Ever dreamed of turning trash into energy? What about a translucent solar panel that shades roads and sidewalks while generating energy for the city? Believe it or not, these projects—and countless others—may be in the works.
On Saturday June 11, co-working space CO+HOOTS hosted the second annual Phoenix Smart City Hack “ideathon,” where city officials, entrepreneurs, innovators, and other community members come together to discuss municipal problems and their solutions. Issues had to fit into one of five categories (energy and sustainability, transit and mobility, civic engagement, health and wellness, or arts, culture, and tourism) and could be “pitched” to the ideathon audience with or without practical solutions. Speakers only had a minute or two to pitch, making room for upwards of 30 people who went “on stage.”
John Hamby and Daniel Valencia, two Phoenix Operations Managers from Uber, shared their goal of making Phoenix a city free from personal vehicles. Because public transportation and “taxi apps” like Uber are so inexpensive, they believe it would be financially and environmentally positive for a city like Phoenix to focus more on those opportunities than on personal car rides. The results? Less traffic, a smaller carbon footprint, and money saved in thousands of households across central Arizona.
Jesus Garcia of WebPT suggested making Valley Metro Light Rail passes available for sale on riders’ smartphones. “Nobody likes getting to the station when the train is leaving and they haven’t gotten their ticket yet, especially if it’s hot out,” he mentioned. “If I can buy sports tickets on my phone, why can’t I buy light rail passes?”
An Arizona State University representative by the name of Collin emphasized the amount of waste Phoenix tosses away each year. The City of Phoenix alone throws away enough garbage to fill Chase Field 7 times every year, and Phoenix garbage trucks drive 7 million miles to collect it. That’s 14 round trips to the moon! ASU’s representative suggested Phoenix find a way to turn some—if not all—of that trash into energy to reduce landfill volume and electricity bills across the city.
Other quick pitches proposed reward systems for teens who support community parks; a city satisfaction index for use by Phoenix residents and visitors; apps to help tourists find great local dining and entertainment options, and more. When the pitches were over, the audience broke for a light lunch and breakout session, where they could flesh out their ideas and form teams.
“Everyone in this room has two things in common,” said Dom of the Arizona Institute for Digital Progress at the ideathon. “We all want to make the world a better place, and we all think we have the power to do something about it.”
The Phoenix Smart City Hack started as the Smart City App Hack in 2015, where community members were encouraged to produce apps that could help solve city-wide issues. Last year’s winner was ParkX, who now proudly serves the city of Austin, Texas as a client.
Teams with solutions to this year’s problems will submit them online and incubate through October. Then they’ll compete at the local level until winners are determined. First place will receive $3,000 and the CEI Innovation Award, which includes industry-specific mentorship, market intelligence resources, and discounted CEI Gateway services. Second place will receive $1,000; third will receive $500.
The first place winner will also fly to Barcelona in November, where they’ll compete with teams from San Francisco, Portland, New York City, Helsinki, Ghent, Berlin, Lyon, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Barcelona itself. What started as a dream in a small co-working space will quickly turn into an international reality.