Lift and Open Data

Alex Hantson, Oct. 8, 2015

Since 2011, the Lift team has been involved in three big projects around open data. For the first two years, we experimented on our own before partenering up with swissnex and Gray Area. From this collaboration, two international challenges came to life, enabling people to use the data of cities all over the world to create beautiful and meaningful visualizations.

  Lift and Open Data events

Ville Vivante

In 2011, a workshop held at Lift raised questions about our ever-evolving urban landscape and the improvement of digital tools, and tried to explore the best possible ways to enhance the open data of our cities through visual interpretations.

With the support of the City of Geneva, Lift created its first data visualization project called Ville Vivante. Using telephone data from Swisscom (telecom provider) in collaboration with Near Future Laboratory, this project designed by Interactive Things allowed to create insightful stories helping people understand data, regardless of their scientific background.

swissnex San Francisco was hosting, at the same time, a three day data visualization hackathon. Jay Nath, Chief Innovation Officer of San Francisco and pioneer in Open Data, opened the debate on the situation in Switzerland. Following that event, swissnex started contacting the Swiss leaders in the field of Open Data and reached out to Lift.


Urban Data Challenge

In February 2013, during the Lift13 Conference, a workshop organized by GAFFTA (Gray Area), swissnex San and Lift launched our first collaborative project: Urban Data Challenge. Providing transportation data from the cities of Geneva, Zurich and San Francisco to 60 contestants from around the world, it allowed the formation of 21 teams which created informative but also beautifully designed web apps.

Later in 2013, all the designs were showcased during the Open Knowledge Conference (OKCon) held in Geneva. Shortly after, the Swiss Confederation and the City of Geneva released their own open data platforms. While collecting data from the past was interesting to analyze, we began to wonder what it would be like to work with live data, representing what is happening around us in real time.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, a multi-discpiplinary artist called Taurin Barrera was putting six different sensors in a bird feeder and creating data visualization out of its collected data. Could it be scaled throughout many cities and multiple sensors?


Data Canvas : Sense your city

After the success of Urban Data Challenge on public transportation, Gray Area, swissnex San Francisco and Lift teamed up once more to create Data Canvas: Sense your city.

100 participants from the 7 following cities : Geneva, San Francisco, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Bangalore, Singapore and Boston were provided with DIY sensors they could build and install in order to broadcast live data of their geographic area. The sensors would provide information on air quality, pollution, light and temperature. All the data were sent online for the participants of the challenge to work with.

The data streams from the 100 sensors were open to public access on February 6, 2015, during Lift15. Designers, makers, hackers, artists, data scientists, urbanists, and citizens used the data during the 10 weeks of the challenge to create meaningful visualizations of their cities.

Over the course of the four months across seven cities in three continents, 120k people were engaged and we had the chance to meet 700 people participating in our workshops and events. The 100 citizens assembled and deployed sensors on their residences, offices, universities and local hackerspaces and 340 people exchanged ideas online.

With the help of an international jury, 34 amazing projects by 62 creators from around the world were reviewed in order to chose 6 finalists from five countries. The projects were rated based on various criterias such as Creativity in Storytelling or Data Literacy.

As we are writing this blog, exhibitions are being organized all around the world to showcase the winners and the best projects of the challenge. Thanks to our partners, we were able to host events in: Bangalore (IN), Beijing (CN), Geneva (CH), San Francisco (US), Shanghai (CN), Shenzhen (CN), Solothurn (CH).

Data Canvas Sense Your City Exhibition Geneva

Data Canvas in China

During Lift China 2015, both in Shanghai and in Shenzhen, an exhibition showing 13 of the best pieces was presented to continue the discussion around open data, data literacy and citizen sensing. CityCells, the augmented reality iPad app developed by the three Swiss designers Baptiste Milési, Cassandre Poirier-Simon and Raphaël Munoz, along with the Grand Prize winner project Sonic Particles 2.0 by Kasper Fangel Skov from Copenhagen, were the center pieces of the exhibition, attracting the curiosity of all with their mesmerizing soundscapes and intricate visuals. Eleven other pieces in interactive, video and printed format were shown, allowing visitors various ways to engage with the exhibition.

After the activities held in Shanghai, the Lift China team, accompanied by Swiss makers, the designers from SUPSI and Kasper Fangel Skov, Grand Prize winner of Data Canvas: Sense Your City, moved to the south of the country to participate to the Maker Faire Shenzhen, the biggest gathering of makers in China. Joining SEEED studio, organizer of the Faire through its hackerspace Chaihuo and partner of the Data Canvas initiative, and more than 30’000 people in the heart of the world’s hardware production center, we presented the Data Canvas exhibition during three days to a constant flow of interested and interesting visitors.

In the meantime, the Swiss makers and designers got to meet with fellow pioneers, getting inspiration for their future projects and connections in the Chinese ecosystem. Key meetings were conducted with local experts to build upon the ideation workshop organized previously in Shanghai.


Take a look at all the winners here.

The Lift Grand Prize goes to the Sonic Particles 2.0 project by Kasper Fangel Skov (Copenhagen, Denmark). 
Check out the project in details here.


Sonic Particles the winning project of the Data Canvas Sense your City


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