By Dan Ellen

On August 26 and 27, programmers and software engineers convened in Orlando to push the boundaries of creativity, innovation, reality, and technology to build solutions and concepts that have the potential to make a difference in the Orlando community. Called the Orlando Smart Cities Hackathon, the event aimed to support the city of Orlando in its efforts to become a smart city and also to demonstrate the city’s capabilities as it works to earn the title of “The Smartest City.” Orlando received two smart cities grant awards and is pursuing a variety of additional funding opportunities for smart cities initiatives that would help to enhance transportation citywide and beyond. In these pursuits, the city continues to move forward with building a data-driven infrastructure that will support safer, cleaner, and more efficient travel and an improved quality of life.  Chris Castro, Orlando’s director of sustainability, spearheaded the Orlando Smart City Hackathon. Supporting partners included Michael Georgiopoulos, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Central Florida (UCF), as well as other thought leaders from academia and executives from companies such as Pandera and Zero Chaos. The hackathon teams developed amazing new ways to answer big questions that the city of Orlando faces as it continues to shoot for the distinction of the Smartest City in the U.S. The teams looked at problems in several areas: creating safer cities, smart toll pricing, smart city data sourcing platforms, geographical detection of potholes, smart food and grocery pricing, smart event tickets and transportation, smart health, and energy efficient buildings and infrastructure. A panel of technology experts from academia and industry judged the teams’ work. The winning teams were Team Aladdin, Team GrubDeals, Team PMC, and Team Dracarys. Team Aladdin focused on increasing the use of public transportation by integrating transportation data with event platforms and selling a transit package at the point of sale. Team GrubDeals focused on dynamic pricing of restaurant meals that allows customers to get better prices on a meal, with unclaimed meals being donated to local food shelters. Team PMC focused on deployment of hardware on slow-moving city vehicles (garbage trucks, street sweepers, etc.) that can detect potholes, a community reporting system for road and public safety issues (e.g., debris in roads, potholes, downed street signs), and a system that provides information to the city  and to contractors so issues can be addressed quickly and potentially at a lower cost. Team Dracarys focused on using data about observed traffic patterns to alleviate traffic on major arteries and divert them to toll roads.  This system would encourage more use of the toll roads and thereby increase revenue while reducing travel time for commuters. The winning teams were granted an audience with city managers in their respective areas of responsibility and were given the opportunity to pitch their ideas directly to the decision makers. 

Dan Ellen, PhD, is associate director of the master of science in data analytics program at the University of Central Florida. To learn more about the program, visit the MSDA website.