Big Ocean Button Challenge

Big Ocean Button Challenge

Mobile apps to turn ocean data into the products and services we need.

Challenge Overview


A wealth of ocean data has been and is being collected. Many of the datasets are open, yet very few are being used for resource management, business, or conservation. Most businesses, let alone individuals, do not have the time or ability to translate ocean data into actionable information, yet large industries and millions of people rely on the ocean for their livelihoods and well-being.

So long as ocean data remain disconnected from services that people and markets can use, we will be unable to engage the numbers of actors needed to address critical ocean challenges. Data collection is not evenly distributed across the ocean — some regions are in need of data acquisition, a need that could be addressed through the development of demand for data services, which will in turn drive demand for data collection tools. Overall, there is a market failure for meaningful data services, and the time is ripe for market development.

COMPETITION OVERVIEW— Developing Mobile Apps to Unlock Ocean Data.

What: A competition to develop mobile apps using ocean data sets. A total of $100,000 in prizes will be awarded for apps in the following categories: Fishing, Shipping and Trade, Ocean Acidification, Public Safety, and Exploration.

Why: Bring app developers to the trove of available ocean data in order to catalyze the growth of a potentially multi-billion-dollar industry in ocean data products.

How: Develop a mobile app that unlocks ocean data for public and/or private benefit, ideally while supporting responsible use and protection of our ocean.

When: Prize launches 9 November 2016. Teams register and submit app concepts by 31 March 2017. Semifinalists submit apps by 31 August 2017. Finalists submit second version of apps in Winter 2017. Winners announced in early 2018.


The goal of the Big Ocean Button Challenge is to advance development of and investment in ocean data products and services. Many sectors can benefit from solutions for organizing and standardizing ocean data. Some applications that are in need of ocean services include:

  • Monitoring and enforcement (of laws, regulations, or protected areas)
  • Resource management (biological, mineral, habitat, etc.)
  • Education and awareness
  • Sustainable seafood and fishing or aquaculture/mariculture activities
  • Navigation and shipping
  • Recreation
  • Public health and ecosystem health
  • Safety and security
  • Climate, weather, and hazards
  • Energy production


  • Catalyze development of an economic sector around services utilizing ocean data, thereby generating exponentially more demand for ocean data, and the curation of such data into accessible databases and resources.
  • Ensure valuable information about the ocean becomes accessible to millions more people than it is today.
  • Bridge gaps among entities and sectors that can make use of ocean data, including the scientific community, the tech community, ocean resource managers and governments, and the private sector.
  • Engage new participants and foster new collaborations to move this field forward.
  • Accelerate the transition of ocean data collection from a parochial activity performed by only end-users and into a broader information technology paradigm.
  • Identify gaps in data and challenges in data accessibility.
  • Most broadly, to create a vision of an ideal future ocean data services industry that can catalyze the sustainable economic valuation of our ocean needed to drive toward ensuring healthy oceans.


  • Click "Follow the Challenge" above to be notified of any status updates to the challenge.
  • Click "Yes Sign Me Up!" above to register for the challenge. You will be notified of any status updates and be able to create an entry to the challenge when it opens.
  • Click on the "Share" button or social media icons above to share this challenge with your friends, your family, or anyone you know who has a passion for discovery.
  • Leave a comment in our Comments Thread to join the conversation, ask questions, suggest available data sets or connect with other innovators.


For general dialogue about this challenge please start a discussion on the comments thread for the Big Ocean Button Challenge HeroX page.

For questions about registering or using the website contact HeroX.

For adding additional datasets you want listed email bigoceanbutton@xprize.org or leave a comment in the Comments Thread. 

Challenge Guidelines are subject to change. Registered competitors will receive notification when changes are made, however, we highly encourage you to visit the Challenge Site often to review updates.

Updates 13
Forum 10
Community 1.7K


7 Award-Winning Apps Launch a Mobile Age for the Ocean Economy

Feb. 16, 2018, midnight PST
Commercial weather data is worth billions of dollars, and ocean data shouldn’t be far behind, once the data products and markets mature. We aren’t there yet, but the winners of the Big Ocean Button Challenge are leading the way toward an ocean that is healthy, valued and understood.

A Wave of Abundance from Big Ocean Data

Aug. 10, 2017, midnight PDT
As ocean services improve through app development and improved data gathering technologies, we will ultimately have unprecedented information at our fingertips about our oceans. And the app economy is about to explode, according to the Washington Post, in the next five years apps will be worth $6.3 trillion, up from $1.3 trillion last year. We need big ocean data to be visualized so it can ride this economic wave of mobile app services.

Hey Developers, Wanna Make an App to Help the Ocean?

Dec. 6, 2016, midnight PST
We have a lot of data about the ocean, but much of it is in obscure databases – unintegrated, unanalyzed, and largely inaccessible for the public. There is so much we could do with all that information if it was easy to visualize and interpret. At our fingertips, we could have alerts about the presence of water pollution and jellyfish at beaches. We could track seafood and make sure it is fresh, sustainable, and the supply chain is free of the human rights violations that currently proliferate. We could have an early warning system for ocean acidification, before it decimates oyster aquaculture.

Hidden Ocean Treasures on Your Phone

Nov. 30, 2016, midnight PST
The “Big Ocean Button” is a vision for the future. In this vision we have all the world’s ocean data available at the press of a button, presented in a user-friendly and consumable way. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet; we need to inspire market development, competition and investment in ocean data products to prove what’s possible.

New XPrize app contest aims to bring ocean data into the mainstream

Nov. 10, 2016, midnight PST
Each day, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collects 20 terabytes of data, said Matt Mulrennan, manager of the Oceans Initiative at XPrize. Tapping it could eventually create an industry similar to what’s occurred with distribution of National Weather Service data.