Calling all coders: Solid Earth and Greater Alabama MLS hosting hackathon

Spring API will offer 100 developers access to normalized listing data

Real estate tech company Solid Earth is partnering with the multiple listing service of the Birmingham Association of Realtors to host a 24-hour “hackathon” next month in an effort to encourage innovation using data sourced from several MLSs.

In addition to data from Birmingham Realtors’ Greater Alabama MLS (GALMLS), the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, the Lafayette, La.-based Realtor Association of Acadiana, and the Panama City, Fla.-based Bay County Association of Realtors will also contribute MLS data to the event.

Coder image via Shutterstock.
Coder image via Shutterstock.

The hackathon will held on Feb.27 and 28 at Innovation Depot, a technology center and business incubation program affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham. There are enough slots for 100 participants; 36 developers from Alabama, Texas, Oregon and California have already registered. Teams of up to four members may sign up.

Real estate brokerage and franchise giant Realogy recently hosted an around-the-clock hackathon at the National Association of Realtors’ annual meeting. More than 150 coders participated, drawn by listings sourced from proprietary listing databases from Realogy brands, as well as some large MLSs, including California Regional MLS (CRMLS), Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED) and MLSListings.

In that event, a tool from Vancouver-based startup Retsly Software Inc. gave participants access to normalized listing data.

Bill Fowler, Solid Earth’s chief marketing officer and vice president of new business, believes more MLSs should offer up similar access to tech developers.

“If more MLSs followed suit, suddenly even a local brokerage in a market like Birmingham has access to the brains and creativity of developers all over the world — while keeping a tight leash on who gets what data, how much and how often,” he said.

It’s likely that any great idea that emerges will attract attention and possibly receive support for further development."

“It’s a pretty exciting win-win scenario we think is about to sweep broadly through the industry.”

At the Greater Alabama MLS Hackathon, participants will access normalized data through Solid Earth’s Spring application programming interface (API), which is based on the Data Dictionary, a standardized set of real estate data terms from the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO).

“The Spring API is a powerful, controlled and collaborative development environment,” Fowler said.

“The developers get access to clean data on which to innovate; the local brokers reap the benefits of this innovation; and the MLS and Solid Earth provide the environment and facilitate the relationship.”

Solid Earth launched its Spring MLS platform, built on top of the Spring API, at the end of last year.

All hackathon participants will have to create something using the Spring API, though Solid Earth says it is open to anyone with a complimentary API partnering in the event.

“The more data that’s present, the more value that could be created,” said Robb Dempsey, Solid Earth’s chief technology officer.

So far, a “wish list” of items on the hackathon’s agenda include a WordPress plug-in for property search and an agent-branded mobile app.

“Wish list items are really way to guide the entrepreneurial minds in the development community. The ideas are coming from a mixture of sources, including the judges panel who will be attending. All of our judges are leaders within the Birmingham market and I’m sure have plenty insight for curious developers,” Dempsey said.

“Our hope is that as the wish list fills out we’ll have something that’s actually useful to the judges. Something they might intend on using in their daily operations.”

The company declined to name the hackathon’s judges. Judging criteria for the event has not yet been set, Dempsey said.

In additional to Solid Earth and GALMLS, sponsors for the event include mobile app development company Zappend and process and data management company ThinkData Solutions.

The hackathon’s first-prize winner will receive $2,000 plus access to the Spring API for one year contingent on GALMLS’ approval and a license to its data. The second-prize winner will also receive API access for one year plus $750.

Developers will also get exposure for the resulting apps within the local broker community and other markets within the Solid Earth coverage area, Fowler said.

“It’s likely that any great idea that emerges will attract attention and possibly receive support for further development. The natural extension of this would be exposure to other organizations where Spring is implemented and where it will be in the future,” he said.

Anyone interested in participating in the event as a developer, sponsor or attendee can contact Fowler directly at bfowler@solidearth.com.


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