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 Dec. 4 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.
• Second place ($5,000): NY Thruway Guide, created by SUNY Fredonia and Buffalo State graduates Sarah Marcyl (Amherst), Dan Wheeler (Jersey City, N.J.), Amber Marcy (Jersey City, N.J.) and Shana Marcy (Boonville, N.Y.). 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 here.
• 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 here.
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 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, Scott 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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.”