Open data on the rise as Albertans increase their use of public cloud computing

img 20150529 195446 1024Cybera'€™s Rapid Access Cloud is growing in popularity among open data and hackathon users, as more Albertans look for the compute resources to build data-based apps and innovative web tools.

This past weekend, participants in a datathon organized by Data for Good Calgary and the Distress Centre Calgary made use of Cybera's cloud to collaborate and share information. The goal of the datathon was to analyze the Distress Centre'€™s 1.25 million call records to identify trends and ideas for how the organization could better utilize its resources. Cybera'€™s staff created a file sharing tool, similar to Dropbox, that was housed on the Rapid Access Cloud and used by the 50+ participants over the 72-hour event.

"Working with large datasets can be very difficult using public file sharing tools. Free sites can easily reach capacity limits and become overwhelmed, and paid services can be expensive. This makes it very hard to carry out non-profit initiatives, such as what we'€™re doing at Data for Good,"€ says Geoff Zakaib, founder of Data for Good – Calgary. "The Rapid Access Cloud was very responsive and scalable, and provided an excellent resource for our analysts, developers, and data scientists."€

Datathons and hackathons are growing trends in the open data movement. Open data is a call for agencies, both public and private, to make their data available and accessible to the public. The tools that are built using this open data can benefit all citizens, including apps that provide emergency updates or directions to the nearest recycling centre.

The ability to analyze this data and create apps requires strong computing infrastructure, which is where cloud is increasingly playing a role.

This year'€™s City of Calgary Hackathon winners used the Rapid Access Cloud to create an app called "€˜Calgary Alerts"€™. The tool allows users to choose from a list of alert types (including traffic, transit, road closures, and events) based on their location.

"Cybera helped us rapidly spin up the infrastructure needed to prototype our idea,"€ says Anthony Lukach, developer of Calgary Alerts. He adds that his team is now looking at next steps for making the app available to the public.

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Sportsity (above) is another app built off of the Rapid Access Cloud that utilizes the City of Calgary'€™s open data. It is designed to help Calgarians quickly discover nearby courts or arenas that are available for sporting activities (including tennis, basketball, soccer, etc). The app is now available and free to download.

"Cybera made it easy €” and fast €” to configure and deploy our application,"€ says Bilal Karim, developer of Sportsity. "The detailed documentation they provide is helpful, but more importantly, the default server specs are perfect for testing your next big idea."

Alberta innovators interested in testing their ideas in a local cloud environment are invited to sign up here, or contact the Rapid Access Cloud team for more details.


BACKGROUNDER

About the Rapid Access Cloud

The Alberta-based Rapid Access Cloud is funded by the Government of Alberta to:

  • Help researchers utilize cloud computing environments for testing, analysis and data storage

  • Give Albertans a competitive advantage by offering a staging ground to test their ideas for cloud-based services, before moving to a commercial cloud platform

  • Provide a learning environment for people to explore the possibilities and benefits of cloud computing

About Cybera

Cybera is a not-for-profit technology-neutral organization responsible for accelerating technology adoption in Alberta. Its core role is to oversee the development and operations of Alberta'€™s cyberinfrastructure €” the advanced system of networks and computers that keeps government, educational institutions, not-for-profits, business incubators and entrepreneurs at the forefront of technological change.