Ep. 27 - Getting SMART about Innovation in the City


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Boca Behind the Scenes


On this episode of Boca Behind the Scenes, host, Anne Marie Van Casteren chats with the City's Innovation Specialist, Pedro Moras, and President & CEO of Palm Beach Tech Association, Joe Russo about their upcoming hackathon and other innovative initiatives in the community. The Palm Beach Tech Hackathon is an hour event where participants form teams, vet ideas, create a project, then present their work to an expert panel of judges. The themes this year are Smart Cities and Hurricane Relief, with each project relating in some part to either topic.CONNECT WITH US? Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BocaRatonCity/? Twitter: https://twitter.com/CityBocaRaton? Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/citybocaraton/? Nextdoor: https://nextdoor.com/agency-detail/fl/boca-raton/city-of-boca-raton/? Website: https://www.myboca.us/Transcript:Hey everyone and welcome to Boca Behind the Scenes a get to know you podcast where we talk to city staff to get details and information about new programs events and projects that are taking place right here in your city. My name is Anne Marie Van Casteren Public Relations Specialist with the City's Communications and Marketing Division and as always I am happy to be your host today. Today on the show I'm joined by Pedro Moras our Innovation Strategist thank you for being here today hi glad to be here and then our first ever non city employee Joe Russo President and CEO of Palm Beach Tech Association thank you so much for being here as well yeah thanks for inviting me. This podcast we're going to be talking about innovation and technology within the City of Boca but focusing on this upcoming hackathon and I know Joe last year you came and presented to city council about the hackathon and presented the winning team who actually created an AI bot for the City so do you want to tell us a little bit about that? Last year we held a hackathon at Office Depot which is based here in the City of Boca Raton and for those that don't know the city's history of technology is very vast from IBM being here for fifty years ago to now so we have a lot of tech talent the community so when we put on this hackathon and had over a hundred people attend it just so happened that the winning team built a product for the City of Boca Raton go figure and it worked out very well for us because we wanted to of course share the news of this hackathon with the city and what better way than sharing a little bit about the winning team which obviously gave a way for a city staff and residents to be more connected than ever before so hackathons are always different and people are always coming up with more imaginative ways to do things but yeah what a perfect result and we're hoping this next one will have just as a perfect outcome for the city. Awesome so tell us about this hackathon  I mean I have no idea what it is or how it works  yeah so every time people hear the word hacking their automatic thought process is oh no what happened but hacking is not a degenerative term it's really meant to be hack something to figure it out to work through a problem and what hackathons are doing is taking a group of very smart people all technology oriented and saying here you have twenty four hours to solve the problem right so it's hacking through that and for this year we put the themes of smart cities and hurricane relief on there so anything that relates to building a better city building a better community and more than that helping a community in peril should a disaster happen as we've seen in the Bahamas we really want to emphasize that community feel and have these teams and have these people have an opportunity to come up with ways to help their community we had seventeen teams last year this year we would obviously like to have more with each team working collaboratively with their skill sets in their backgrounds to come up with a way to help the City of Boca Raton and other communities around us. And who makes up these teams like are they all developers are you know did they come from different backgrounds are they young entrepreneurs. It's as diverse as you might expect we have very senior very seasoned folks who are partnering in teams with students from our local universities like FAU or Lynn University so we do have this really interesting mix and it's kind of fun to see how the teams flush out and see how diverse they are the second place team last year was an all women's team that came from our women's council so we have a women in tech group and they put together a team and it was amazing what they came up with by just all kind of saying well I'm good at this and I'm good at that either be web development software graphic design project management all these little skills in jobs that when you look it up they make about four five percent of the work force in South Florida put the all to to work and they make a hundred percent difference and Pedro I know your this is your first year yes here at the city and so what are you looking forward to the most with this hackathon and you know what is your involvement with this event yes we're really excited in the city in the office of innovation the office of innovation is brand new and our two areas of focus one of them is smart city how do we make Boca Raton a more technology enabled city how do we come up with better solutions to overall improve our community and that's everything from transportation to security to  many different things so we touch on a lot of different topics and then the other area of focus is how do we make Boca Raton a more robust entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem our council has has a big interest in this becoming a technology hub and as Joe mentioned before Boca has a really rich history when it comes to technology we have a lot of talent here and so a lot of times I think in the past we've done a really good job of  our community kind of growing organically and then at city hall we have some really good people so we're excited to tap into that the immense talent of our community and say hey guys we want Boca Raton to become a smart city but we know that we can't do this alone and we'd love to engage with you guys so we're excited to see what types of solutions come out because we really have a mindset of the city of not just saying oih that's really good that that looks good we're really looking at this as an opportunity for us to say great this is a first step how do we work together and for those of us who don't know what exactly is a smart city yes so the definition of it is very broad and it depends a lot on on the different types of cities and in what you mean the that the general kind of I would say consensus is  a city that that is delivering wanting to improve the quality of life for its citizens using technology as a primary means or or or a solution for it to do so so it can mean a lot of things it can mean from smart lighting wifi  5G something that's been thrown around a lot how do we use some better more sustainable technology when it comes to our transportation when it comes to building how do we provide better services and more opportunities for citizens pollution lowering pollution and those types of things where the definition varies it depends on the needs of the city a city like Boca Raton we don't have major pollution issues like  say Los Angeles or Hong Kong so that kind of deprioritizes it but there's  it's really vast and what it covers I'll add to that by saying I have this really neat app on my phone that is called the transit app just as simple as it sounds you can look it up it's a free app and they actually have partnered with cities like Boston or Toronto some big cities and integrated all of their public transportation to the big city where you know there's a lot of ways to get around I can go on this and I can see the live tracking where their buses and where their trains are and in South Florida it has Tri Rail and Palm Tran and Lyft and Uber and everything but just by making the public more connected with what is around them there are so many applications of technology and making a better more connected city and that's something as  a Florida native I'm really  proud and interested in so you know we become a better community leveraging what we have here definitely and so overall I guess what is the goal of this hackathon  you know from Palm Beach Tech Association's standpoint and also from a city standpoint like what are you looking to see come out of this event well I think from an industry standpoint we want to raise the awareness that there is a really awesome and amazing tech industry in South Florida and it's constantly growing and constantly evolving you may not have IBM here like we did years ago but we have Modernizing Medicine Office Depot has almost a thousand technology enabled employees in their office here there are so many different companies that we know of today raising the awareness of that and then inter connecting those companies so they can be a part of a movement that grows our tech industry here and give South Florida a really solid economic foundation for the future and heck I went to school here all my life I want more people I went to school with to say I'm coming back to South Florida from New York or Chicago or whatever and I'm going to make my home here so that's our selfish goal from an organization standpoint making sure that we our industry can grow but you know and  I'm sure this will relate to Pedro's I love to see what our people can come up with see what these teams can really do yeah from our side you know  we're sponsors of this event and in the future we're going to be doing work and looking to do a lot more at these events the city is very interested in  really pushing forward and evolving our city because it's growing the needs of our citizens are growing we have different types of citizens  inside of our community so as we look to grow we are looking for new   solutions new innovative ideas that are part of it and we think that some of the best ideas they may come from the big companies but a lot of times some of the best ideas come from the local entrepreneurs and developers the start ups the start up companies that really can push through and  have a very open mind when it comes to developing ideas so from my standpoint I'm really looking forward to seeing the types of things that come out and I think that this is a really good first step for us to one identify some of these issues  not issues but the challenges and problems that we can we can evolve and start identifying solutions and meet some of the people in our community that we think we can tap into as partners going forward awesome so for those that want to attend do you have to go as a team member that you can get involved with this or can you be a spectator so you don't have to be a part of a team to show up and join we actually have some team building factored into the whole time because most people aren't coming with the team or even coming with an idea they're coming to be a part of something and maybe learn so you know take for example a student they're not coming with a team formed but you know we make sure that everyone is paired up with other people that they can form their team and idea and if somebody wants to come as a spectator  we welcome that as well yeah we do have tickets online they start at twenty five dollars for anybody that's because we do have an immense amount of food that is you know have to be factored in for the weekend long event but you know we welcome anybody to come if they want to purchase a ticket and show up on Friday evening which is our kick off event where we're going to have the CEO of Office Depot speak the vice president of technology from Florida Power and Light and of course the illustrious Pedro over here present as well illustrious and and then Sunday morning keep in mind this is twenty four hours straight Sunday morning after being up they have to pitch their  idea to a panel of judges and that'll be Sunday at ten so those are the two major times that if you're not necessarily participating but you're really interested you can come in and attend those last question very serious question considering it's a twenty four hour event what is the best energy drink that people can bring to keep themselves awake and going all night oh lord I'm a Gatorade guy but that's just not going to cut it you know you need some some really hard for coffee we do have a couple coffee  providers we have your typical hot coffee we'll have there which is  Subculture coffee and we have a company called Candid Coffee that's going to be bringing in some cold brew because if there's one thing I know from my days back in college you have to drink a lot of coffee yes that's right okay all right and you know Redbeull should be sponsoring this week we've we looked to place yeah somebody should place a call yeah how we've looked at that and I I feel there has to be a great commercial opportunity here too  like you know like not Red Bull gives you wings but it keeps you up for twenty four hours straight to build stuff for the city of Boca Raton there you go there's your marketing plan our new thing in the city manager's office is Celsius it has like it's a Delray Ceach company it's it's and it is amazing we live off of it I'll talk to them all see what I can do they're in Boca Raton sir they're in Boca I would like to correct you oh okay right now they're a Boca company look at that they were actually at economic development just put an awesome event over at BRiC and the CEO of Celsius was there very cool awesome kudos to Celsius so Celsius Boca Raton I'll spell it right later well thank you gentlemen again so much for being on the show I really appreciate it and I hope you have an extremely successful event thank you very much thank you for having us thanks 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