| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Innovation & Job News

Toronto's first Green Energy Hackathon held at MaRS

Founded in 2011, MaRS's Data Catalyst gathers data from partners in several sectors—healthcare, entrepreneurship, and energy—and analyses it to help support the development of the province's innovation economy. This past weekend, Data Catalyst organized the city's first ever Green Energy Hackathon, to give local app and product developers a chance to work with some of that data as well.

Data from many of the province's smart metres—from 2.7 million households, to be more precise—is currently being gathered in what's called the Green Button initiative. It's the Green Button open API that was made available to participants at the Hackathon—data that enables users to better understand how Ontarians are actually using their energy. Using that data, participants at the hackathon came up apps that do everything from help individuals know the best time to use certain appliances to warning small businesses about impending weather disruptions.

"There's a big hairy problem about how to engage people in their use of energy," says Joe Greenwood, program director of Data Catalyst. That problem, he goes on, has a lot to do with behavioural economics: even though we could save money by changing our energy consumption habits, it turns out people aren't entirely rational in how they handle such choices—which leads to the thorny question of how exactly to induce them to alter those choices.

On the bright side, Greenwood explains, Ontario has also made one of the biggest investments in smart metres, which creates a big opportunity for smart developers to give people the capacity to manage their energy use more effectively. Because we're starting to learn more about how we currently consume energy, we can start experimenting with tools that will motivate people to consume it better.

One key theme Greenwood noticed in the apps that were started at the Hackathon—some of which will be getting support for further development—is simplification. Though energy companies and large corporations may look at charts and graphs to help them determine their choices, individuals work differently; many of the developers started looking at giving rewards—badges or air miles, or using humour—as tools to help people change.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Joe Greenwood, program director, MaRS Data Catalyst
Signup for Email Alerts
Signup for Email Alerts

Related Content