Hackathon to Improve Health in Glasgow

May 9, 2014

What better location to host an event looking to fuel creativity than The Hub, on the banks of the River Clyde. The Health Hackathon was third in the series of the OPEN Glasgow Future Hacks. Creative Clyde managed to capture key events on the launch night and the final evening by live tweeting on Twitter .

To see our updates, follow @CreativeClyde. We reflect on the weekend and look ahead to the final hackathon that hopes to tackle issues surrounding transport in a future city…


Glasgow is well known as a city of contrasts. Where health is concerned, the city has a long tradition of excellent medical tuition and research. But this is matched by the less understood ‘Glasgow Effect’ of ill health and lower life expectancy. This contrast is a unique opportunity to innovate; Glasgow provides a fertile environment to explore the challenging issues of public health in an urban environment where it is especially pertinent to citizens.

Why a health hackathon?

The OPEN Glasgow Future Hacks invokes this opportunity for innovation by bringing together people from a wide range of backgrounds to collaborate, brainstorm and co-create new solutions to old problems. The challenge to them is simple: pitch an idea that has the potential to make things better, gather a team and develop the concept into a prototype in just 48 hours.

That short time frame is designed to facilitate an environment that focuses minds, builds energy and loosens the creativity of the participants. Spontaneity and improvisation are the central pillars of these events, and we have furnished them with four central themes to kick-start brainstorming and build interest before the event. The April event centred on health.

Measure twice, cut once

Data provides the building blocks for the individual projects, and OPEN Glasgow strive to provide as rich and varied supply of data as possible. For this event the data portal presented 129 sets across eight collections, with 1,180 individual resources and millions of rows. This is a dizzying array but getting the best out of data isn’t about the volume, it is about building a narrative around it, so participants can use the material to tell their own stories.

The data team has spent months collecting, cleaning and building a narrative around the data. For the event the data was presented during a lively Twitter conversation using the #hackglasgow hashtag, giving participants an opportunity to understand the data and get a head start on building their projects. The results speak for themselves; put the best data, people and environment together, and truly great things happen.

48 hours to hack the future – how it works

Speed dating, pizza and ideas… what more could you ask for over a weekend? We put you together with the best creative and technical talent in the city  – from designers to GIS experts, everyone in the room brought their unique abilities together to solve the city’s health challenges.

Some go home late, some stay up all night. In any case, there are always a host of bleary eyes staring out above coffee mugs and computer screens in the morning. By Sunday, teams have experienced the multiple climbs and plateaus that typify this intense pattern of work and have started refining their projects for presentation. Mentors and organisers provide valuable feedback during practice pitching sessions. The event culminates in five minute pitches from each of the teams in front of a panel of judges.

New solutions to old problems

The participants’ ideas covered a wide range of issues from health incentives to solutions for patients with early dementia, mental health issues and skin ailments. Some ideas also revolved around improving information between health practitioners and patients. Data from our OPEN Glasgow data platform was widely used. You can read about the individual projects on our blog.

The winning team wowed the judges with a working prototype of a smart pedometer, an associated app, and their use of several OPEN Glasgow datasets. The pedometer allows users to track their progress, beat challenges and collect prizes provided by local business partners.

The Hub was a great location for the creative community to get together and collaborate. Pippa Gardner, OPEN Glasgow Project Manager said “The Future Hacks series has been one of our first opportunities within the OPEN Glasgow programme to really get out there and truly engage with citizens of Glasgow.  Glasgow has such a rich bed of talent & we are delighted to have had such a great response from the digital community including designers, users, developers, social scientists and marketing gurus.  The calibre of the ideas considered and developed has been truly inspiring and these have already produced some special collaborations and opportunities for the future.”

The end is just the beginning

The next OPEN Glasgow Future Hack will take place on May 30th-June 1st and tackle issues surrounding transport in a future city.

Future City Glasgow needs your help

A future city needs the collaboration of everyone who lives, works, and travels there. Could you make a difference? Sign up to Future Hack_4 and spread the word to your network.

For updates on news & events from the creative industry in and around Glasgow, visit our news & events page on the website.