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Projects

Windows 8 App Templates Success Story

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At RedBit we build software for various customers in various verticals. Every so often we build software that we open source to the community to use however they please, whether that is to learn from the source code or to to take that source code to use for a commercial venture. Such is the case with the Windows 8 App Templates we released almost a year ago.

The other day I got an email from a student at UBC in Vancouver who successfully used the templates to build his own Windows 8 apps to deploy to the store. Best part is he used it to try and generate some revenue by selling the products.

Dear Mark,

It’s Bardia again, a student from UBC in Vancouver. I just wanted to share with you the results of my work on your Finder Template.
Using Bing API, I have developed two apps:

I would highly value any feedback you would have as a Microsoft MVP. Please feel free to contact me.
Best regards,
Bardia

I did send Bardia my feedback but wanted to share his success story and how he took the software, learned from it, built on top of it and published to the Windows Store. If you used the Windows 8 App Templates comment below or email us to let us know, happy to share your stories and success! And be sure to checkout our GitHub account, we regularly post some code there.

Monitoring Social Media With Social Cloud

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Tracking and visualizing social media streams in real-time and across multiple social networks can be a challenge. Three months ago we set out to address this challenge, in partnership with our friends at IdeaNotion and Microsoft.

Today we’re pleased to release as Open Source the Social Cloud project.

social cloud logo-blue

Social Cloud allows users to monitor various social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram and FourSquare, aggregate and process that data (e.g. generate word clouds) and expose real-time streams to web & mobile clients.

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Possibilities of Open Data in Federal Governments

By | Open Data, Projects | No Comments

Wednesday I spoke at OpenGovWest BC about one of the success stories of OpenDataLondon, where I shared with the audience in a small case study like format (challenges and overcoming them) the success of LondonTrash. Afterwards, a few of the attendees wondered what were the possibilities of using data from the Federal Government. Well, I am happy to share with you one of Canada’s first open data projects which makes use of Federal Government data – Emitter.ca.

A project which took almost two months in the development from analyzing the data and calculating the statistics, to the actual application design and development, six individuals from across Canada, including myself, collaborated on the design, development and deployment of Emitter.ca. Emitter.ca is a simple web application which allows Canadian citizens to search for an address, city or a postal code, allowing them to receive information and data in an understandable format about the pollutants which are released from facilities near the searched address.

The Emitter.ca project was initiated by David Eaves, one of Canada’s leaders in Open Government advocacy, and Nik Garkusha of Microsoft Canada. Nik and David brought the rest of the team in from all across Canada for taking the idea from conception to reality. The team included:

  • David Eaves – a public policy entrepreneur and an Open Government advocate,
  • Matthew Dance – a geospatial wiz and a MA Candidate from the University of Alberta,
  • Nik Garkusha – an Open Data and Open Source enthusiast from Microsoft Canada who recently founded OpenHalton,
  • Mark Arteaga – a mobile solutions expert and owner of RedBit Development,
  • Barranger Ridler – a development genius with a major focus in Windows 7 mobile development,
  • and myself.

Emitter.ca makes use of the Environment Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory. Throughout Canada, there are hundreds of facilities that put pollutants into our air. Unfortunately, not too many people really know what the nearby facilities are really emitting. Unless you are a chemist or some form a genius, purely looking at the raw data from NPRI won’t get you too far as they use long and complex names, with the combination of statistical data which is hard to interpret. With the launch of Emitter.ca, Canadians are now able to easily retrieve this information in various forms of representation making it easy to identify which of the local facilities are polluting the most.

Through the use of emitter.ca, I am sure that many will be surprised about what their local facilities are polluting, at least I know I was. Knowing that, we have integrated a third party service from a British Columbia developer, Cory Horner. The service known as How’d They Vote, has an API which allows other applications like Emitter.ca to retrieve data and information about the Members of Parliament. In Emitter.ca, we have leveraged the power of Cory’s API to include information about the MP which the facility is located within his or her riding, allowing users to directly contact the elected official.

Emitter.ca was launched as a BETA release as we know there are bugs, but there are also additional features which we would like to add, along with including additional data sets which we hope to also ‘mashup’ with the NRPI data, along with friendly descriptions of chemicals. If there is something that you would like to see in Emitter.ca, feel free to contact any one of the team members as we would be more then happy to assist.

Furthermore, being the developer of this application was something amazing. Sure there is still work to be done (you will see it is BETA) at the moment, but what was more interesting was working with both Microsoft Canada’s Open Source team, David Eaves and RedBit Development. The combination of expertise, collaboration and different timezones was something that I am truly amazed at. What was most interesting about this application was the fact that we leveraged both open source technologies like PHP and Microsoft’s proprietary systems like SQL Server 2008 to create a powerful application for the Canadian population.

I am truly excited about this project for many of reasons, but one that stands out is that the collaborative effort of the team across Canada has demonstrated in a proof-of-concept like form to Canadian citizens and our Federal Government that there is something exciting happening within the Open Government, Open Data and Open Source space. Emitter.ca also demonstrates what can be achieved with Federal data sets.

 

Please note that this article was originally posted at amcgowan.ca.

RedBit Helps Track Pollution in Canada

By | Open Data, Projects, RedBit | No Comments

As part of the Open Lab (with RedBit as the technical lead), we are happy to announce a new the initial release of Emitter.  Emitter is an online website that takes open data provided by Environment Canada and makes this data easy to read.  Currently the data is not in the friendliest format and doesn’t allow everyday citizens to easily decipher the data.  Emitter attempts to solve that problem.

EmitterEmitter takes the pollution data and converts it into a format that is easy to read by humans and by software.  For humans, type in your riding, address and you will get a map showing the various factories in the area.  The team wanted to give citizens an easier way to find out what is happening around them and a simpler way to get engaged.  For software, all data is stored on Windows Azure using the  Open Government Data Initiative (OGDI) to open up the data and allow other developers to use the data in their own applications.  The data is hosted on Datadotgc.ca which is a site dedicated to opening up public data.

RedBit founder, Mark Arteaga, talks about the whole reason behind the project and why produce a product like this.  The entire RedBit team was involved on the project in some way or another.  Barranger talks about his experience with OGDI and AzureAaron also talks about his experience with OGDI and PHP.

Emitter is a collaborative effort by various people across Canada to help make pollution data easily accessible, searchable and readable and not just the RedBit team.  This would not have happened with out the help of

  1. David Eaves – Open Government activist and envisioned the Emitter.ca concept and helped bring it from start to finish
  2. Matthew Dance – The ‘brains’ behind the Emitter.ca methodology, graduate student at University of Alberta and responsible for interpreting/analyzing the pollution data and allowing us to present in useful ways
  3. Nik Garkusha – Open Data enthusiast and Open Source Strategy Lead at Microsoft Canada.  Nik took role of architect and helping to envision Emitter and most importantly providing funding and hosting for Emitter at the Microsoft Open Lab

Emitter was a collaborative effort for the good of all.

Here are some links to others that have written about Emitter and Open Data initiatives

If you are a developer and want to know how to access the data please go to the Datadotgc.ca OGDI instance to access the data.  For the benefit of the developer community we will also be releasing tutorials on how to access the pollution data in your applications.

RedBit Delivers The Globe and Mail For Windows Phone 7

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It’s been a busy few months for the RedBit team but today we get to announce the work we have been doing.  In addition to MTV News another project we have been working in is The Globe and Mail for Windows Phone 7.   The Globe and Mail is Canada’s largest national newspaper and have a keen interest in delivering their award winning articles digitally.

TGAM_Small

When we first bid on the project, we came up with the following mock-up to give project sponsors and idea of what exactly is Windows Phone 7.  At the time there where no devices and no way for customers to really get an idea of what is possible.  Mock-ups truly did help the customer visualize what was possible.

WP7 Template

As we went through design iterations, we decided to use the pivot experience as this provided a cleaner and simpler user experience when using the actual hardware device.  We also found it allowed users to get to their ‘destination’ within the app faster.  Here is the final screen layout for the app.

Hardware

Working on both The Globe and Mail project and the MTV News project was a great experience and being one of the first companies in Canada to help large Canadian brands get onto the phone is an even better feeling.   The app is now available in marketplace and is free!

RedBit Delivers MTV News for Windows Phone 7

By | Projects, RedBit | One Comment

Today I’m happy to announce that over the past few months RedBit has been hard at work with MTV and getting MTV News ready for Windows Phone 7 North American launch.  RedBit is one of the few partners able to successfully deliver for their customers on this new and exciting platforms that is sure to gain the acceptance of the consumer smartphone market.

MTVNews_Small

So what did we deliver?  We delivered an MTV News Hub which took data from all different places and put it into one hub.  Similar to the people hub or the picture hub.  MTV News audience now have the ability to connect with news hosts via twitter, get up to date news stories and even get video streamed straight to their device.

Here is a mockup of what the app would look like on Windows Phone 7 and we got almost exactly the same out put on the device.

WP7-Template

And here is an animated GIF of the actual screen shots on the device.

Hardware_Small

As you can see, it’s almost exactly the same!  That’s the power that this phone gives you, it allows you to help customers properly represent their brands on the phone and create a fantastic experience on the phone for their users.  If you have a Windows Phone 7 device be sure to download the app, it’s free!  Soon we will have some videos showing the experience of the app on the phone, seeing pictures don’t see the entire experience of the app.

This article also appears on Mark Arteaga’s Blog