Challenge - Creative Data Lab

Challenge - Creative Data Lab

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in an exciting lab event that aimed to address the challenge of promoting active travel among Londoners. In this blog post, I will share my experience and the solution my team devised during the event.

Event Overview

The event was brought to my attention through an email received via our faculty's forum. Although there was limited information available prior to signing up, the general idea of the lab was described as follows:

This workshop is designed to give an authentic taste of working on a data-related challenge. The event will enable you to share innovative ideas and forward-thinking solutions to real-life problems in a hackathon-style environment.

Intrigued by the challenge, I eagerly signed up. A few weeks before the event, we received an email from DMA Talent (a division of the IDM, Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing) that provided us with a brief and suggested APIs/Datasets to use. The brief stated:

Transport for London have provided the brief for this Lab. Using open data and social media, they’ll challenge you to encourage the public to reconsider their travel options in London and ultimately choose off-peak public transport. This is a big customer base so you’ll have to think creatively. And with business goals including reducing traffic and pollution as well as keeping commuters healthy, there will be lots to think about!

The Challenge We Chose to Solve

Although I didn't have a specific solution in mind before the event, during the opening ceremony, several challenges were presented, and my team, along with another team, decided to tackle the following:

Getting Londoners to do at least 20 minutes of active travel they need to stay healthy each day by 2041.

Our Solution: A Rewards Scheme for Active Travel

After being divided into teams, my team consisted of Kira Nolte and Jasmine Sibeal, who are also first-year students at MMU, and Donika, an ex-Chemistry student who graduated from UoM in 2014.

Our approach to addressing the challenge was to implement a rewards scheme, similar to the ones used by Cafe Nero and Starbucks. Although our initial idea was rough, over the course of the limited time we had (less than 4 hours), we managed to refine it.

Drawing from my previous experience in labs and hackathons, I took on a guiding role within the team, suggesting approaches, conducting research, and coordinating tasks.

Once we had honed our idea, Donika created a User Journey, which I strongly recommended. Meanwhile, Kira and Jasmine focused on the marketing aspect and analyzed relevant statistics. I, on the other hand, worked on developing case studies.

Study: Gamification - Pokemon Go

To explore the effectiveness of gamification in increasing step counts, I conducted a study that centered around Pokemon Go. I came across a comprehensive paper titled "Gotta catch’em all! Pokémon GO and physical activity among young adults: difference in differences study" (PDF).

From this study, I extracted valuable insights. It revealed that during the first week of release, players of Pokemon Go walked approximately 1000 more steps than those who did not play the game. Importantly, half of these players belonged to our target age demographic (25+ years of age).

Furthermore, I discovered that the trend of an additional 1000 steps per day decreased in the following weeks. However, in our use case, we aimed to prevent this decline through the implementation of a rewards system.

Study: Mobile App - Starbucks

One of the challenges we encountered was the lack of popularity and effectiveness of the "TfL Oyster" App. To address this concern, I conducted a case study on the Starbucks mobile app, which shares similarities with our proposed solution.

During my research, I found that the Starbucks app had been downloaded 476,141 times on Android, surpassing the download numbers of other coffee-related apps like Costa (6,930 downloads). This led me to explore Starbucks' strategies further.

According to an article titled "Mobile App Success Story: Starbucks App", 23.4 million people in the United States used the Starbucks app for mobile transactions, surpassing Apple Pay (22 million) and Google Pay (11.1 million) in popularity.

It became evident that Starbucks was doing something right, and we thought Transport for London (TfL) could benefit from studying their approach for the Oyster Card App. The article highlighted three key strategies employed by Starbucks, which we incorporated into our idea.

The first strategy was "Omnichannel Marketing," which emphasized considering user accessibility to data, multiple card usage, and well-planned marketing campaigns.

The second strategy, and perhaps the most crucial one, was "Location-Based Services." This prompted us to think about providing users with notifications on their phones, informing them when walking would be quicker, thereby helping them earn their rewards.

This feature could work through the Oyster App, leveraging information about users' regular commutes and any changes to their daily journeys, which would cater to our target demographic (regular commuters to work).

The third strategy, "User-Generated Content," was already covered in our solution through the incorporation of fitness tracking and gamification. We allowed users to engage in challenges with their friends, using platforms like Facebook or Twitter.

Although we mentioned the possibility of integrating with existing social media, work, and Fitbit, it was pointed out that we missed an opportunity to explain how we can fit into their platform or how they can integrate with ours using a possible API.


I'm delighted to share that our team emerged as the winners of the lab event, and each of us received a £20 Amazon gift card. It was an intense yet rewarding experience, and all team members contributed valuable ideas and conducted thorough research within the limited timeframe.

While the slides from our presentation are available on my Google Drive, please note that they were put together within the last hour, so they may appear slightly rough and may not stand alone as a comprehensive resource. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the event and working with my team.

If a similar event is held in the future with a different brief, I would definitely be eager to participate once again.