kozlowski, Informatics
  • Andrew Lindsay, Informatics
  • Jaka Mohorko, Informatics

Project mappED

Squirtle Squad

Manager: Stiliyan Emanuilov

  • Teodor Todorov, Informatics
  • Lazar Lazarov, Informatics
  • Kamen Brestnichki, Informatics


Implementing an achievement tracking systems for students. They score points by completing tasks such as score all A’s, attend a hackathon, join a society etc. which they can use in exchange for benefits like free coffee or print credit. In addition, the project involves a game where students can use those points and results from exams and assignments to progress. The aim is to encourage student participation in the university experience by rewarding both small and big achievements.

Project Repository


Manager: Alistair Greaves

  • Levi Fussell, Informatics


Gamification of University of Edinburgh timetables and student lecture attendance. Simple and easy access app that displays lectures and rewards you for attendance. Focus is to make the timetable easier to access for students. A reward system based around free drinks/coupons for Edinburgh facilities.

Project Repository
Project Website

More screenshots…

Impact Mappers

Manager: Jonathan Levi

  • Tim Reichelt, Informatics
  • Jazon Szabo, Informatics
  • Lukasz Domanski, Engineering


We visualise the impact mappers made by mapping a specific region.

Project Repository

More info…

The Mighty Mappers

Manager: Tilly Dyson

  • Aiden Kwok, Edinburgh College of Art
  • Dalimil Hajek, Informatics
  • Rufat Ismaylov

MSF Water Maps

Showing the impact that people can make by helping map out water points in small communities across the world. Contributing to the maintenance of wells, and reducing cases of Cholera on the larger scale.

Project Repository



Manager: Nora Vazbyte

  • Susanna Koster, Informatics
  • Rimvydas Rubavicius
  • Sam Kit Ian

We reimagine how MyEd would work in better.

Project Repository

Chicken Curry

Manager: Daniel Man

  • Wilhelm Zhao
  • Wei Ting Goh
  • Aw Young Qingzhuo
  • Jakub Kowalczyk

Personalised Simple Search System

The project is to develop a need for a more simple search for non-technical people as well as using the reviews of products to enhance the search.

Project Repository


Manager: Dylan Angus

  • Siddharth Chandrasheker
  • Afshin Sabahi

MSF Missing Maps

At the moment, people are able to send data from an phone application which they use in the field to acquire data. This is sent to missing maps where the details/data are manually added to Open Street Map. Our task is to create an application to make the process easier.

Project Repository


Manager: Adam Golinski

  • Lorenzo Martinico
  • Branislav Pilnan
  • Ondrej Bohdal

Crime Prediction Modeling

We’re aiming to create a predictive model of crime in Chicago leveraging the very high resolution open crime data set released by Chicago Police. Depending on the pace of progress we also plan to work on convenient visualization of the results.

Project Repository


Manager: Pui See Ho

Heating Up Words

Visualising Newswire about the Zika Virus

Project Repository


Manager: Francisco Vargas

  • Lambrina Lolova
  • Mariyana Cholakova

This app is a prototype recommender system for the Currys eCommerce website.

Project Repository Project Website



Category Team Sponsor
Best Overall Dojoroo Dixons Carphone
eCommerce & Customer Experience Chicken Curry Dixons Carphone
Missing Maps MSF1 Médecins sans Frontières & Global Development Academy
Data Analytics Banitsa Amey
Geo Visualisation Mighty Mappers Aquila & School of Informatics
Student Experience mappED Information Services

We are grateful to the judges who generously devoted their Friday afternoon to the Smart Data Hack

  • Christopher Ward (Dixons Carphone)
  • Adam Woodhouse (Dixons Carphone)
  • Euan Robertson (Aquila Insight)
  • Eric Grosso (School of History, Classics and Archaeology)
  • Craig Ross (CompSoc)
  • Leah Lockhart (Relate Lab)
  • Malcolm Kirkup (Business School)
  • Jon Oberlander (School of Informatics)
  • Martin Morrey (Information Services)
  • Tobi Tonner (Urban Tide)

About Us

Who we are

The Smart Data Hack 2016 is organised by the following people:

School of Informatics

  • Ewan Klein
  • David Richardson
  • Angel Ignatov
  • Peter Carragher
  • Josh Green

with support from CompSoc, the Informatics Teaching Organisation and the Innovative Learning Week team; and special thanks to Suzanne Perry!

Business School

  • Malcolm Kirkup

School of Political and Social Sciences

  • Jamie Cross