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Flash Sports - App for the live linking up of local sports facilities' availability with residents

An App/website provides a live update of which local facilities are free to be used (football, basketball, badminton, tennis etc..) and who in the area is currently looking for others which which to play games, and at what times (UPDATED).

Photo of James Robertson
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With the success of multiplayer online computer games like Call of Duty and Modern Warfare etc, connections are being made between kids and adults alike all over the world, who, at any given moment in time, can log in and see who is also feeling like a quick round of two of gaming right at that moment.

What if a local, outdoor, sporting equivalent was available? If you are at a loose end of an afternoon, and suddenly feel like you could use a kick about with some friends - and some people you've never even met before. Well, you could chance your arm and just turn up with a football, but what if you were able to go online to your website/app see where there is a free court/pitch, set up an event and invite people to add themselves to your game? You could even tell everyone what colour shirts to bring, and who's bringing jumpers for goalposts!

Alternatively, you may work in the city and find that your usual squash partner is not available..why not see who is keen for a game at midday? Which courts are free where, book one!

Builing on Arjan's SgNal concept (as well as Pedro's flash mob concept), it would be great if pedestrians passing by a sports venue were able to utilize a tag displayed on the signage to immediatley acces info on when that particular venue is free, if there are any associated costs, who is already looking for people to play with there, etc...

UPDATE:

Having thought a little more about who would be the buyer/seller for a service like this, the closest model I could find was that of Nike+ or Nike Fuel. 

The Nike + community has literally millions of members worldwide; they don't own any roads or parks, but by creating a technology to track excercise and a growing a community within which to compete and connect, they have encouraged greater enjoyment of the existing facilities in environments all over the world.

If this 'Flash Sport' app were to be embedded within the Nike + community, as say 'Nike Play' or pitched to a competitor like Reebok or Puma, these corporations could fund and market the uptake.

In terms of interface and the online community, it could be great to catalogue all of the games you play, who played with you, how many goals you scored or sets you won. Buddies who have a golf, squash or tennis rivalry could keep an online record, groups who play pick-up soccer games can note who turns up and when each other are available etc..If Nike were to integrate it with the GPS wrist bracelets, energy expenditure could be tracked also. Meters run etc..

I think there's an amazing opportunity for a brand to take ownership of casual sports, and in so doing revolutionise the access to pick-up games anytime anywhere! Goes without saying that this would have a huge impact on their apparel and footwear sales.

This is not where the idea started, but as it develops and seed funding sources become relevant, it could be a direction worth considering. Feeback welcomed!

  

How does your concept inspire collaboration between individuals, private sector organisations, and the government in an effort to create cleaner neighbourhoods?

Connecting individuals with each other and their extensive existing local facilities is the aim of this concept. If residents are made aware of exactly what facilities are available to them, how near they are, and when they are free, who is free to play with them, they will find it far easier to spontaneously play that game of tennis, or badminton, or indulge in whatever their interests are. It would be hoped that with increased awareness of existing facilities, the interest in the maintenance and upkeep would be increased also; NEA would have to colloborate deeply with SSC (Singapore Sports Council) to provide a joint catalogue of all sports and recreational facilities open to the public, live updates on their availability, and a booking (and possibly payment) portal for their usage. Private sector organisations could perhaps play a slightly more sutble role here; appropriatly selected firms would be invited to advertise on the mobile/app platform, and this could even be net revenue-generating, or at the lease offset some running costs.

How might your concept be scaled in a way that creates even more connections between people?

In terms of scaling, I could imagine a scenario whereby a bunch of kids become friends after finding each other online and playing games in their local park. They then extend offers to kids from another park to come over to their park one day for a kick about. Perhaps these kids know of another group from even further afield. Then one day a sponsor is able to set up a tournament for all of these teams, whereby they are able to get some great PR, maybe hand out some kit or prizes, and the App itself gets also gets the great exposure that comes with a pre-arranged, reported event.

How might you design a small experiment around your concept that would mobilise action?

I would start by cataloguing a cluster of facilities around one particular neighbourhood/district, ,publicise the app to the local residents, and see how big the catchment is for these facilities, before rolling the data collection and app usage city-wide.

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. How easy would it be for citizens to get involved and take initiative for this idea?

Very easy; this would rely on ground-up participation from the beginning. - 25%

Somewhat easy; there are ways for citizens to get involved, but an outside organiser may be needed to sustain and grow this concept. - 75%

This concept needs to be led and maintained by the government or private business. - 0%

2. Can you build this concept on top of something that already exists, like an organisation, physical space, or system?

Yes. This could fold into, or extend from, something that already exists. - 100%

This concept taps existing networks for a few things, but also needs a lot of new processes, materials, relationships, etc. - 0%

This concept requires a new system to be built to support it. - 0%

3. After the initial launch and support, could this concept be sustained and cared for over time by the community it's designed to serve?

Absolutely! This concept is easy to keep going. - 75%

It depends. There are opportunities for growth, but it's not yet clear how the concept would thrive after launch. - 25%

Probably not. A lot of effort would be needed to keep this concept going. - 0%

4. Does this concept create community?

Yes. It naturally brings people together and inspires them to take care of one another. - 50%

There is potential to create a thriving community. - 50%

No. It doesn't galvanize people to come together for a common cause or interest. - 0%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world. - 75%

I liked it but preferred others. - 25%

It didn't get me overly excited. - 0%

35 comments

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Photo of Pedro Luís
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Great concept James!

Photo of OpenIDEO
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Congratulations, James! Your concept made it to the NEA Challenge Shortlist. We loved the way it made more efficient use of space that exists already for activities that are in-demand and healthy -- like sports!

Looking to refinement, how might you think beyond the app, and encourage use of free space in offline ways as well? How would you spread the word about the new service, and what networks would need to be in place to support it? Who would be the local champions, and who would liaise with stadium caretakers? Have fun building this one out! For more tips on how to iterate and prototype your idea during the Refinement phase, read here http://bit.ly/connect-refinetips and check this Lowdown: http://bit.ly/oi_refine

Photo of James Robertson
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Hello OpenIDEO, and thanks so much for selecting this concept for refinement!

Thinking a little more about how best to launch such a service, I reckon creating a series of events that are sponsored by apparel brands could be an effective way of creating a critical mass.

Nike + gained a huge bump in membership through their 'Human Race' events in 2008/9 where they staged 10k runs in about 25 cities around the globe in order to try and get 1 million people running simultaneously. I would suggest pitching the same concept with sports like 5-aside football and basketball to a big apparel giant like Nike/Reebok/Puma etc. Teams of friends enter a series of pre-arranged and marketed events; when the enter, they must register their profiles into the FlashSports Ap (open to other suggestions on names... 'GoPlay'..?...Nike Play - sounds similar to Nike +, could be an easy modification. I have little idea what the economics of such an event are, but I would imagine the lower the barrier to entry the better - not thinking of these $100 races where everybody goes home with a bag full of toiletries etc.. perhaps a lightweight bib/vest?

Another way (initially offline, and free to enter) might be to have an Ice-Cream van approach (not sure this will be well understood in Singapore!) but this could involve an elusive and exciting van that turns up without warning (but with great fanfare) in neighborhoods all over singapore at various times to create pop-up tournaments/matches.. it brings temporary goalposts, scorecards and bibs etc.. kids (and adults) can make teams and play for free but they register their details first. Then they can then download the app. If pro sportsmen and role models for the young could turn up to support these events then even better!

The Singapore Sports Council would have to be really engaged and incentivised from the outset for this project to work. This shouldn't be a tough sell, as although the bigger aim is gain more usage of free public space, they can still gain an increase in usage of their chargeable venues like gyms and swimming pools (and associated f+b outlets) under the same app umbrella. Integrating payment/booking of chargeable facilities would be a step for a little further down the line I guess.

The area we still really need to understand remains the local champions.. what kind of a person would be evangelicise this service..? how old are they, what is their full time job..is this a full time liason job for some people or do we focus on the users and word of mouth. How would all the venues be catalogued and uploaded? By the app creators or the users? Would welcome some input from someone who understands more than I do about integrating apps into Facebook!

We have a great team on board now, would love to hear more input, lets give this a real crack!

Photo of carl brinker
Team

James - love this idea as I feel that sports prove a universal means to bring disparate groups of people together. Along with seeding the concept with already organized local sports teams, organizers, etc. Nike could create brand ambassadors (as they do in other parts of the world) that earn points for organizing events, playing in games, etc. Very simply done - the more you organize, the more points you get that can be redeemed for Nike gear (which is another form of Nike advertising, so they are fine with that).

In addition, the idea of keeping stats on some level is great. People love seeing where they stand among a group because it affords them the opportunity to move up and improve, proving to them that they are providing value. However, must be careful with making this too competitive if you have some sort of "Player Card" so that you don't run into the problem where people don't want someone to play because they are terrible (based on their "Player Card"). A solve for this: Player Card is based around events organized, attended, etc.

Lastly, for those who don't play sports, is there a watching element to this as an auxiliary piece? On your site can they go through the filter of "Play" or "Watch", then the "Watch" would be organized get togethers at local pubs with a specific game on.

Photo of OpenIDEO
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James & Team - we're so sorry that we may have lost some of the updates to this concept over the last 72 hours - we lost the AWS server stack which included the backup and even after working through the night some updates escaped us.

We've extended the Refinement Phase to the 27th to give everyone extra time to re-upload their content and to push your concept even further - apologies again if you did lose any updates...

Photo of James Robertson
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Re-updated! Sh*t Happens, no worries :)

Photo of Hao Dinh
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James, love it! When I was younger it was easy to find people to play sports, e.g. neighbors, friends. Today, not so easy : - (

A thought: add a feature to coordinate ad hoc tournaments. For example, tweet a 3 on 3 basketball event this afternoon or a skateboarding session! Great way to meet new people who enjoy similar sports!

Photo of Hao Dinh
Team

Another thought: why limit to sports? enable the process to allow people to coordinate ad hoc music concerts (local bands would love this), art festivals (a way for local artist to share their work), mandarin practice (get people together to practice speaking a language), the "flash" concept possibilities are endless....

Photo of James Robertson
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Hi Hao Dinh, Agree totally that the ability to set up tournaments and games and record and broadcast progress live would be a fantastic functionality.

In terms of spreading the 'flash' concept further, or course there is no reason why the technology could not be used to bring together musicians and artists as well. Whether they would work best under the same umbrella or with seperately branded interfaces would remain to be seen. I have gone into detail about the sports one as we can see the foundations in place with similar precedents like Nike +

With Muisc, perhaps a record label or iTunes could create some buzz around an instant band practice flash app for finding jamming mates or new band-members. There must be sites existing for this kind of thing, but linking it with GPS and integrating venues to meet in may still be unchartered territory..

I think Sharon's concept - linked below - (and her website) would tie in with this well too.


Photo of Johan Löfström
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I continue along in Hao Dinhs train of thought: graffiti artists could team up in new constellations, fine artists that wish to initiate collaborative art projects indoors could also find new associates, for finding new influence and inspiration from other local unknown artists…

I would guess an "Art supply shop" or similar would like to sponsor such a section of this concept! Manufacturers of paint could give discounts for the members joining? artists could possibly through this convince manufacturers (with a carrotmob.org-style action) to reduce amount of dangerous chemicals and waste in their production? to get more enviornmentally sound alternatives to paint with?

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DeletedUser

Hi James, happy to help you out in this e.g. in the prototyping etc :) Sadly my concept didn't get through; but think your idea is very much similar to what I had in mind but with a specific focus (which is a good thing!).

In Singapore, there is a trend of a few people booking soccer fields in advance, and "subletting" it out to a network of referees. Each referees then contacts his network of captains of teams in Singapore. Very often, the soccer field is chosen only 1 day before the match.

This is by far the only online booking service for sports facilities: http://www.icanbook.com.sg/icbnew/Facility/Public/UI/BasicSearch.aspx?CLR=Y

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hi Sharon, thanks so much for this, it's really a great find. Am sorry your concept didn't make it though, but I hope you can still feel part of this one!

I'm really glad to hear you say that remaining specific is a good thing; there have been some suggestions to widen the net into arts and music, and while I think the technology and interface could be near enough exactly the same, given the short timeframe between now and evaluation, I think that focusing on the sports theme and understanding that particular challenge is the way to go. I think sport and the arts would have to be branded and marketed differently in the end.

So, looking at the icanbook facility, it seems to have a lot of the essential functionality i'd hope for in the booking stages, but I think the Flash Sports app would have to allow for a whole new level of spontaneity, and encourage the use of free parks especially; the focus would be more on connection; connecting individuals, teams and sports, and the booking facility would be a seemless easy 1 or 2 click action. GPD locating tools would be essential, to give it a touch that FourSquare flavour.

Do you happen to know if icanbook is a publically or privately funded enterprise? As in, if NEA is our 'client', would they be most likley to build on the icanbook site (an create an app) or create something totally new?

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

James by "local champion" I wonder if that might mean people who are involved in informal sports already?

There are some spots where people meet to play sports. Perhaps engaging them might be a way to start? The Botanical gardens are teaming with Qigong and yoga groups in the morning. Might this be a spring board?

OR
There are also "ring leaders" or "trend setters" (there is a special term Nike applies to the people they watch at the public basketball courts. what is it?). And people with thousands of followers on instagram and facebook. You can search by hashtag for sports or locations. If you get any of them in the fold you have an instant list because when they connect to something everyone else does too.

What do you think?

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hi Christine..I think your thoughts on ring leaders, locations and their twitter/pinterest followings could be a step in the right direction. Is the word your are trying to think of - used in marketing mainly - 'Mavens'? or early adopters?

Either perhaps the next step is to think in detail about how best to recruit/engage these local champions in the first place, and then perhaps how best to leverage their influence on the platform; how to broadcast their support for the concept to the appropriate target audiences etc... I will try to get some app screen prototypes up and running this week.

Photo of Hao Dinh
Team

James, got inspiration on your "flash sports" concept. Let me know what you think of the below concept:

After reviewing James Robertson's "Flash Sports", Eugene Tay's "Community Recycling Center", Hao Dinh's "Dish In Dish Out" and Maria Malcus "Local Night Markets", I had the below thought on connecting the 4 concepts:

Have "flash night markets" (these are night markets that are scheduled to occur in specific communities during specific times) that will enable vendors, both from the community and from other night markets, to sell their goods. Great opportunity for community vendors to highlight their goods to their communities and allows vendors from other night markets entry to "new" customers.

The entry fee to the "flash night market" is a potluck dish. Each "flash night markets" will have a theme associated with a community issue. Once in the market, participants will be able to meet new people, try all the potluck dishes, buy items from the vendors and most importantly, contribute to organized discussions on how to resolve the community issue.

Lastly I was thinking of having an "community recycling center" at the "flash night markets". The center will educate people on reuse, recycle and reduce. Additionally people will receive "market cash" for bringing in their recyclables. The "market cash" can be used to buy products from the "flash night market". (Checkout "Delicious Recycling" in Brazil http://www.care2.com/greenliving/brazilian-city-offers-vegetables-in-exchange-for-trash.html)

What do you gals/guys think?

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

Great initiative! Personally know of friends who comment that it is often hard to book soccer pitches during the last minute. This would help satisfy any late night sports craving happening in our lil city. May I ask if it is possible to join your virtual team? :)

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hi Sharon! Thanks, and welcome onboard! Let's hope we get the chance to carry this on further with refinement :)

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Happy to! Found this after realizing it is a little similar to an idea I posted before seeing this http://www.openideo.com/open/connected/concepting/public-exposure-helping-locals-to-fall-in-2764-with-public-spaces-again/

Photo of OpenIDEO
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Congrats on this post being today's onsite Featured Concept!

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

Hi James thanks for this idea. When I was a kid we used to play kick the can right on the street we lived on. The thing is we all went to the same school and were on the same bus home too. So there was a general understanding of when and where to be. I wonder if you would need a jump start to get to the point where everyone knows where and when. Just at the start.
I have heard of someone who started a street soccer league before even booking the pitch. Perhaps the idea of a competition would prompt people to seek out the app and more information. It could start in a community such as a school but be open to anyone to join. The potential for the app for spontaneous joining-in could grow from there?

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Hi Christine, am definitely keen to make it as inclusive as possible to spontaneus arrivals. It would be great if there was simply an understanding of when are where to go. I think that these days, perhaps because we all have (in mobile phones) the capacity to alter plans while keeping everyone informed, people tend to be a lot more fluid (flaky even) in their time-management. I hope an app could help bridge the gap - jump start as you say - and restore these local communal kick the can games!

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Hi James, yup I really like the idea of an app that let's people know where there might be something happening at a court nearby. I think this does build connections and a sense of belonging. Which I think leads to care for the space.
This succeeds on the strength of the network of users. Perhaps there is a way to piggy back on an existing network such as a school?

Photo of DeletedUser
Team

DeletedUser

Hi James and Christine. I like this idea - social, healthful, inclusive. I wonder if you could/would incorporate the option of spontaneous organization? Sometimes, people are free and energetic but don't know what to do with the available time or how to find people who might be interested in a game. So, for example, if I found myself with free time or with a free pitch because my friends flaked out, I could post a notice of "kickball at the Sheep Meadow in Central Park now" or "ultimate frisbee today at 4 in Coney Island" (or the Singapore equivalent).

Photo of James Robertson
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Hi Stephanie..Thanks! You really get this! That's exactly the type of functionality I had in mind. It's about removing the barriers of not knowing whether A) the facility is free, or B) there will be enough people around for a game. Hopefully this allows for more spontaneity.

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

Maybe we could each try this in a proto form this weekend, e.g., through Twitter? Since I run and sometimes like to run with others for both the social and motivating aspects (it's motivating if I know someone's expecting to meet me for a run at a certain time & place), I could tweet a run at a specific time and place in Brooklyn, NY this weekend, see what happens. You could try similar in Singapore?

Photo of Johan Löfström
Team

Yes, please include some "scenic route"-options for runners, dogwalkers, bikers and skateboarders, to initiate more social exercise for them! and to give them more nature experience during their routes that can be boring if they just follow the same path each time

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Dog-Walking! Great shout...! that could surely be an app/concept in itself! You could either go at the same time with a friend, or cover for each other when one is short of time/away.

Photo of James Robertson
Team

Stephanie, love the idea of starting to try stuff! I am fairly new to this hash-tagging, so could you help me by saying what your brooklyn one would sound like?

Photo of Johan Löfström
Team

If any game venue suddenly gets 3 teams, perhaps they can design a spontaneous miniature tournament inside this "app"?
The team that is on the sidelines could meantime volunteer to pick up trash around the park, while waiting for their game time ?

(or similar micro volunteering that requires no effort or equipment)

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

Love this idea! There is an empty field in Kembangan, somewhere in Singapore, where random residents would meet together on weekends to have a game of soccer. And these games are very spontaneous. Players differ in age, occupation and it was a superb way for the community to get to know each other better.
I find your idea somewhat similar. There are many games which require partner/partners and I'm sure your initiative would not only help these people but also encourage them to find others to play. Exciting!

Photo of James Robertson
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Thanks Angela! I think it would definitely encourage more use; I'm now trying to think more on how it might allow residents to make Singapore 'cleaner and greener', as apposed to just making the population healthier. I guess running around outside burns calories insteas of kilowatts (on the playstation!) so this is a start...

Photo of DeletedUser
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DeletedUser

Yeah, that's a tough one. But encouraging our society to be healthy is very important and beneficial too! Esp Singapore. And everyone gets to interact, as opposed to just watching tv alone at home and munching on fat snacks. Haha

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Great thoughts, James. Kind of like a looser, serendipitous more timely MeetUp with a sports focus – and I'm thinking there could be features to track favourite venues, form groups, check in a la Foursquare, post photos, etc Lot's of possibilities here!

Photo of James Robertson
Team

All of the above! Thanks Meena. I will need to take a closer look at the functionality of those apps as am not as yet a user, but creating groups that could be called upon regularly to give availability and start conversations would be critical I think. Could go into a bit more depth on UI design over the coming weeks as a next step :)

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Looking forward to seeing things evolve!