What’s the competition at the World Summit Award

Deriveapp, with Eduardo Cachucho as the artistic lead and myself as the technical lead, is Uganda’s submission to the World Summit Award in the m-Tourism & Culture category. WSA claims it’s “the world’s leading initiative to select and promote the Best in e-Content and innovative applications”, which I find a bit rich, but, hey.
In our category, we’re up against 51 competitors from as many countries, with only a handful from Africa. It’s not too much of a surprise that m-Tourism, with the ‘m’ specifically referring to mobile technology solutions, is somewhat underrepresented.
The award’s list of categories mentions the evaulation criteria per category, which are awfully broad, but does put an emphasis on being able to provide a fresh perspective with, specifically interesting for our app, “providing new perspectives on the space around us, using maps and navigation-based contents”.

Deriveapp 2.0 is about ready to move to ‘beta’, which means it’s pretty much ready for the big time. With users already having tried out derives from Mexico to Serbia, we’re off to a promising start. Here’s a shortlist of what I think are our biggest competitors.

Innovative

The WSA award has an emphasis on being able to somehow provide a fresh insight related to tourism or culture. In my opinion, besides deriveapp, only two of the submissions truly meet the WSA criteria.

+ backway.me, an iOS app which lets you memorize locations with a picture and then, later, easily allows you to pull up directions to the locations you saved.
+ map2app.com, an environment to create your own mobile apps with tourist information for destinations of your choice. Works together with placegrabber, an app to document your own destinations on the go. The current online environment for building your own guidebooks, in beta, feels a bit rough around the edges, but the potential is interesting. Basically, this allows you to be your own Lonely Planet. In English.

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Historical, video-based, travel guides

Interesting and insightful, but hardly original, as several of the submissions focus on the same theme, are apps that perform the function of a kind of historical tour guide.

Vistory, the “interactive historical video app”, which allows you to compare historical videos with their location as they are now. Focussed on Amsteram. Seemingly in English.
Berlin Wall, an iOS app with a video-based history on the Berlin wall. In German.
My Warsaw, a Samsung sponsored app on historical Warsaw, which gives you a gamified and video-based tour of the city. In English and Polish.

Copy cats

Functional, if perhaps interesting, well executed and effective, copycats, were also submitted.

+ Xomo event guide, a mobile app listing nearby events with an added social experience. Basically, eventful or upcoming. In English.
+ TaxiPal, a mobile app for ordering taxis, particularly when you’re in a place you are not familiar with. Similar, if more generic, to Uber. In English.
+ Jets – Flight & Seat Advisor, an iOS app to show you seating arrangements on planes. Essentially SeatGuru on a mobile device. In English.
+ Harpoen, an iOS app to leave localised messages which can be accessed by other users. Quite similar to Wallit, if prettier. In English.
+ Lingibli, mobile apps for learning a language. How many of those exist?
+ Kunst på stedet, mapping public art in Denmark. Effectively a mobile version of my project Beeldenstad, dating from 2002, as well as Beeldenstad’s spiritual successor, the Hungarian Szoborlap. In Danish.

Nice, but…

Simplevox, an iOS app for constructing natural voice announcements in multiple languages relevant to the travel industry. Extremely useful, to some, but hardly innovative, as every PA system for every public transport solution in the developed world uses a system like this. Except, this one is free.
+ Touchotel, the concept of having tablets in hotel rooms to allow customers to easily order room or other services. In English, presumably, though the company is Senegalese and the idea doesn’t seem to have left the concept stage. And isn’t very innovative, as at least The Plaza Hotel in New York has been offering their guests iPads since at least early 2011.

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Audio guides

A rather obvious use of mobile devices is to provide their users with audio guides of their surroundings. This can be extended to providing QR-codes at the locations for which audio guides exist. Using QR codes in this context is identical to how I used them in j-walk, which I did with Ismail Farouk back in 2009. 

+ JiTT, a mobile app, offline audio tour, for a few European cities. In English and Spanish.
+ [email protected], location based audio guides for a few cities in Hungary and one in Slovakia. In English.
+ Escúchame!, audio guides on touristic cites in Panama, using QR codes. In Spanish.
+ QR-code based audio guides, for mobile devices on sights in Jerusalem.

Travel guides

A surprisingly, to me, large number of WSA submissions in the m-Tourism & Culture category were straightforward travel guides.

A virtual museum on the oldest wooden wheel in the world, which is some 5000 years old. Available in several languages.
+ Minube, an iOS app for tourist attractions in Spain, in Spanish.
+ 100NTO, a Windows-phone app with tourist attractions in Bulgaria, in Bulgarian.
+ Conaculta – Mexico Es Cultura, a guide on cultural activities in Mexico. In English.
+ ExperienciaColombia, an online guide on Colombia, in Spanish.
+ Historious Athens, a guide for Android with historical information on landmarks in Athens. In English.
+ Mosquito, a mobile app with tourist information, presumably in Montenegrin.
Smart Tourism El Salvador, a Blackberry app for tourists to El Selvador. In Spanish.
+ Tourism in Qatar, an iOS tourguide for Qatar. In Arabic.
Tripwolf, a Lonely Planet wannabe, mobile app, in multiple languages.
+ Vilnius Tourism, a mobile app for sights in Vilnius, in English.
+ Seoul, on, well. In English

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The truly commercial and other non-contenders

Several of the submissions, simply by their backing or lifespan, should not have been submitted to the WSA awards, even if they’re great. This included a 17 year old guide for Beirut, the official London city guide, “India’s leader in premium quality digital maps” and a mobile solution for car-based navigation in eastern Europe.

Also, a few of the submissions were, if perhaps functional, hardly interesting. Apps for finding travel connections, translating local calendas or dictionaries. Or submissions only available in a local, to me unreadable, language.
And there were a few submissions that didn’t seem to have a product, were basically just an idea, or forced a download of an Android app without any explanation.

Do we stand a chance?

There are plenty of the submissions that can pride themselves on an excellent execution, but only a few that are interesting. And, I think, only three that are actually working products and truly innovative or insightful. These being deriveapp, backway.me and map2app.com
I’m hardly the person to comment on which one is the best of the three. What do you think?