Oct. 4, 2017
Seven startup companies are vying for a chance to head to Barcelona in November.
The companies were selected as Phoenix finalists for the 2017 Smart City Hack. The winner to be selected Oct. 13 at Galvanize in downtown Phoenix heads for Spain carrying a tradition. The Phoenix winner was runner up in 2015 and the international winner in 2016.
This year, the finalists include a trio of high school girls who created an app to allow cross-internet collaboration, an already-gaining-traction sharing economy startup, and highly sophisticated technology solutions.
“We continue to see a strong caliber of startups compete in the Smart City Hack. With these seven finalists competing, I’m confident that our city will be well represented at the Smart City Expo in Barcelona, and that we will show a global audience that Phoenix supports civic entrepreneurs,” Mayor Greg Stanton said.
For 2017, Smart City is being run by the nonprofit Institute for Digital Progress. IDP issues the Cox Communications-funded awards for first place, and a $1,000 second place and $500 third place cash award. Competitors presented technical application solutions to city challenges in one of four categories—transportation, health, education and sustainability.
“Since 2015 IDP and the Smart City Hack have empowered ‘#yesphx’ entrepreneurs who believe they can make a difference in their cities,” said Dominic Papa, executive director and co-founder of IDP. “The caliber and diversity of the solutions in the 2017 City Finale will be our best group of competitors yet.”
The winning effort receives $3,000 and an all-expense paid trip to Barcelona to compete in the International Smart City Expo.
The seven finalists are:
(Click on the project name to jump to the story about the application)
- Computes Inc. “IoT Supercomputer”
- Sonora Data “Saguaro”
- World Symphony
Note: The next section of this news release is designed for media to select any or all of the interviews with finalist spokespersons. There is a wrap of the article with information about the final competition on Oct. 13 at the end of the individual company interviews.
Take three high school students and problem in search of solution, mix in Paradise Valley Women in Technology, and you have World Symphony. Hayden Araza, Paradise Valley High School; Susan Addison, Pinnacle High School; and Giselle Coll, Shadow Mountain High School; all collaborated to find themselves among six startup companies.
“We’re trying to encourage women to pursue (science, technology, engineering and mathematical) careers at Paradise Valley (Unified) School District,” said Karen Mensing, a technology teacher and the faculty advisor to the PV-WIT program. “These young women found that (audio delays) make it challenging for students to collaborate in real time, such as musicians playing together.”
In the education category, the trio developed an application that utilizes “LOLA” nodes—low latency audio-visual transmission nodes—to let musical collaboration to occur with the delay typically noticeable when using communications programs like FaceTime or Skype. Conventional internet connections have a slight delay between the transmission and reception, which makes it impossible for musicians in one city to simultaneously play with a musician in other cities.
The sharing economy in Arizona is spreading into creative realms. AirGarage, co-founded by Jonathon Barkl and Scott Fitsimones, is a student parking solution in play around Arizona State University’s Tempe campus.
“Students complained about how hard it is to find an affordable place to park at ASU,” said Barkl. “We decided to connect homeowners with unused driveway space with students to lease parking at a lower cost. Students save money and homeowners gain extra income.”
Barkl said that since going live early in 2017, the company has paired 150 students and parking spaces. In one case, an elderly resident who does not drive, leases the parking spaces to give the impression there are more people at home.
“It’s a safety thing for her,” he said. “If we win this competition, it will fund our scaling up to expand to other ASU campuses and ultimately to other colleges starting in California.”
Computes Inc., “IoT Supercomputer”
Computes Inc. founder Chris Matthieu sees unused power when looking at the rows of computers sitting idle in classrooms at Arizona State University. As a data specialist, he knows the need for supercomputer level power and created Internet of Things SuperComputer to solve the problem in research.
“True super computers are extremely expensive and quickly obsolete. IoT SuperComputer is essentially a virtual supercomputer,” Matthieu said. “Our project allows an enterprise computing system to use extremely heavy data analysis. We call it ‘codes for cures,’ because our prototype is used by the National Parkinson Foundation to interlink researchers looking for a cure or advanced treatment of the disease.”
Matthieu said that there are 50 billion connected Internet of Things devices with more added all the time.
“Look at smart meters. They are only used sporadically during the day. With IoT SuperComputer, we can use the idle time to add power to other data anlaysis,” he said. “It is in effect, infinite computing power.”
Note spelling, lowercase “b”
Roza Ferdowsmakan, founder of bites, is contagiously enthusiastic about her farm-to-table mobile app designed for a real and positive impact on people.
bites is a free community-driven marketplace mobile app connecting foodies with local chefs who support local growers by sourcing ingredients from them. Chefs take the locally sourced ingredients into the home of the foodie and create a complete dining experience in the foodie’s own kitchen. Professional chefs, culinary students, and homemaker cooks all participate as “chefs” at various budgetary levels so that all socioeconomic levels can participate. Local growers (urban farms, micro farms, co-ops, backyard gardens, organic and family-owned small farms) participate by creating farm profiles on the bites website that chefs access.
“bites is ethos-driven and does three things simultaneously,” said Ferdowsmakan. “First, it makes culinary adventures accessible to all socioeconomic levels, while strengthening communities and celebrating cultural diversity, Second, it economically empowers professional chefs, students, and homemakers with jobs on their own terms; and third, it supports local growers.”
bites released its beta version to the metro-phoenix community recently. The app can be accessed via Bites.mobi website.
The team behind Hathority believes their app solves three problems identified by the City of Phoenix Department of Public Works – problems that are also facing cities globally.
“We designed a solution to improve compliance, reduce rework, and educate people to think smarter about trash,” said Philip Bernick, principal for Hathority. “We’ve also created a way to ‘gamify’ thinking about trash and recycling to encourage kids to train the family.”
Vishwam Annam, principal, information architect and project lead, said that the company has started piloting its first phase with city of Phoenix.
“We’ve started with a tool that helps change behavior at the curb,” Annam said. “We now have a notifier app that lets residents know when the truck is on its way and which bin to put out. This helps reduce calls requesting rework for ‘missed pickups’ that, for the city, are costly and time-consuming.”
While the application currently focuses on waste, compost and recycling collection in Phoenix, Bernick said it’s scalable to other cities as well. “As originally designed, our phased solution actually establishes a foundation for integrating many services provided by a city.” The goal, he says, is to support customer service and streamline resource management.
“This is an effort that improves quality of life and sustainability for a city,” he said.
Life365 arose out of compassion for the long wait times veterans face getting appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Administration Medical Center. Kent Dicks saw the ability to collect routine health care data from patients and transmit it to a medical center without requiring patients to go to a doctor office or clinic.
“This is part of smart and connected Phoenix,” said founder Kent Dicks. “The long wait times at the VA inspired me; that and the fact that 90 percent of seniors can’t live in an assisted living center. Life365 provides a host of monitoring services that can report health status.”
The kits connect the data collected by any type of smart medical device, such as smart prescription bottles, blood pressure, glucose measuring kits and even food consumption. The information is then forwarded to medical practices where it can be added to the patient’s electronic medical records.
“If something is not right with a patient, the clinic can get in touch or alert someone that the patient needs help,” Dicks said.
Sonora Data “Saguaro”
The Bluetooth beacon network from Sonora Data, Saguaro, could turn a city into a playground for mobile developers to build interactive applications, according to co-founder Zak DeBrine. Saguaro uses low energy Bluetooth devices to connect mobile devices to the area around them on a hyper-local scale.
“We’re creating an open network of Bluetooth beacons that could be used to provide information about a store or historical building,” said DeBrine, a co-founder of Sonora Data with Jonny Reiss. “By pre-deploying this architecture we can allow any developer the ability to create a location-specific application throughout cities to connect their users with what’s around them.”
The Saguaro network could be used as guidance for the sight impaired, by restaurants to make menus available, historic societies to tell the history of a building or site, or a city to have information available for walking tours or events.
The network is currently in testing on Mill Avenue in Tempe. Each device has a range of just over 200 feet. Sonora Data has ten of the Bluetooth beacons in operation. Asked if the Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons are similar in use to museum audio devices, DeBrine said they have broader uses when placed in public areas.
“The devices serve multiple purposes because multiple applications can be simulcast from a single beacon,” he said. “It’s like turning a city into a smart phone. Just like the phone is a platform for holding multiple applications, so is the Saguaro effort. I think we’ll be surprised by some of the ideas people come up with.”
The seven finalists will compete for the right to represent the Phoenix and Arizona in the Barcelona global competition. The judging is open to the public on Friday, Oct. 13 from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Galvanize in the downtown Phoenix Warehouse District, 515 E. Grant St.
Members of the audience will also be able to vote for the best business proposal. Tickets are free, and available at Eventbrite.