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

Challenge Updates

Announcing the Winners - Big Ocean Button Challenge

Feb. 20, 2018, 2:06 p.m. PST by Matthew Mulrennan

Hello All,

Thanks to the participating teams, and all of you for supporting the Big Ocean Button Challenge sponsored by the XPRIZE Ocean Initiative. We have seven winners announced in this piece in Scientific American - 7 Award Winning Apps Launch a Mobile Age for the Ocean Economy - who will split $100,000 in prizes. 14 finalists submitted working apps on the app store, and the competition was tight, due to the quality and diversity of the ocean app submissions. 

Three steps you can take to help support the teams: 

1. Download the apps and use them! Provide feedback.

2. Spread the word, by sharing the article 7 Award-Winning Apps Launch a Mobile Age for the Ocean Economy on social media. #bigoceanbutton @xprize @iamherox

3. Support the teams with connections, funders/investors, public relations, and speaking opportunities. Reach out and connect with the app developers, both winners and non-winners, to offer your help as they continue to grow their solutions.

XPRIZE is now kicking off a road show to promote the apps, and have been making connections with ocean tech accelerators, impact investors, data scientists, and securing talks and panels. If you have an opportunity to help, please feel free to reach out to the teams, or to us at XPRIZE. 

Thanks again for all of the community support for this challenge in turing ocean data into the ocean services we need, and for supporting the innovators along their journey. Onward! 

For the oceans,

Matthew Mulrennan

Director, Ocean Initiative, XPRIZE



Final Reminder - Close of Public Voting Tomorrow

Oct. 18, 2017, 6 a.m. PDT by Matthew Mulrennan

Hello Teams and Supporters,

Get those votes in! This is a final reminder that the public voting will close tomorrow on 19 October at 5PM PST. Judges are providing their scores, and this will be combined with the public voting score to determine the finalists. You will be notified next week if you are, or are not, moving on to the next round. Your team will receive feedback from the Judges either way.

If you are chosen for the next round, you will be required to submit to the app store and make any updates by mid-December. Thank you for all your hard work on this challenge, and best of luck!

Matt Mulrennan

Timeline Updates and Next Round Logistics

Sept. 28, 2017, 2:26 p.m. PDT by Matthew Mulrennan

Hello Teams,

Great work on promoting yourselves during the public voting, keep it up! A reminder that the public voting will close on 19 October at 5PM PST. Soon afterwards, 15 finalists will be chosen to move on to the next round, and both non-finalists and finalists will be notified.

In the next round, finalists will be required to submit to the App Store - Google Play or Apple Store. The deadline for submitting V2 of the apps has been extended to 14 December 5PM PST. Please get in touch and let us know your team's needs, and how XPRIZE can best support your solutions during and after the competition!


Matt Mulrennan 

27 Hours Left to Submit Ocean Apps by 31 August 5PM PDT!

Aug. 30, 2017, 1:45 p.m. PDT by Matthew Mulrennan

Hi Teams!

This is the final reminder. The deadline is tomorrow 31 August 5PM PDT to submit your ocean apps! Thanks for all your work to complete the submission form, and for competing in the Big Ocean Button Challenge. We look forward to reviewing your entries, and we will provide more details next week about the next steps for public voting!


Matt Mulrennan

Director, Ocean Initiative, XPRIZE

2 Days Left to Submit Ocean Apps - 31 August 5PM PDT!

Aug. 29, 2017, 4:36 p.m. PDT by Matthew Mulrennan

Hi Teams,

There are two days left to submit your ocean apps by 31 August 5PM PDT! If you are using TestFlight please share the link with me as an External Tester: matthew.mulrennan@xprize.org 

Matt Mulrennan

Director, Ocean Initiative, XPRIZE

Forum 10
Community 1.7K