Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Go! aimed at making city smarter

App competition planned
Patrons taste chowder on Henry Street during the 19th annual Saratoga Chowderfest on Feb. 4, 2017.
Patrons taste chowder on Henry Street during the 19th annual Saratoga Chowderfest on Feb. 4, 2017.

Making Saratoga Springs smarter? There’s an app for that — an app competition, that is. 

This spring the city, IgniteU NY and Empire State College are partnering to host Saratoga Go!, a competition that challenges individuals, small businesses and software companies to create “community innovations” that will improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said.

In other words, mobile apps that could make the city “smarter.” 

“The goal is to say here are some things that may help in the city,” said Madigan. “And we’re hoping to get some big cash awards for the best app ideas that are presented.”

The three-month competition is due to start in April with a launch event, the details of which have yet to be determined. It was teased in Smart Cities Roadmap 1.0, a plan created by the Smart City Commission and unveiled in October. The 13-member group was appointed by Madigan in February of last year.

Participants will be encouraged to develop smart-phone apps, or technological solutions in other forms, in categories outlined by the roadmap: Connected Community; Public Services; Environmental Innovation; Education and Training; and Intelligent Infrastructure. There will also be a general category for proposals that don’t fit any of those descriptions. 

“The commission worked all last year to identify challenges and opportunities for the city in the smart city space,” said Tom Myers, principal consultant at NYSTEC, which runs IgniteU NY and is the city’s consulting partner for the smart city roadmap. “The way the judging criteria is going to work, we’re certainly going to steer contestants toward those types of solutions, but it is wide open,  like any hackathon or any app competition.”

Myers said Saratoga Go! is being modeled on the NYC BigApps competition, which challenges tech experts to apply their know-how to improving the Big Apple. 

IgniteU NY is seeking sponsorships now in hopes of offering an enticing reward. Myers said the grand prize will be “at least in the thousands” of dollars, with various smaller prizes in categories like student, most creative and best pitch. Winners will also receive marketing and promotion assistance. 

Madigan said the competition is open to anyone ages 13 and older living in the United States, as well as businesses and corporations, with ideas for making the Spa City smarter.

“There does have to be a practical urban application to it,” she said, before offering up one potential app idea. “I’ve heard people tell me that they’d love to see a one-stop shop for all the arts in the area.”

She said she expects to see participation from students in the Saratoga Springs City School District ( Assistant Superintendent David L’Hommedieu is on the commission) as well as students from other districts, area college students and professionals from the local tech industry. 

“We anticipate, especially if we can get these large cash awards, that we’re going to have a lot of participation,” she said.

Throughout the three-month competition, contestants can attend workshops designed to give them helpful information and resources for developing their apps. The educational sessions will also offer training in areas like data, pitching, marketing and customer discovery.

At the end of June, competitors will get the chance to pitch their solutions, or apps, at an event.

A website where participants can register will be available soon. In the meantime, anyone interested in entering the competition or learning more is encouraged to contact Myers at [email protected]

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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