Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 44

Edmonton’s 44th DemoCamp took place on Tuesday night at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CCIS) on the University of Alberta campus. It was the first DemoCamp of 2019. You can see my recap of DemoCamp Edmonton 43 here.

DemoCamp Edmonton 44

If you’re new to DemoCamp, here’s what it’s all about:

“DemoCamp brings together developers, creatives, entrepreneurs and investors to share what they’ve been working on and to find others in the community interested in similar topics. For presenters, it’s a great way to get feedback on what you’re building from peers and the community, all in an informal setting. Started back in 2008, DemoCamp Edmonton has steadily grown into one of the largest in the country, with over 200 people attending each event. The rules for DemoCamp are simple: 7 minutes to demo real, working products, followed by a few minutes for questions, and no slides allowed.”

Here’s my Twitter thread for the event. We had six demos, in order of appearance:

CleanNow is aiming to be the Uber for house cleaning. They launched in early December and now have more than 400 active customers over the last 30 days. CleanNow is trying to solve the problem of finding a reliable house cleaner, so they demoed some of the features that support that. The backend is written in Code Igniter and they have a PHP API. Payments are done in-app with Stripe. CleanNow is launching next in Calgary, hopefully in March.

The World’s Opinion, or two for short, was inspired by election polls and how inaccurate they can be. “Everyone has a phone so why can’t we get a sense of what people are thinking?” Noah said. The app is currently iOS only (built in Swift from scratch) and allows users to vote on questions by swiping left or right, to ignore or skip questions by swiping up, and to save a question for later by swiping down. The question editor looks like the Instagram story interface and allows for thumbs up/down or two-choice questions. Everyone can see the breakdown of responses for a question, including some basic demographics like gender. The backend uses Google Firebase, and Noah said he’ll probably do an Android version at some point.

Sparkshot is an art discovery platform with a twist. Artists create artwork, upload it to the site, and behind the scenes Sparkshot will cover it in black pixels. Users can then purchase pixels (using Bitcoin micropayments) to reveal the art over time (price per pixel is set by the artist). Each piece looks a bit like a jigsaw puzzle until it is fully revealed. Once finally revealed, anyone can see and share the png file as well as all of the messages the buyers posted along the way. Because it uses Bitcoin, there’s no need to know who is buying the pixels, so there’s no account to create. Jarret and Dean demoed Forkdrop.io at DemoCamp Edmonton 42, another Bitcoin-related project.

I remember participating in hackathons and it seemed like an achievement to get the entire team setup in source control and have a simple website built. How things have changed! Eric and Mark showed us their hackathon project, which is a gesture controlled robotic arm. They built a wristband with eight pressure sensors to measure muscle movement that sends data to an Arduino micrcontroller and on to a computer with a classifier to convert the muscle movement into four different motions for the robotic arm. They told us they currently measure 200 data points for each position. In the future they’d like to make the wristband wireless and they also talked about prototyping their own microcontroller boards to speed up signal processing. Amazing.

Next up was RevonTech with Animus, which is a small device that can power a string of up to 150 LEDs in sync with music. They 3D printed the case and designed the board themselves to ensure that power consumption was kept to a minimum (it can run continuously for over 6 hours). Animus can control the lights based on frequency and also does some beat detection. Using the mobile app, users can choose from a collection of patterns. Patrick told us they wanted it to be a plug-and-play kind of device, for people who don’t know all the tech, but want to take advantage of it at a concert. We also learned the hardware supports far more than they have been able to implement in software thus far. Animus is about to launch in beta!

The final demo of the night was VSS-30, which Matthew explained is an attempt to emulate those electronic keyboards you probably played with as a kid. He modeled the keyboard in Blender and it took about 15 hours. VSS-30 runs entirely in the browser using WebGL and features all the effects, synthesizers, and recording that you could hope for. “Is there a way to save your creations out of this?” someone asked. “Absolutely not!” was the response. Matthew said it’s about recreating the toy experience. “Go in, making something cool, and then let go of it.”

I really enjoyed all of the demos! It was my favorite kind of DemoCamp: a nice mix of software and hardware.

DemoCamp Edmonton 44

Here are the events and other announcements that were mentioned in-between demos:

  • Student DevCon is coming up on March 23, 2019 at the Edmonton Convention Centre. Tickets are just $35 and include all sessions, swag, breakfast, and lunch.
  • Business Model 101 is Startup Edmonton’s most popular workshop. It is running twice per month for the next few months, and new for 2019, you can attend in Riverbend or Meadows, so you don’t need to travel downtown.
  • There are plenty of upcoming community meetups listed at the Startup Edmonton meetup site.
  • DemoCamp Edmonton 45 is scheduled to take place on March 12, 2019.

You can also check out the Tech Roundup for the latest headlines & happenings in Edmonton’s technology community every Tuesday. Here’s the latest edition.

If you’ve got something to show, apply to demo at a future event.

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 45!

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #331

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup:


Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Media-related updates from elsewhere

And here is some non-local media news that I found interesting this week:

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 27, 2019

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

New interchange to create jobs, attract investment 129823
New interchange to create jobs, attract investment, photo by Premier of Alberta

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Rogers PlaceInside Rogers Place

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Media Monday Edmonton: Update #330

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup:

  • The 20th annual Corus Radiothon took place last week raising a total of $1,564,455 for the Stollery Children’s Hospital, the highest two-day total since the event began in 1999. The annual radiothon has raised more than $23 million over the last 20 years.
  • Long-time Alberta broadcaster Peter Watts died in Calgary on Friday morning at the age of 68. In a statement, Watts’ family said he “peacefully passed away.” Watts began his career at CBC Edmonton in 1976.
  • After 21 seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos, PA announcer Al Stafford is leaving to become the PA announcer with the Edmonton Oilers. “Thanks for your years of service to the Edmonton Eskimos and all the best calling the @EdmontonOilers!” tweeted the Eskimos.
  • Here is the latest Alberta Podcast Network Roundup. They have added Shaw Business as a new sponsor.
  • Via Vintage Edmonton, here’s a 630 CHED Aircheck from 1977 featuring Wes Mongomery, Jerry Forbes, Stan Ravendahl, Eddie Keen, Randy Kilburn, Ken Conners, Barry Wall, Don Kennedy, Chuck Chandler, Bob Layton, C.R. Nichols and Clifford Oginski.

Premier speaks at Alberta Industrial Heartland Conference 18
Premier speaks at Alberta Industrial Heartland Conference, photo by Premier of Alberta

Media-related updates from elsewhere

And here is some non-local media news that I found interesting this week:

  • Facebook has announced it is spending $300 million over the next three years on news partnerships and programming, with an emphasis on local.
  • Phillip Smith, who has launched a series of journalism entrepreneurship bootcamps, argues that journalism innovation has a pipeline problem. “The same people getting support today are the people that have always had support, and those are typically people who are financially able to take a risk on a full-time academic program or a full-time startup attempt — basically, the status quo, just with smaller budgets.”
  • The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has shared its 2019 Trends and Predictions report. They predict ongoing trends “are likely to lead to the biggest wave of journalistic lay-offs in years – weakening further the ability of publishers to hold populist politicians and powerful business leaders to account.”
  • Last year, someone gave the City of Calgary an advance copy of a column written by the Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell. But it wasn’t Bell or his editor.
  • BuzzFeed says its story about Donald Trump directing Michael Cohen to lie to Congress was reviewed by at least three editors and that they’re sticking by it, even though Robert Mueller’s office took the “extraordinary step” of issuing a statement challenging the story’s accuracy.

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 20, 2019

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • An investment of $2.5 million from the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund will support the rebuilding of the Roxy Theatre. “This funding will support the construction of a new 14,639-square-foot Roxy Theatre, which will be rebuilt in its original location on 124th Street. The new facility will include a 200-seat black box theatre, an 80-seat studio theatre, a rehearsal hall and a gallery in the lobby. It will also be fully accessible for audiences and artists with disabilities.”
  • J.C. Sherritt has announced he is retiring from professional football after spending eight years with the Edmonton Eskimos. “Just to get to call myself an Edmonton Eskimo for the rest of my life means a great deal,” he said.
  • Council will be discussing the snow & ice program this week and there will be tough questions about the memo on calcium chloride that recently surfaced. “Councillor Scott McKeen, who reviewed the memo, previously said he plans to make an inquiry as to why city administration did not share it with councillors.”
  • David Edey, who served as Edmonton’s City Clerk from 1997 to 2008, passed away on January 10. “David’s work paved the way for Council to do their best work,” said City Manager Linda Cochrane. “He was an unwavering supporter of staff and his community, always believing that a helping hand could make a meaningful difference.”
  • The Hyatt brand is returning to Edmonton with a new hotel in the former Enbridge Tower (the one on 102 Street with the peaked roof).
  • The suicide barriers that were installed on the High Level Bridge a few years ago are failing to prevent crisis calls according to a new Edmonton Police Commission report. “It’s very troubling that we still have these numbers,” said Councillor Scott McKeen.
  • The new Edmonton Opera Centre is located inside a 22,000-square-foot brick warehouse in the northwest part of Edmonton. “The opera centre is also home to the Freewill Shakespeare Festival, set builds for Opera Nuova and rehearsals of The Singing Christmas Tree, among other groups.”
  • According to Environment Canada, the rest of the winter is likely to have above normal temperatures.
  • Information sessions on upcoming Neighbourhood Renewal work are taking place over the next few weeks at Royal Gardens, Highlands, Alberta Avenue, Inglewood, and Strathcona.
  • The LRT will be completely shutdown on Sunday, January 27 to accommodate testing of the Thales signalling system. “Customers will still see trains running on the tracks, but will not be permitted to board.”
  • The Edmonton Arts Council anticipates adding 11 new public artworks to the City of Edmonton Public Art Collection in 2019, five of which are by Edmonton-based artists.
  • From Linda Hoang: 10 Vietnamese Edmonton Entrepreneurs Worth Following.
  • Episode 21 of Speaking Municipally covers the bike share, calcium chloride, and everything else that City Council was discussing this past week. The latest Council Roundup has everything you need to know about the week ahead.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Health Innovation, Music, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups. We’re back at it this week!

Untitled
High Level bridge and North Saskatchewan River, photo by rjbeeswax

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Legislature Lights Segway Tour

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Media Monday Edmonton: Update #329

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup:

2019_01_11GoldenBearsVolleyball (9)
Photo by Don Voaklander

Media-related updates from elsewhere

And here is some non-local media news that I found interesting this week:

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 13, 2019

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Government centre Edmonton January 4 2019
Alberta Legislature, photo by Jason Woodhead

Upcoming Events

Heaviest load ever to travel on Alberta’s highways 127334
Heaviest load ever to travel on Alberta’s highways, photo by Premier of Alberta

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Media Monday Edmonton: Update #328

Taproot Edmonton’s latest Media Roundup was published today. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Monday morning.

Local updates from the Media Roundup

Here are a few select updates from today’s Media Roundup:

  • CKRA-FM returned from its all-Christmas-music format on Dec. 26 with a new name: 96.3 The Breeze. The format is not unique to Edmonton, with Vancouver’s CHLG-FM making the switch to The Breeze last month.
  • Larry Donohue retired as CFCW’s Music Director on Dec. 21 after 50 years in radio, 35 of them with CFCW. “On Larry’s last day country’s shining star Brett Kissel came into the station and serenaded Larry with the song “The Cowboy Rides Away” and then shared with the staff how much Larry’s support propelled his career by playing his music on CFCW,” reports Marty Forbes. CFCW drive host AJ Keller has taken over the Music Director responsibilities.
  • A trailer has been released for Boyle McCauley News: 40 Years – The Little Community Newspaper That Could. The film will be released in March.
  • News from the Alberta Podcast Network: The Read-Along and OtherWise are the newest members and six member podcasts have been nominated for Canadian Podcast Awards. Here is the latest APN roundup.
  • Linda Hoang has shared some best practices for businesses looking to work with social media influencers. “When both sides treat influencer requests as a professional business exchange, the influencer marketing industry will be better.”

City Hall Media Room
City Hall Media Room

Media-related updates from elsewhere

And here is some non-local media news that I found interesting this week:

Follow Edmonton media news using the hashtag #yegmedia and be sure to check out Mediagazer for the latest media news from elsewhere. You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here. If you have a tip or suggestion for future updates, let me know.

At Taproot Edmonton we’re working hard to ensure that local journalism has a future in our city. Join us to be part of the movement.

Edmonton Notes for January 6, 2019

Happy New Year! It was nice to have a break, but now I’m ready to get back down to business.

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

  • Former Edmonton-Mill Creek MLA and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Gene Zwozdesky has died of cancer at the age of 70.
  • The City has mailed 2019 property assessment notices. “Overall, the residential market experienced a 1.7 per cent decrease in assessed value.” Call 311 if you have any concerns with your assessment. March 11 is the deadline to file formal complaints with the Assessment Review Board. Property tax bills will be delivered in May.
  • A report issued by the Civic Service Union 52 before Christmas says the City could cut management positions to save $100 million over a four-year budget cycle. “Micro-management in an organization this complex can cause gridlock,” wrote Elise Stolte.
  • China stopped accepting 24 kinds of waste at the beginning of 2018, including paper and plastics. Now Edmonton-area municipalities are struggling to manage the increased recycling costs. “It has increased the competition across the board,” said Mike Robertson, contract manager for Edmonton’s Materials Recovery Facility.
  • Could this be the year of the bike in Edmonton? Elise Stolte argues that a “cheap, easy, bike share can make the millions Edmonton invested in bikes lanes a benefit to the masses.”
  • According to Statistics Canada, Alberta lost nearly 17,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate in Edmonton was 6.3%.
  • Councillors Cartmell, Hamilton, and Paquette spoke about their concerns with the Valley Line West LRT in year-end interviews. All three “voted in favour of the route and design for the 14-kilometre stretch of the Valley Line between downtown and Lewis Farms in the west end.”
  • The City of Edmonton’s urban hen program is capped at 50 sites and there are currently 12 applicants on the waiting list.
  • SkyriseEdmonton has a look at the proposed Stadium LRt Station redesign. “Stadium Station, according to 2017 passenger counts, has the third-lowest utilization of any station on the LRT system, still only being primarily used for a handful of stadium events every year.”
  • Edmonton’s first baby of 2019 arrived 21 days ahead of schedule, weighing in at five pounds, seven ounces. She was born just eight minutes into the new year.
  • Put your Christmas tree out next to your garbage bags by 7am on Wednesday and the City will collect it for recycling. “For Christmas trees to be acceptable for composting, all ornaments, tinsel, garlands, nails, screws and tree stands must be removed.” You can also take natural Christmas trees to an Eco Station for free until January 31.
  • Get the latest on Media, Tech, Health Innovation, Music, and Council with Taproot Edmonton’s latest roundups. We’re back at it this week!

Edmonton 2019
Edmonton 2019, photo by IQRemix

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NextGen City Jam 2018, photo by Edmonton’s NextGen

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Mayor Don Iveson looks back on 2018

“I believe this was the year we made a shift to building Edmonton for the next generation,” said Mayor Don Iveson last week as he hosted the media at City Hall for a briefing and roundtable discussion on 2018.

Asked for a highlight from the past year, Mayor Iveson cited the new funding deal with the Province. The City Charters Fiscal Framework Act will provide Edmonton and Calgary with “infrastructure funding tied to provincial revenues, meaning they would share in Alberta’s future revenue growth.” It is both a replacement for Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding and a new source of long-term transit funding. “We’re legislated now into long-term growth,” the mayor said. Last month he wrote that “the deal reflects the province’s economic reality now.”

Mayor Don Iveson

Here are some of the highlights from the roundtable discussion:

Budget Savings

Given the budget hadn’t yet passed when the roundtable took place, there were some questions related to cost savings. Acknowledging there were valid questions about the size of the City organization and in particular the size of management, Mayor Iveson said “it will be a continuing conversation for us.” He noted there are pros and cons to reducing the size of management that need further discussion.

In terms of savings, the mayor said that through innovation the City has harvested $68 million in savings in the last five years. And he indicated there was more to come. “I suspect there will be things over the next year that we close or significantly adjust our approach to,” he said. “We’re prepared to declare certain things no longer relevant.”

Culture of Confidence

Asked about his frustration this summer over the way Administration handled things like the bench plaques program, the mayor said “mistakes are going to happen given the complexity of what we do.” He acknowledged that Council had given Administration competing direction to both save money and to be as helpful as possible. “Both are values this organization has and they conflicted with one another,” he said.

The mayor made it clear he doesn’t want to micromanage things. “I don’t think every complex decision needs to come from Council,” he said. “It’s not an effective use of the thirteen members of Council.” Instead what he’d like to see is a “culture of confidence”.

“My expectation is that anyone working at the City with an idea that could lead to savings has the opportunity to bring that forward as opposed to being afraid to suggest it due to risk management,” he explained. That requires “a tolerance for failure and innovation” that won’t come easily. “We have to give some permission for it to not work out,” he said.

Mayor Iveson did say that he thought the “long-term culture change is moving in a good direction” at the City of Edmonton.

Edmonton Coliseum

On the question of what will happen to the Coliseum (formerly Rexall Place) the mayor said “it has no practical use or reuse that is economically viable” and as a result “it will be torn down.” He noted there are ongoing costs related to keeping the building secure and said, “I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to find a cost-effective and timely way to deal with the Coliseum.”

And what about the land? “We’re going to have some interesting discussions about how to redevelop those lands,” the mayor said. He’s not in a rush to sell the land, though. “In this market the land is probably not worth as much,” he said. “Where we try to rush land decisions that generally doesn’t go well for us.”

Media

Unsurprisingly, some of the journalists in the room were curious about the mayor’s thoughts on the media. He has made suggestions throughout the year that the City needs to do more of its own storytelling, and of course he continues to be active on Twitter and his own website.

“I think people expect a certain amount of direct content from their city,” the mayor said. “I think for most people the City of Edmonton is a credible source.” He doesn’t see direct communication from the City being the only channel, however. He talked about the importance of transparency and opening up multiple channels to the public. “Earned media is always going to be part of our day-to-day connecting with people,” he assured everyone.

Mayor Don Iveson

Innovation

Many of Mayor Iveson’s comments touched on innovation, but he used a question about the city’s economic outlook to share the majority of his thoughts on the subject. “We can fear the future or we can chart our own destiny,” he said. “This is why I put so much focus on the innovation economy.”

The mayor said he’s “excited” to work with EEDC’s Derek Hudson and Cheryll Watson further on a culture of innovation and said the recent scrutiny of EEDC “is really, really good.” He said the SingularityU conference that Edmonton is hosting next year “will be a platform for that culture to grow in our city.”

“As the world faces a lot of uncertainty, we can be problem-solvers for the world,” he said. “That’s not incompatible with our DNA as a city at all.”

Region

We didn’t have as much time to discuss the region as I’d have liked, but Mayor Iveson did touch on the subject. “If the region can speak coherently to the provincial and federal governments we can have much greater impact than historically we’ve had,” he said. The mayor cited work on transit, the regional growth plan, and economic development as recent successes in the region.

Mayor Iveson also spoke briefly about “shared investment for shared benefit” saying “it’s about the region getting to the point where we fix problems together.” He explained that the idea is “some of the new money that comes from new development goes into a pot that helps to pay for the next thing to attract jobs and prosperity to the region.”

Thoughts on Council

During the budget discussions Mayor Iveson expressed frustration with his colleagues on Council bringing forward ward-specific items to essentially try to “queue-jump”. He told us that he was talking to former mayor Stephen Mandel about it recently and realized, “I was doing the same things 7 years ago!” He added that “what we have ultimately is a Council that has come together remarkably well around this budget.”

“We have a group of very bright Councillors who have a desire to serve and to have their service noticed,” the mayor said. “It’s not a bad thing to have councillors with ambition to make an impact on the city.”

Third Term

“I really like being Mayor of Edmonton and I have no plans to enter federal politics, other than to stay on as chair of the Big City Mayor’s caucus,” he said in response to a question about running for another office. “I’ve got more work to do here.” Mayor Iveson told us “the City Plan is going to be a lot of fun” and that representing Edmonton through the upcoming provincial and federal elections would be “a great challenge”.

Noting “it’s a really long way to the next election,” he did acknowledge that others might be thinking about making a run for his chair. “I think it’s fair to say that some of them have their own political aspirations.” His advice to those Councillors? “Don’t get started too early.”

Mayor Iveson said he has not made any decisions about seeking a third term as mayor. “I want to focus on governing, and implementing the things I ran on,” he said. “If I can think of four more years worth of stuff to do, then I would look at running again.”

Mayor Don Iveson

Looking ahead to 2019, Mayor Iveson said “we must continue to rally for our city.”