In 2013, we received the opportunity from Creative BC to build an interactive installation. From our original vision of a one-off project revealing the hidden data layers of the the city, CityBits has grown into a dynamic project that pulls both from the Open Data initiative (data.vancouver.org) and the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan (GCAP).
Faced with the volume of data available at data.vancouver.org we decided that a successful outcome for CityBits would be an installation to help tell a story. While there existed many opportunities for simply plotting & visualizing available data, like so many contemporary data visualization projects, pomp & prettiness fail to create meaningful impact on their own. We endeavoured to have a strong story, and multiple channels for participation that would back up the design, interaction and engineering tricks we were producing.
Our original concept involved revealing the invisible layers of the city through Vancouver's Open Data initiative. After collecting & synthesizing the data we started to envision a more critical piece that could serve to both inform and allow citizens to contribute to the overall understanding and dialog of the project.
The CityBits App
When a user downloads the CityBits app they will be able to explore the Goals, Aspects, and Facts of the GCAP. Through the app exploration, users will be asked questions and opinions about the Greenest City Initiative, with their answers pooled into a database that will help us understand how Vancouverites feel about aspects of the project and how informed they are in general.
With guidance from Mahir Yavuz, we established a design language for both the mobile app and the installation and created a simple, sophisticated design language that allows the data to shine through.
We developed a sophisticated Bluetooth technology that allowed direct in-person interaction with the installation. We pioneered usage of Apple's iBeacon technology, researching how the technology worked before there was official documentation available.
When a smartphone enters within a few feet of proximity with the installation it automatically connects and begins controlling the wall-based visualization. When the phone exists the proximity of the installation it disconnects and the next closest phone can connect and control automatically.
In essence, we have developed a strong framework for creating flexible data visualizations that can be repurposed for a variety of different situations & circumstances.