Wayfinding-Related Entries in the NYC BigApps Competition

by Mark Denton on January 8th, 2010

The City of New York recently opened up access to a slew of public data sources via its NYC Data Mine, and is sponsoring a competition to encourage developers to create web and mobile applications that utilize this data. All of the applications can be found on the NYC BigApps web site, and the winners will be announced on February 4.

As you would expect, there were quite a few entries with wayfinding or mapping functionality, for everything from locating dog parks to touring historic homes. Here are a couple of the most interesting:

UpNext 3D NYC

UpNext 3D NYC is an iPhone app that uses city GIS data and building perimeter outlines to create an interactive 3D map of New York.

In addition to providing a very detailed and clear 3D view (much more accurate than what you get with Google Earth, for example), the application also provides detailed information about subway stations and routes, and can provide the locations of nearby bars, restaurants, and other businesses, as well as parks, bike racks, and events.

WayFinder NYC

WayFinder NYC is an augmented reality application for Android phones that helps users to find New York subway and New Jersey Path stations. The user just aims the phone as if they were taking a picture, and the application indicates subway and PATH stations in that direction. When the user faces another direction, the list of stations will change accordingly.

By clicking on a station name, the user can get a map and walking directions to that station.

Ride the City

It appears that Ride the City existed before the BigApps competition, and it is also has versions for other cities, but is still eligible for the competition because it utilizes the City of New York’s LION centerline data.

The application delivers Google-Maps-style turn-by-turn directions for cyclists. It avoids busy roadways, and directs cyclists to bike lanes/paths where they are available. It is also aware of elevation changes, and recommends flatter routes when appropriate.

The application also has a fairly comprehensive database of bike shops, which are indicated on the route maps.


PrimoSpot uses the city’s parking facilities database to help drivers navigate New York’s notoriously difficult parking landscape. The application, available for the iPhone and Android devices, provides locations for garages, street parking, and bike racks, searchable by proximity to the user’s location.

For garages, the application includes information about parking rates, and for spots on the street there are detailed parking regulations, including special notations for spots that – based on the current time – are about the become legal parking spaces. Google StreetView integration helps users to find garages, and the application can even record were a user parked, making it easy to find their car or bicycle later.


While getting a little further from a true wayfinding application, BigMapple does offer some interesting map-related functionality.

One of several applications that take information from the city’s various event databases and display it on a map provided by the Google API, BigMapple adds another interesting element. It displays clickable icons for recent Twitter updates and Flickr uploads from the geographic area shown on the map.

While the current volume of Tweets and images is low, it is easy to imagine how these could work with the event listings to provide a nice overview of things happening around a neighborhood if the application takes off.

If you have experience with any of these applications, or see others in the BigApps gallery that look interesting, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.