Big Ocean Button Challenge

Mobile apps to turn ocean data into the products and services we need. Read Overview...
Total Prize Amount


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 Fall 2017. Winners announced in late 2017/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 (10)

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

7 Days Left to Submit Ocean Apps!

Aug. 24, 2017, 10:35 a.m. PDT by Matthew Mulrennan

Hi Teams,

I will send out a few more reminder notes before the deadline. There is one week left to submit your ocean apps by 31 August. Best of luck with the submissions, and let us know if you need any help!

"It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech." -Mark Twain

Matt Mulrennan

Director, Ocean Initiative, XPRIZE

14 Days Left to Submit Ocean Apps

Aug. 17, 2017, 10:55 a.m. PDT by Matthew Mulrennan

Hi Teams,

We hope that your progress is going well on the apps for the $100,000 Big Ocean Button Challenge! A reminder that your ocean app submissions are due in two weeks by 31 August. Please review the submission form, and if you have any questions please ask - the earlier the better!

We published a new editorial about the prize in Inside Big Data (a go-to news resource on big data, data science and machine learning) this piece is called a "Wave of Abundance from Big Ocean Data."

The judges and I look forward to seeing your submissions soon!


Matt Mulrennan

Director, Ocean Initiative, XPRIZE


Submission Format Flexibility and 4 Updates

June 29, 2017, 3:17 p.m. PDT by Matthew Mulrennan

Hi Teams,

We hope that your progress is going well on the apps for the $100,000 Big Ocean Button Challenge! Some teams have asked about the submission process, and the judges have decided to allow for some flexibility to the entry format. A reminder your app submissions are due 31 August. Four important updates:

1. You are now allowed to use TestFlight or HockeyApp, if your app is not fully ready for the Apple Store or Google Play.

2. We are adding an ability to upload a video file to your submission, so you can explain and demo your app to the judges and the public. Please keep these videos under 3 minutes, and aside from functionality please acknowlegde the judging criteria about your app's impact. 

3. For apps that have a location specific component that would require on site use, we will allow for simulated data that emulates the location by providing a sample GPX location file or otherwise. We will be verifying the accuracy of these apps before awarding winners. 

4. For public voting, which goes live in September, the landing page will look similar to this one except users will not be able to see the total amount of votes above each entry. Users will be able to click on each entry, view the submission and cast their vote. The actual "Vote" button will be located just below the area that displays their submission information/user name on each Entry landing page. When Voting opens in September, the Entries section will become the default tab when anyone visits https://herox.com/bigoceanbutton so you can share that page with your network when it is time to vote.


For motivation there was a nice article in the Washington Post this week about how the App Economy is About to Explode. We hope to see useful ocean apps ride this wave. Let us know if you have any questions about the competition, and we look forward to seeing your entries! 



Matt Mulrennan

Director, Ocean Initiative


Forum (9)