New York City has announced a new app challenge aimed at finding innovative ways to use the hundreds of public datasets that it maintains.

The app challenge is entitled BigApps 3.0 and is challenging software developers to create apps that use city data to make NYC better.

The city collects data on everything from the location of WiFi hotspots to a directory of basketball courts. Much in the same way that retrospective analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative data or Framingham data goes well beyond the original intent and has yielded surprising results, NYC hopes that opening its datasets to all the creative minds out there will yield a result that improves the lives of its residents.

A chunk of prize money is also set aside specifically for health apps.

Among the datasets available are: 911 Receiving Hospitals, Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Results (NYC HANES), Community Health Survey (GIS data) 2003-2008, and the Community and Health Survey (SAS data). All of these were found after a cursory review of 250 of the 800+ datasets available. The only requirement is that the app at least use one NYC dataset. What it does beyond that is only limited by the imagination of the app developer.

Entries can be mobile apps, SMS based systems, computer software, or “any software platform broadly available to the public.

The App challenge will give away a total of $50,000 in prize money, divided in several smaller prizes. This includes $4,000 for an “app that best encourages healthy behavior, aids health education and understanding of health trends, and/or improves access to healthcare resources.” Other prizes include

  • Best Overall Application: $10,000
  • Investors Choice Application: $5,000
  • Popular Choice Award: $4,000

The submission deadline in 1/25/12 and winners will be announced at the end of March. Last year’s biggest winners were apps that helped people monitor traffic conditions in realtime, organize pickup sports, and find parking – all of which make sense in NYC. There was no health category last year, so it will be interesting to see the entries that take aim at this category in particular.