August 2016

Recap: Public Sector Leaders Forum on Technology & Citizen Engagement

Photo/Reba Saldanha Civic Innovations public sector leaders forum at Microsoft New England in Cambridge, MA August 22, 2016.

Last week, we joined the Civic Innovation Project for a Public Sector Leaders Forum focused on Technology and Citizen Engagement at Microsoft New England R&D Center. With guest speakers Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Katie Stebbins, Zinelle October, Pratt N. Wiley, Howard Lim, Aaron Myran, Lourdes German, and Cathy Wissink, we spent the night discussing ways technology is helping us think differently about civic engagement.

Thank you to all who participated and took the time to present new ideas. See below for a recap of the night, told in tweets:

Civic Tech Scholar Fetch Park Marks The Spot for Stress-Free Parking

Microsoft is proud to be launching our third year of Civic Tech focus at MassChallenge with the Civic Tech Scholarship. The scholarship recognizes 5 startups as they enter the MassChallenge accelerator with a cash grant to help them grow their businesses. Microsoft’s Civic Tech Scholarship aims to identify startups helping elected officials deliver improved services to citizens, increasing communication with residents and enhancing government effectiveness. The ultimate goal is to identify solutions that foster citizen engagement and transparency between government and constituents. This blog post highlights the work of one of the 2016 Civic Tech scholarship recipients.

— Aimee Sprung

Fetch Park banner

The freedom that comes with owning a car in a city can be enlightening and provoke a sense of adventure. The experiences vary but there are a few unexpected expenses and emotional roller coasters that hit you like a punch in the ear: parking and traffic being the main cause. A study showed that the average driver spends 5 days a year searching for parking. This not only wastes time but attributes about 40% more traffic to the city level transit system.

When you arrive at an event or meeting, how do you normally find parking? Most likely last-minute like everyone else. Fetch Park is alleviating the stress of parking with an Uber-like app that gives directions to the facility and allows drivers to automatically pay as they enter and exit the facility. If there is a gate, it will open as you drive in and out. Fetch Park makes the parking process truly frictionless.

FP product shot

The technology powering Fetch Park is machine vision and sensors found in your car. We recognize drivers by phone, license plate, or any other sensors available and add up the time after entering and exiting.

FP about product shot

There are many headaches that go along with owning a car. Don’t let parking be one of them. Money can buy many things but it can’t get you your life back. Stop the search for parking and join our beta launch in Boston. Before long, Fetch Park will give you your life back.

Tune In to the Roadtrip of a Lifetime — #CodeTrip

code-trip-route-map

Where can computer science take us?

That’s the catalyst driving the folks behind Roadtrip Nation’s Code Trip, a road trip throughout the continental US empowering folks through code.

Last summer, computer science students Natalie, Robin, and Zoed went on a journey from LA to Boston to diversify the tech industry. The three come from backgrounds underrepresented in tech, and made it their mission to prove that you don’t have to fit the mold to make it in tech.

Now, you can watch the trip of a lifetime unfold online, as Code Trip culminates in a weekly webseries from September 1 through September 22.

Follow the journey of a lifetime on Twitter at @RoadtripNation and #CodeTrip.

Meet Civic Tech Scholar: Suspect Technologies

Microsoft is proud to be launching our third year of Civic Tech focus at MassChallenge with the Civic Tech Scholarship. The scholarship recognizes 5 startups as they enter the MassChallenge accelerator with a cash grant to help them grow their businesses. Microsoft’s Civic Tech Scholarship aims to identify startups helping elected officials deliver improved services to citizens, increasing communication with residents and enhancing government effectiveness. The ultimate goal is to identify solutions that foster citizen engagement and transparency between government and constituents. This blog post highlights the work of one of the 2016 Civic Tech scholarship recipients.

— Aimee Sprung

suspect-tech

Suspect Technologies is interested in building intelligent surveillance analytics and identity verification computer vision products. The company started just a couple years back, seeking to push some of the major advancements in computer vision into the real world. Its first product and the focus of this blog post is automated video redaction for law enforcement agencies.

Body cameras have been introduced rapidly the past few years as a tool of public servant accountability, but making their videos available to the public is complicated and expensive in practice. The FOIA ACT gives US citizens in most locations the right to view most body camera data taken by police officers.  However, the content must be properly redacted before released to the public—bystanders and other PII information must be blurred. This turns out to be very hard in practice—it can take several hours to review and redact just an hour-long body camera recording. Video isn’t text—it’s dozens of frames per second, each its own potentially private visual. Redacting personal information out of videos thus is extremely time-consuming and expensive. With body cameras rolling out to most police agencies in the next couple years, law enforcement agencies will spend millions of hours redacting people’s faces and identities in videos. It is critical that the content is reviewed, released, and redacted quickly for the public to view the interaction between it and its law enforcement officers. Redaction thus became a hot bed issue, faster than the public, police agencies, and body camera companies were prepared for.  

suspect-tech-faces

Suspect Technology’s software solution—-automated video redaction —is optimized for body worn footage, which faces unique challenges due to poor lighting, movement, and low resolution. The AVR system employs an advanced algorithm which automatically tracks faces and identifiers, allowing them to be easily blurred, which reduces the time it takes to redact a video immensely. This product is being rolled out to several thousand law enforcement agencies in the next two years. The software will go along way in helping restore trust in communities.

In summary, redaction is a hot bed issue, one with accountability at its forefront, but with technology and time and money at the root of its problem. It is envisioned that someday with a single click of a button, Suspect Technologies will be able to quickly produce a fully redacted video suitable for review and release to the public. In such a world, trust and accountability would easily be restored to the public. Currently, the company is developing and deploying this and similar technologies at startup accelerator Mass Challenge in Boston. Please connect with them there or at www.suspecttech.com.

Meet Civic Tech Scholar: Fetch Park

Microsoft is proud to be launching our third year of Civic Tech focus at MassChallenge with the Civic Tech Scholarship. The scholarship recognizes 5 startups as they enter the MassChallenge accelerator with a cash grant to help them grow their businesses. Microsoft’s Civic Tech Scholarship aims to identify startups helping elected officials deliver improved services to citizens, increasing communication with residents and enhancing government effectiveness. The ultimate goal is to identify solutions that foster citizen engagement and transparency between government and constituents. This blog post highlights the work of one of the 2016 Civic Tech scholarship recipients.

— Aimee Sprung

Thomas Olson -CEO Fetch Park - Frictinless parking

Thomas Olson, CEO, Fetch Park

Finding and understanding complex systems, and making simple products that deliver truly novel solutions to problems, has always excited me. The sustainability of our society relies on innovations that continue to build upon each other until they bring us something that provides us with the most precious thing of all, time. This is what drives me to build solutions that impact our lives.

The universal “parking problem” is where I’m focused now. It can and will be solved, but first we need to build a platform. That platform is Fetch Park™.

The Fetch Park system™ finds parking for drivers at the touch of a button. You can think of us as the Uber and EZ-Pass for parking, minus the need for an RFID transponder. We also provide parking facility managers with an innovative management dashboard that delivers information about the available capacity in their facilities, and thereby provides opportunities for them to make more profits both from their current capacity as well as any empty spaces.

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My journey to improve the lives of others through innovation began after business school at Aquinas College.  Interested in creating an entrepreneurial venture, I actually built a minor Pedicab empire, which I later franchised and sold.

The idea of Fetch Park™ was born while I was working on the Pedicab bike, peddling people around town. In the first months of operation, I worked 9AM to 4am because I didn’t know any better. However, as time went on, I learned how a city breathes throughout the day. I could predict exactly when people were going to be rushing out of an event, going to dinner, or ready to spend money on experiences. It was my business to know and understand these patterns, and so, inevitably, with this data in hand, our teams outperformed the competition.

Fetch Park™ started because I wanted to replicate my ability to predict the consumer demand trends of my Pedicab business.  The idea of Fetch Park became even more compelling when everyone I spoke to had a parking horror story. And that’s because there is no platform for parking to connect the customer to the elusive end goal – an available space near their destination. In fact, an Global Parking Survey showed that drivers waste an average of 5 days each year searching for parking! That’s 20 minutes of every day we all deserve back. Yes, parking is a segmented market, but it has steady growth regardless of external factors. Maybe this is why it’s slow to change? As a driver, I want a frictionless parking experience with no tickets to have to keep track of, and eventually no gates to have to go through. More importantly, I want my  20 minutes a day back! I hope you do too. So, the next time you’re looking for parking remember; Fetch marks the spot.™

Lots Of Cars Parked In Line

Congratulations to the Girls Who Code Class of 2016!

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“We’re in the midst of redefining the way we live, and tech is a big driver of that. You need to be a part of that.”

That’s what Terrell Cox, Partner GPM for Intune Device Experiences and General Manager for Microsoft New England Research and Development Center, told 40 bright young girls last week. Together with Twitter Boston, we were honored to celebrate yet another graduating class of Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program. Every year at Microsoft New England, we join tech companies around the world in hosting girls aged 15-17 for two months, sponsored by Microsoft Philanthropies. Over the course of the program, Girls Who Code students learn multiple coding languages, are exposed to professionals in the field, and encouraged to #MakeWhatsNext.

This summer, we were happy to offer our students many field trips, such as days to Museum of Fine Arts #TechStyle Exhibit with Private Presentation by Curator, Museum of Science Exhibits & Planetarium Show, Microsoft Envisioning Center, and a Miss Representation movie screening with Microsoft panel discussion.

Last night was a celebration of what all of these events over the past seven weeks brought to the table. Each guest speaker — including student keynotes Marlika Marceau (Microsoft) and Shreya Chowdhary (Twitter) — explained why the opportunities each girl accessed this summer are steps to changing the world, and showed why programs like Girls Who Code are so important to encourage women in tech.

Microsoft keynote speaker Terrell Cox explained that the most effective solutions come from diverse, equal teams, expressing her hopes that the girls want more than “just a taste” of coding. She left us all with parting advice: “Learn more. Seek out new challenges. Be that engineer. Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

And Twitter Boston’s guest speaker, Rich Paret, Senior Director, Software Engineering, continued Cox’s call to action. After calling for a group retrospective, asking the girls if they had fun, made things, collaborated, solved a problem, and overcame a challenge, he instructed the girls to “Make stuff. Tell people about it. Share your experiences. Repeat forever.”

The students then took the stage themselves, proving exactly why Paret and Cox are so confident that these girls will change the world. Twelve different groups presented their summer projects, which consisted of websites and apps geared toward a variety of social problems, from campus sexual assault to gender stereotypes to water conservation and even preventing “spoilers” in pop culture. It’s clear that these girls know what needs are important, and their drive to solve these problems reminds us why STEM education is a priority.

After their pitches, we celebrated our Girls Who Code with certificates of achievement, wrapping up the night with one last surprise as Microsoft program manager Anissa Battaglino and Twitter program manager Tali Sason announced to all a donation of the Surface devices they have been using these past weeks to each student and each of the three teachers to help to continue their coding work.  

A big thank you to all who helped make this Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program possible, including our mentors, guest speakers, and MTC employees. We can’t wait to celebrate again next summer!

Upcoming Event: How Technology is Transforming Citizen Engagement

The evolution of technology has radically disrupted citizen engagement – elevating and expanding the way government officials can innovate to engage citizens at critical junctures of the electoral process and engage citizen voices in day-to-day governance. Operating from the belief that an informed and engaged citizen is critically important to a well-functioning democracy, this event will convene public, private, and non-profit sector leaders to discuss what’s working, examine challenges, and surface emerging innovations that stand to shape the landscape of citizen engagement in the future.

How Technology is Transforming Citizen Engagement
Event Date: August 22, 2016 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Program: Keynote Address, Leaders Roundtable & Networking Reception
Location: Microsoft New England Research & Development Center, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA
RSVP: http://bit.ly/2asecyJ

Speakers:

tech-engagement

This event is a joint effort by The Civic Innovation Project and The Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center, New England. The Civic Innovation Project is a national thought leadership platform focused on emerging government innovation, founded by Lourdes German, and recognized with a 2015 State of Boston Innovation Award. To learn more, follow Twitter @civinnovation and visit: www.civicinnovationproject.com.

The Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center aims for Microsoft to be “of” the community, not just exist within it. Through the Innovation and Policy Center, we are extending beyond the tech community to: Connect stakeholders from tech to the broader business, academic and government community; Catalyze important technology and public policy discussions; and contribute more directly with the health and vitality of greater New England.  

Designing Innovation — A Recap of #DMUrbanInno

 

dmurbaninno-winners

How can we make our civic spaces more innovative? This weekend, Design Museum Boston explored just that at the 2016 Urban Innovation Festival (UIF). The festival, which celebrated local innovative minds, brought forth a competition in which teams designed and hacked new ways to make empty civic spaces — like the I-93 overpass in Boston’s South End — accessible, fun, and interesting.

Winners included:

First Place: Fidelity Labs
Runner Up: Essential
People’s Choice: Wentworth
Most Innovative: Shepley Bulfinch

Congratulations to all finalists and participants!

A recap of the weekend, told in tweet form:

Microsoft New England Picks: Not-To-Miss Events This August

MSNE-August-Events

As August settles in, we’re embracing the end of the summer with civic tech and engagement events to keep you going throughout the month. Here are our top picks:

August 1

Drinks On Tap – Demos, Drinks and Discussions about Mobile Development

Drinks On Tap is a monthly social meet up for the Boston Area mobile developer community.  Come meet for a drink and catch up on new mobile developments during our next event at our office on Milk Street in Boston from 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM!

August 2

Boston TechBreakfast: ServiceWhale, Admetsys, DivvyCloud, Reflen Inc

Interact with your peers in a monthly morning breakfast meetup. At this monthly breakfast get-together techies, developers, designers, and entrepreneurs share learn from their peers through show and tell / show-case style presentations.

August 2

Introduction to Data Analytics

Regardless of your job function and industry, it is becoming increasingly crucial to be able to make better decisions based on data. Data analytics allows you to understand, draw insights from, and leverage your data more effectively. This short class is an introductory, conceptual overview of what analytics entails.

August 4

Wellness & Tech Innovation

Calling all yoga teachers, students, and tech fans!  Grab your mat and get ready for innovations, yoga and tech all at the same time!

Plug and TYME are eager and happy to invite you to Wellness & Tech Innovation at Plug Cambridge, the newest co-working space in East Cambridge.

August 10

TUGG’s Tech Night at the Museum

Join TUGG and Boston’s startup community for the first ever Tech Night at the Museum as we take over the Isabella Stewart Gardner for a museum-wide scavenger hunt!

BOSTech and TUGG’s nonprofits will come together for a fun night of collaboration, drinks, and food in the Gardner Museum’s outdoor courtyard.

August 11

Intro to Data Science

What exactly is Data Science and why does it matter?

We live in a world with seemingly infinite data, and if you can learn the right balance of computer science, statistics, and information theory, there are lucrative opportunities available to you. This class is designed to give newcomers some clarity into how data scientists add value to any organization. Discover case studies about how data science is uniquely positioned to solve major problems for a variety of companies. By the time you finish this class, you’ll have a better idea of what the data science field is, and more importantly, how you can help yourself get what the Harvard Business Review calls the “sexiest job of the 21st century”.

August 11

Ignite Boston: Data

Join us at the District Hall to connect with the data community and hear from those who have survived, thrived, or died in a data-driven world. Then stay to network with a beer and wine reception.

Presenters get 20 slides, which automatically advance every 15 seconds. The result is an evening of fast and fun presentations which each last just 5 minutes.

August 12

bridgehaCS

BridgehaCS is a two-day span where developers, designers, and thinkers alike can get together to build something totally awesome. The event will take place in Cambridge, Massachusetts at Microsoft’s 1 Cambridge Center office.

August 17

Designs Devs & Drinks: End of Summer Mixer

As the summer comes to a close, join InnoNorth in welcoming the newly opened Notch Brewery to downtown Salem! InnoNorth members will enjoy exclusive access to the gorgeous new brewery while mingling with fellow technologists and designers over session beer.

August 18

Music + Tech: Music API and project night

Save the date for the next Music-Tech Meetup, scheduled on Thursday, August 18, 2016, at 6:30 pm, hosted by WorkBar, Cambridge and BerkleeICE.

August 20

SQL Bootcamp

SQL provides powerful but reasonably simple tools for data analysis and handling. This bootcamp will take absolute beginners through the basics of SQL to an ability to write queries with confidence. We will use a combination of lecture and in-class exercises to ensure that students leave with a working grasp of SQL fundamentals.

August 23

SGO August Monthly Event sponsored by Spotify

Much of the conversation around women in tech these days focuses on female engineers at big tech companies, and their presence (or lack thereof) in these spaces. We would like to showcase a different side of this arena– the intersection of music and technology– and highlight some stellar women working in this space. Many of us think of music as a purely creative endeavor, and while creativity and artistic passion are certainly integral aspects for music, technology is becoming more and more intertwined with and essential to the overall process.

This panel will bring together women who have made their mark in the music and tech space in a variety of different ways and roles. Each woman’s story is important and significant. The panelists will share their unique perspectives on their job functions, how they got to where they are, and how they are working in this unique space.

August 25-26

DevOpsDays Boston 2016

The event’s schedule will consist of a mixture of traditional sessions, ignite talks, and the unique “open space” format that DevOpsDays is known for.