Pål Rørby pitching the Hidden app at Hack4Norden 2016 at Slush.

Saving Reindeer and Our Cultural Heritage with Open Data

1 December, eight Nordic hacker teams pitched their solutions to the crowd and the jury in Hall 2 at the Slush tech conference in Helsinki to become Hack4Norden 2016 champions.

Common to all eight solutions were that they were using open data sets to solve societal problems while having a clear business potential.

With a map-based augmented reality game that can help save Nordic folklore, the team behind Hidden took home the first prize and NOK 125.000 in development support. SaveMyReindeer won second place and NOK 75 000 in development support, while Quicktags.io won third prize and NOK 50.000 in development support.

Reviving Nordic folklore through augmented reality

Winning hack Hidden is a map-based gaming app that use augmented reality technology (AR) to bring old folklore tales to life in the actual locations they are connected to. In that way, the team behind the game wants to help preserve a part of the Nordic cultural heritage they feel are threatened. The app is based on open data sets from the Norwegian Mapping Authority and the Directorate for Cultural Heritage.

“There are so many exciting stories out there, but they are being forgotten. Now AR technology has become so good that it’s time to bring them back to life. And get people out into nature!”, says team leader Pål Rørby, who was surprised by the victory.

“We thought one of the tech people would win, but it shows that people care about cultural heritage”, Rørby continues. Now they hope to launch a full version of their app this summer.

The Nordic jury was impressed by the storytelling in the Hidden pitch, as well as the potential to scale to everywhere in the world where there are old folklore tales.

“Hidden is a great initiative to use new digital technologies, such as AR, to bring ancient Nordic folklore back to life using convincing storytelling”, the jury said in a statement about the winning team.

Saving Rudolf

By using GPS tracking data from reindeer herds together with real time railroad data, second place winners SaveMyReindeer can predict when reindeer are at risk of being hit by trains. Their solution gives notification to both reindeer owners and the train driver in order to avoid tragic accidents, saving both reindeer owners economic loss and train drivers the emotional strain of killing large numbers of animals.

“Winning second place means a lot to us. We can now launch the project much faster”, says Marit Moen Solem.

Marit Moen Solem and Halvor Mjøen earned second prize for SaveMyReindeer.

She runs the company Findmysheep together with her brother Halvor Mjøen and they are both former sheep farmers from Norway. In the SaveMyReindeer team they also have reindeer owner Tina Hætta and Kristin Skjerven from the Norwegian Mapping Agency.

The SaveMyReindeer solution is also scalable to other types of animals and could also incorporate other traffic data. Since it is based on satellite technology and not mobile technology, it could potentially be used in any location on earth.

Using AI to process photos

Quicktags.io’s way of using artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning together with image data to efficiently create image tags and meta data for large image stocks earned them second prize. Quicktags.io has Finnish state-owned broadcasters YLE as pilot customers and are looking to do further testing.

“We need business development support and advice, so winning the third prize will help us with that. It has also been great to get feedback from the group of hackers competing here at Hack4Norden 2016”, says team leader Timo Heikkinen.

Innovation driven by data

All the eight hacker teams had qualified to Hack4Norden 2016 through national hackathons. As well as competing in the pitching competition, the teams also had pitch training and mentoring from experts on open data, innovation and business development.

The goal with Hack4Norden is to support the development of new innovative companies and to show the value and possibilities of data, as well as to push the acknowledgement of data utilisation in public and private organisations. All the solutions and ideas competing at Hack4Norden have a Nordic dimension – either solving a societal challenge or elevating the region’s cultural heritage.

Hack4Norden is part of the lighthouse project Innovative Nordic Digital Solutions initiated by the Nordic Ministers of Business, with the overall goal of developing the Nordic region into a pioneer region for new and innovative digital solutions.