Category Archives: Open Data

Hamilton Heat Alert app released

Jeremy Casey has created a Hamilton Heat Alert app, available now on the Google Play Store:

Details taken from Google Play Store

Check and receive heat warning alerts if you’re living in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

This application reads from this feed:

Note: Make sure you run the application at least once to receive automatic heat notifications.






Interview with Steve Veerman about hsrmap

Check out the interview below with Steve Veerman (@veerman) about the app he created!


And if open data applications sounds like something you’re interested in working on, check out the open data development session next week:

When: Wednesday April 22nd from 6:30pm – 9:00pm

Where: Innovation Factory @ 175 Longwood Road South

What: Open Hamilton development session – a time for people to work on their Open Data projects together, and find projects to work on. (Contact: Anand Sinha, E-mail: anand underscore sinha at yahoo dot com).



veermanTell me about yourself.

I’m a freelance software developer & marketer, and a very proud lifelong Hamiltonian.


What is is a mobile web app which displays the location and routes of all HSR buses in near real-time.


Why did you create

The short answer is that I was frustrated with the HSR’s “Bus Web” mobile experience. I tend to catch the bus by walking to the nearest stop and waiting. I wanted the ability to gauge whether there is time to grab a coffee or if I need to stay put because the bus is just around the corner. Essentially I wanted to make the experience of riding the bus slightly easier.


How many people have been using

Since the March 5th launch to today (April 16th) I have had 1623 visits and 2328 page views. Interestingly enough, 55.7% of the traffic comes from visiting directly, meaning that many people have either bookmarked it or can easily remember the domain name. I remember asking myself whether I should buy a dedicated domain, but now I’m glad I did it.




How did you get the word out about

I made a single post on Reddit (/r/hamilton) and a single tweet. I really didn’t expect much to come of it, but was delighted to see such a great response. Transit in general seems to be an important issue to Hamiltonians.


What technologies did you use to build

I tried to keep the creation of as simple as possible. For my backend I used Linux, Apache, and PHP with the GTFS-realtime Google PHP library. For my frontend I decided to use jQuery Mobile since my target is mobile web browsers.




How long did it take you to get it up and running?

A functioning MVP was built in about 4 hours on the night of February 28th. I spent a few hours on the following days to add routing, vehicle movement animation, vehicle svg icons, update interval, etc. I finally decided to publically announce it on March 5th. I’ve made small improvements since.


What are your future plans for

In the near future I hope to improve the location accuracy of the buses. The current Open Data GTFS feed updates every 45-75 seconds. This means that it isn’t truly live data. Curiously enough, the HSR’s Bus Web site (powered by Trapeze) seems to have more frequent updates. Either they have access to better data or they are predicting the current bus location based on speed/schedule/last known location. Regardless, I would like to implement a vehicle prediction algorithm of my own so that the buses on the map always appear to be moving.


What are your thoughts on Open Data in Hamilton? How is it important?

Open Data in general is very exciting. It allows developers to easily design, build, and implement applications that benefit Hamilton. The advantage to the city is that they essentially get free (and arguably better) labour out of the deal. I’d be curious to see how much money they paid Trapeze for Bus Web.




What do you think should happen next, both from the standpoint of the Open Data community and the city’s releasing of Open Data?

I view Open Data as another form of public infrastructure. Good infrastructure requires good planning. It is the city’s responsibility to taxpayers that they invest in creating good Open Data infrastructure for the development community to build on. I believe a little forethought by the city on this issue can enrich our lives and could ultimately save taxpayers money. I would love to see more departments take this issue seriously. For example, Tourism Hamilton currently provides no access to their event information in a developer friendly manner. I believe if Tourism Hamilton provided better access to events occurring within the community via Open Data, developers could build more engaging applications. Interestingly enough, is built on WordPress, and it would be fairly trivial to provide this functionality.


Any advice for developers thinking about taking on open / community type work like this?

My advice would be to talk with others in the Software Hamilton community and start building. I would also encourage developers to pressure the city to release or improve data as necessary. Ideally, I’d love to see McMaster or Mohawk encourage the development and creation of student Open Data initiatives. If you are a student there, start asking some questions or forming Open Data communities of your own.


More reasons to get off the fence



So maybe by now you’ve heard that this weekend Hamilton will host both Startup Weekend Maker’s Edition and the Open Data Jam. But if you’re still debating whether to participate in either of these activities there’s now two more reasons to get off the fence:


Startup Weekend Maker’s Edition participants can get 20% off by using the Software Hamilton reader promo code ‘SH2014’

When: Friday November 21st to Sunday November 23rd
Where: Mohawk College


Open Data Jam teams that produce working software will get an “I <3 Open Source MSDN subscription" - this is equivalent to the Visual Studio Ultimate MSDN

When: Friday November 21st to Sunday November 23rd
Where: McMaster Innovation Park


Pivotal weekend for open data in Hamilton



When: Friday November 21st – Sunday November 23rd

Where: McMaster Innovation Park – 175 Longwood Road South Hamilton, Ontario



Open Data Jam 2014 is happening this weekend at McMaster Innovation Park. I think it’s a pivotal weekend for open data in Hamilton!


Quick history

Since early 2011 open data advocates in the city have been pushing the City of Hamilton to release open data. The initial data sets released were static geographic data – fire stations, ward boundaries, railways, parking lots, etc. The type of data that while great to have released, admittedly does not make for particularly exciting or dynamic open data applications.

In the summer of 2014 the HSR real-time data was released for the first time and Open Hamilton held a very successful hackathon. HSR real-time data regarding bus locations is probably the holy grail of Hamilton open data. Everyday in Hamilton tens of thousands of people are waiting outside bus stops, smart phone in hand. If ever there was a chance to engage the general public in open data, HSR real-time data applications would be it.

Open Data Jam 2014 was planned when Microsoft Canada approached Open Hamilton about running another open data hackathon. Microsoft has actually been a champion for open data, and has supported similar hackathons in Toronto and elsewhere. The Friday afternoon portion of the event offers an opportunity to hear talks about open data, citizen engagement, city planning, open data app success stories and more. The Saturday and Sunday portion of the event offers an opportunity to build open data applications using the publicly accessible data.


Why Open Data Jam 2014 matters

I think the event is pivotal for two reasons:

1) The City of Hamilton is showing up. Jay Adams from the City of Hamilton will be there on Friday afternoon. If you want to show that open data is important to you and talk about why, this is the time.

2) We really need a killer app for open data in Hamilton. The real-time HSR data has been released since July. But as best as I can tell, the most widely used application for accessing this data is still the web app released by the HSR. A “when is my bus coming” smartphone app using the smartphone’s GPS data and the real-time HSR data could be hugely important.


If there’s two things I’m hoping that come out of this event, it’s 1) a publicly accessible killer app, 2) an open data group that is focused on continuing to improve on existing apps and create future open data apps.

As much as the City of Hamilton has been slow to adopt open data, if people want the city to continue to release open data, I really feel that could be best encouraged by creating strong, widely used apps (and a continuous follow-through effort to create more).



#ODJAM2014 is a 3-day event bringing together government, developers and citizens to collaborate and accelerate Open Data efforts in Hamilton.

Governments and organizations have become some of our largest data collectors and the resource is often resting in silos untouched. Open Data is taking this valuable resource and giving it to people who can unlock its value — resulting in new economies, job creation and increased efficiencies in public services.

Friday, November 21, 2014 (1:00-5:00pm)

1:00pm-1:30pm: Registration

1:30pm-2:00pm: Defining Open Data and Open Government

Richard Pietro (Co-Founder of CitizenBridge and Open Government Tour 2014)

Learn about the differences between open data and open government. Prepare yourself for upcoming conversations from thought leaders and experts in openness.

2:00pm-3:00pm: Expert panel on culture change required to be open

Moderator: Richard Pietro (Co-Founder of CitizenBridge and Open Government Tour 2014)

Panelists: David Wrate (Open Data BC), David Rauch (Open Data Edmonton), Renee Higgins (Open Data Sudbury), Sameer Vasta (MaRS Data Catalyst)

Panel discussion to cover how open data is being implemented in other cities and jurisdictions. Get perspectives from within government and citizens collaborating to improve their local area.

3:00pm-3:20pm: Networking Break

3:20pm-3:35pm: Just Go To The Blog! Save time and improve internal communication with Open Data.

Lauren Archer (LRA Heritage Consultant and former City of Toronto Heritage Planner)

Lauren is a heritage planner, writer, and maker. She has worked for municipalities of Toronto, Vaughan, Oakville, and Peterborough. She is into old home restoration and sustainability, online public consultation, self-directed learning, bees (highly productive community gatherings), maps, and open data.

3:35pm-3:50pm: Better Engagement, Better City Planning

Daniel Fusca (City of Toronto Planning Division)

Daniel is the Stakeholder Engagement Lead for the City of Toronto Planning Division, working out of the Office of the Chief Planner. He is currently managing the Division’s Growing Conversations initiative to improve the planning process through better engagement. Daniel is motivated by a desire to achieve greater openness and accountability in municipal government. To that end, he was instrumental in the launch of IdeaSpaceTO, Toronto’s new online ideas manager, and is working on the development of a new Open Data Framework for the Planning Division. Daniel is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Master of Science in Planning program.

3:50pm-4:05pm: The BikeFinder Story

Jennifer Shen and Ankita Kulkarni, BikeFinder (Winners of Toronto BikeShare Hackathon 2014)

Bike Finder is an SMS service designed for Bike Share Toronto which delivers real time information about station locations and bike availability. Text an intersection to 647-559-0509 to receive up-to-the-minute results for bicycle and dock availability at your nearest Bike Share station!

4:05pm-4:20pm: Inside Job: Why OpenGov and OpenData Matter for Public Servants

Ashleigh Weeden (Grey County Community Engagement, Connected County Initiative)

Ashleigh Weeden is an award-winning community engagement practitioner and communicator who enjoys taking the lid off local government so everyone can play inside City Hall. She’s currently working on Grey County’s Connected County initiative, building a collaborative community partnership to leverage broadband connectivity for sustainable economic and community development. As a public service evangelist, Ashleigh has proudly worked for the City of London, the Region of Waterloo, the Centre for Non Profit Management, and the Government of British Columbia.4:20pm-4:35pm A pledge for community and city to work collaboratively

Anand Sinha, Matt Grande, Open Hamilton

4:35pm-5:00pm: Open Data in Hamilton
Jay Adams, City of Hamilton
City of Hamilton takes a look into the service and business implications with Open Data – a winning scenario for everyone.

Open Hamilton Jam Time! Pitches, building solutions, workshops…

Starts: Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 9:00am

Ends: Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 4:00pm

Together with McMaster Innovation Park, Innovation Factory, The City of Hamilton, and Microsoft, Open Hamilton is calling all developers, designers and problem-solvers to Open Data Jam 2014!! ¬†A chance to work with civic-minded developers to create compelling applications using Hamilton’s Open Data. ¬†Hear about local success stories! Have a chance in determining how the City of Hamilton creates open-data sets, and help prioritize the next sets of open data. Collaborate with other developers, and city officials to create applications that make a difference in our daily lives!

Be a part of the Open Data/Open Government movement in Hamilton.  Help make collaboration and co-operation a key cog in the economic growth of Hamiltonians.


Accessing HSR open data

Screenshot 2014-07-30 at 23.39.00


A friend of mine recently asked about how to get at the HSR open data used during the HSR real-time data hackathon. Great question, and I’ve copied the response from Open Hamilton below for whoever else is curious:

You can access the HSR open data here:

You can read about the Realtime GTFS file format here:

The data is in Google’s “protocol buffers” format. You can read about that here:


Also, check out this cool real-time map that shows you where every busy in the city is currently!


Open data hackathon a major step forward

Yesterday Open Hamilton (@OpenHamilton) held a hackathon at the 1280 pub inside McMaster University. The event was attended by about 50 developers, designers, students, makers and others in the local community. The motivation to hold the hackathon was the release of real-time data by the HSR (scheduled to occur on July 31st). Open Hamilton was given access to this data in some form by the city so that attendees could begin to create open data apps to utilize this data.

The organizers did not direct the participants to develop particular types of apps, but instead facilitated access to the data and let the participants decide what to create.




Teams formed around different project ideas and spent the day working on the apps – for example a real-time visualization of average bus late times per line, and an app to receive bus time data via text messages. Talking to the teams it looks like many plan to continue their work after the event to complete these apps, so it looks like we’ll be seeing some apps taking advantage of real-time HSR data available soon! When these apps are released I’ll provide updates as to how to access them.

Interestingly, mayor Bob Bratina spoke at the beginning of the event. Bratina acknowledged that Hamilton was behind regarding open data and gave the attendees encouraging remarks that were well received (at least from the participants I spoke with). Towards the end of the event city manager Chris Murray came by – carrying boxes of donuts! It would be wonderful to see this co-operation with and encouragement of the local open data community continue.




This hackathon felt like a major step forward for open data in Hamilton. There’s been a lot of enthusiasm around open data advocacy for years now, but in the absence of actual open data, it has been very difficult for this enthusiasm to be translated into hackathons that would galvanize developers and apps that would provide value for citizens.

What this hackathon showed was that if you release useful open data like real-time HSR data in an accessible manner (API, etc.), then local developers will absolutely step up to create apps. I saw groups of people at this event that I have never seen at a Hamilton tech event before, many of them students looking to build portfolios, other groups of people were just looking to build something cool. When I asked them why they came out, they said it was because of what they would get to work on.




So again, it goes to show – when useful open data is released, the community will step up to create apps.

Speaking to the organizers, another hackathon is tentatively being planned for November of this year. I suspect it could be much bigger!

Great job on the part of Open Hamilton organizers Anand Sinha (@AnandSHamilton), Joey Coleman (@JoeyColeman) and Matt Grande (@MattGrande), and the sponsors Microsoft Canada. Open Hamilton has been pushing this issue for years (with Joey Coleman leading the charge) and this hackathon felt like a major step forward. I’m sure there’s a lot more steps to be taken. But I remember a few years ago open data in Hamilton seemed stagnant, whereas now the city is releasing key open data, apparently more data will be released in the future, developers are getting to build apps, and even the mayor is acknowledging and encouraging the community. That’s pretty awesome.




HSR Real-Time Data Hackathon Announced!



Calling all designers, programmers, city staff, and other civic-minded problem-solvers looking for a challenge!

Join us on July 26 to hack the HSR real-time data into slick apps.


Hamiltonians will be able to know where their bus is starting on July 31st and Open Hamilton is planning a hackathon to build the apps to make it possible.

Our hackathon is schedule for July 26th and you can register here.


Real-Time HSR Open Data now in Alpha

The Hamilton Street Railway is releasing real-time public transit open data to the public on July 31.

Open Hamilton members Joey Coleman, Matt Grande, and Anand Sinha met with the City Manager’s Office during the past few months to work with City staff and Council to negotiate access.

Anand and Matt lead Open Hamilton’s efforts, presenting to City Council on April 2, 2014.

Their delegation secured clear Council support for open data development, and funding to ensure the release of HSR real-time data.

Councillors Brad Clark and Brian McHattie worked with us to encourage the HSR to release the data, and lead efforts to ensure support from all of City Council for this release.


Limited Developer Access to Alpha Test

Open Hamilton has limited access to real-time open data for development and testing of apps prior to the public launch.

Developers are invited to work with this data to build applications for public release on July 31st.

The only conditions the HSR is attaching to our use of the data is that it be used solely for development (they do not yet have the capacity or stability for public consumption) and developers provide feedback to improve the data.


Development Goals

It is our hope to see apps developed and released for all major mobile platforms in time for the public launch. We also wish to see developers able to build applications for businesses along public transit routes. In other cities, businesses have promoted specials to transit users based upon the amount of time until the next bus.

Imagine, the next time your bus is running 10 minutes late, having the opportunity to grab a quick bite to eat (with a special for transit riders) while staying out of the elements instead of standing outside wondering what’s happened to your bus.


Hackathon Day – July 26, 2014

Open Hamilton will host a hackathon day (Free Food!) on July 26 to create applications and submit them to various app stores for public use.

We’re working to organize the event, and will announce the venue in the coming week. We’re budgetting $5,000 to the event to ensure all participants are well-fed and have prizes available to be won.

Visit our Eventbrite page to register, and help us determine our number as we confirm the event venue.


Why should I join a Hackathon?

This Creative-Commons Licensed Infographic by Code for America will help you decide if you wish to attend:


Poster: Why should I go to a hackathon?

Nationwide open data hackathon announced



In case you missed it Joey Coleman (@JoeyColeman) did a live stream video of Tony Clement’s (@TonyClementCPC) announcement of the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE) at Mohawk College (@MohawkCollege) earlier this week. See the live stream video and press release about CODE below.



TORONTO, Jan. 9, 2014 /CNW/ – Hosted by the creators of Canada’s largest competitive hackathon, XMG Studio Inc., and supported by the Government of Canada, the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE) aims to inspire an entire generation of developers and designers to develop apps based on open data. From February 28th to March 2nd creative do-ers, movers and shakers are invited to participate in this race against the clock and liberate the data available on All teams that successfully submit an application compete for Gold Sponsor OpenText’s $25,000 Grand Prize, as well as a $5,000 second place prize and a $1,000 third place prize.

“The potential economic impact of open data once innovators start putting it to use and begin distributing their applications to the public is immense,” said Ray Sharma, President, mobile games developer XMG Studio Inc. “The opportunity for developers is most obvious, but the potential impact on Canadian citizens who stand to benefit from the increased economic productivity is incredibly exciting.”

To encourage the meaningful and productive use of the released datasets CODE will begin with a day of inspirational quick-fire speeches from renowned technology and open data industry leaders at the official CODE VIP HUB in Toronto on February 28th, 2014. The Inspiration Day will be live-streamed on the CODE website and will officially end with the announcement of a theme that participants will need to adhere to in order to guarantee all participants begin on common ground.

“Our Government is excited to see Government Open Data, a previously untapped resource, fueling the development of apps that will help Canadians in their day-to-day lives,” said the Honourable Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board. “Innovations like the apps created at CODE will ensure Canada remains at the forefront of the global Open Data movement.”

OpenText, Canada’s largest software company, is providing the $40,000 Gold level sponsorship contribution to the event of which $25,000 will go to the winning developer.

“OpenText’s continuing commitment to innovation is in sync with the CODE initiative and we are pleased to support application development for the benefit of Canadians,” said OpenText President and CEO Mark Barrenechea. “We are inspiring application development through our latest software development and hope to impact the opportunity for innovation using government data sets that were previously unavailable.”

CODE is open to all who are interested in developing applications with the goal of bettering the lives of Canadians, regardless of digital prowess. The specially developed matchmaking tool on the CODE website allows anyone to find the team members needed to take an idea from concept to completion. Participants can take part in CODE in two ways: they can apply to attend the centralized VIP HUB in Toronto or they can participate remotely from their homes, schools or their local coffee shop. At the end of the CODE hackathon, participants submit their completed applications online to be evaluated. In Addition to OpenText, IBM will provide Silver Level Sponsorship of $20,000.

CODE will start at 5:00 p.m. (local time) on February 28th, 2014 and continue for 48 hours, ending at 5:00 p.m. on March 2nd, 2014. Following the event, the winning applications will be evaluated on criteria such as the degree of innovation, usefulness to the Canadian public, the level of art and design polish as well as stability and how well open data sets were implemented. The top 15 teams will be invited to pitch their apps during the CODE Grand Finale – a live judging event – to a panel of industry experts and potential investors. The goal is to connect the Canadian entrepreneurs directly to investment firms and venture capitalists to ensure their apps (or ideas) are brought to market. The winning applications may go on to be released commercially either independently by the participants or in co-operation with a third party.

For more information about the event including supported platforms, team registrations and rules and regulations please visit

About XMG Studio:

XMG Studio Inc. is an award-winning developer and publisher of mobile games. Founded in late 2009, XMG has developed a track record for innovation excellence in mobile gaming including the release of critically acclaimed games downloadable on your iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices. Based in Toronto, XMG is one of the largest indie mobile game studios in Canada. Named as one of the top global mobile games developers to watch by popular media, XMG is focused on providing creative expression through gameplay for all fans of fun.


A day in Hamilton transit

Originally posted on


Over the past couple days, in the evenings, I’ve been working on a small project.

Frequent readers of my blog (ha!) know that I enjoy map making and things of that nature. I decided to do a more local project, this time, using Hamilton’s transit data.

All the routes

The script I’ve created takes a transit schedule (in GTFS format) and either places all the routes on one image, or creates thousands of images and turns them into frames in a video.

Here’s a quick overview of how it works:

  1. Determine “significant” trips (in this case, I’m only looking at weekday trips).
  2. Generate a list of stops with their times and latitudinal / longitudinal co-odrdinates.
  3. Convert the lat/long into x/y.
  4. Plot to an image.

If you want to take a deeper look into the code, here it is on github. If you want to see the image again, feel free to click here. If you’re all about the videos, maybe give this link a click?



« Older Entries