The virtual "hackathon" challenged local developers to build apps to serve community needs
Western New Yorkers will be able to turn to their smartphones for information on child care, Thruway conditions, rental properties, landlords and other topics, thanks to creativity and innovation that emerged from the 2014 AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge.
The winners of the two-month "virtual hackathon" were announced today by AT&T, along with community partners including the University at Buffalo, State University of New York at Fredonia, Z80 Labs Technology Incubator, InfoTech Niagara, Launch NY, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, d!g Buffalo and Hack Upstate.
The contest challenged local developers, entrepreneurs, designers and technologists to leverage open data to build smartphone apps that serve community needs. The competition aimed to connect and engage citizens with government and demonstrate how mobile technologies can lead to the next generation of tech jobs and investment.
The winners - chosen from among 33 entries and more than 125 participants - were announced at a ceremony at d!g Buffalo, at which developers demonstrated their winning apps:
•Grand prize ($10,000): WNY Family Connection, created by Scott Falbo and Karl Newell, both from Amherst. This is an iPhone app enabling families in Western New York to find information about facilities and services that matter to them, including schools, child care, recreational sites and more.
Demo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YuT_aEkHW0.
•Second place ($5,000): NY Thruway Guide, created by SUNY Fredonia and Buffalo State graduates Sarah Marcy (Amherst), Dan Wheeler (Jersey City, New Jersey), Amber Marcy (Jersey City) and Shana Marcy (Boonville). This iPhone app assists motorists traveling along New York's Thruway system by providing information on traffic alerts, cameras, rest stops and highway advisory radio messages.
Demo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELVOI_FcNQU.
•Third place ($3,000): Rentegrity, created by Eileen Ruberto (Buffalo), Tim Nabzdyk (North Tonawanda) and Sarah Quinta (Buffalo), is a map-based mobile app that helps renters find valuable information about properties and their owners. The app makes it easy to identify places of interest and learn if a landlord is local, if there are recent 911 complaints to the unit or if it's owned by a community housing group. Plus, the system links to 311 and district council members, so users can submit significant concerns directly to the city.
Demo video: http://vimeo.com/111492026.
Winners were chosen by a panel of judges made up of local tech experts, community stakeholders and elected officials, who based their decisions upon the apps' potential impact on Western New York, execution and creativity or novelty.
The three winning apps addressed the challenge to solve local problems, resulting in globally applicable solutions that will provide lasting benefits for Western New York. Challenge organizers said they were thrilled with the participation and submissions.
"The quality of mobile apps created through the AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge demonstrates the vibrancy and talent of Western New York's technology and entrepreneurial community," said Marissa Shorenstein, New York president for AT&T. "We applaud our partners at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York at Fredonia, Z80 Labs, InfoTech Niagara, Launch NY, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, d!g Buffalo and Hack Upstate for collaborating with us on an initiative that demonstrates clear demand for programmers, both amateur and professional, to create mobile apps that help our communities connect, build businesses and streamline our daily lives."
Grand prize winner and co-creator of WNY Family Connection Falbo, said, "We created the WNY Family Connection iPhone app as a way to put important information about day care facilities, schools and family support services into the hands of families in Western New York. As a new parent, I've realized how important it is to be able to make informed decisions about the things that impact my family, and the WNY Family Connection app does just that. Winning the AT&T WNY Civic App Challenge will help us take this app to the Web and Android phones to expand its reach to even more families in the Buffalo area."
"We're absolutely thrilled to be chosen for this award," said Rentegrity co-creator Quinta. "It validates that there's broad community need for this project, and this backing will help us expand Rentegrity to offer thousands of renters access to a larger set of meaningful housing data. With this award from the AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge, we'll develop new features, grow our community partnerships and work with the city to increase public access to property information."
"Our team would like to thank AT&T, the judges, and all those involved in organizing this event. It's a great honor for the NY Thruway Guide to be selected and represent the civic app challenge in the Greater Western New York area," said Sarah Marcy, NY Thruway Guide team member. "This investment allows us to enhance and support our current application while giving us the capital to create more innovating applications in the future. It is an exciting time for the tech industry in Western New York and we are thrilled to be a part of it."
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "I congratulate the winners of the AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge, and I thank AT&T for bringing this innovative event to Western New York. Collaboration between the technology community, local organizations and academia is the key to bringing new ideas to the marketplace. Western New York's technology community has been growing rapidly in recent years, and the app challenge shows that AT&T knows we are a region that is on the move. The apps that have been created will help to improve the lives of people living here in Western New York, and across our entire country."
"The AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge has been a great innovative collaboration amongst AT&T and the other partners, and we were extremely impressed with the caliber of the civic applications submitted, which is a testament to our region's growing tech and entrepreneurial community," said Tom Ulbrich, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the UB School of Management. "UB is looking forward to seeing the impact the winning mobile apps have on the community."
"It is extremely impressive to see so many innovative mobile civic apps created in just two months. It is a true testament to this region's robust tech community. Hopefully, this will become the start of more attention, energy and excitement around the development of civic-focused mobile apps and open data in Western New York," said Dan Magnuszewski, managing director, Z80 Labs Technology Incubator. "It's obvious that the explosive growth of mobile has already occurred and shows no signs of slowing down. I'm glad to see AT&T partnering with communities to help support its growth."
"Fredonia's participation in the AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge is another example of our commitment to community engagement and economic development," said Kevin Kearns, vice president of engagement and economic development at Fredonia. "With our Fredonia Technology Incubator and other campus programs, this app challenge is consistent with our commitment to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit in the community and serve as a regional economic driver."
"Western New York is realizing the power of innovation in making our lives and our economy better and better," said Marnie LaVigne, president and CEO of Launch NY. "Congratulations to all the creative minds that came together to build these amazing mobile apps that can be the basis for our next successful business ventures that are ripe for Launch NY support."
Michael Weiner, president and CEO of United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, said, "The AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge has created many opportunities for data-sharing across the community, and particularly in the nonprofit sector. The apps created for the challenge have tremendous potential to deliver information to people who need it, and it has been exciting to see so many talented developers engage in the search for solutions to some of our community's most pressing issues."
"The challenge has highlighted the high caliber of Western New York's technology community, and we are proud to have partnered with AT&T, and all the partners, to provide a stage to showcase the talent in this region," said Peter J. Cimino, vice chairman of InfoTech Niagara. "As the leading technology trade association in the region, we know that mobile technology is the future in both personal and business communications, and it is remarkable to see how it can also be used to benefit society. We thank all the participants for sharing their expertise to 'solve local.' "
"The AT&T WNY Civic App Challenge has been a great addition to the collaboration happening in the ever-growing local startup community," said Jessica Edwards, curator, d!g Buffalo. "As d!g believes 'collaboration breeds innovation,' d!g is proud to partner with AT&T and other organizations to bring this challenge to Buffalo, and d!g would like to congratulate all of the participants for their innovative ideas, and can't wait to hear the tremendous results."
"It was a privilege to collaborate with an exceptional team of partners, and to work alongside Western New York's best and brightest," said Doug Crescenzi, co-founder of Hack Upstate. "The future is bright for Western New York's technology sector, and we are thrilled to be a part of it."
AT&T Western New York Civic App Challenge judges included: