DemoCamp Edmonton 34 – January 24, 2017

Edmonton’s 34th DemoCamp is coming up on Tuesday, January 24, 2017. DemoCamp is a great way to see what local entrepreneurs have been working on and to network with developers, creatives, and investors in Edmonton’s local tech scene. The rules for DemoCamp are simple: 7 minutes to demo real, working products, followed by a few minutes for questions, and no slides allowed.

DemoCamp Edmonton 14

DemoCamp Edmonton 34
WHEN: Tuesday, January 24 at 6:30pm
WHERE: CCIS 1-140, University of Albertamap
RSVP

Here’s a sneak peek at the line-up for Tuesday’s event (subject to change):

Augmented reality, an improvisation bot, and a platform for closing deals are just a few of the things you can expect to see in action. Should be a fun night! Experienced DemoCampers will know the event takes place in two parts – demos and networking. After the demos are finished at CCIS, join the crowd over at RATT (Room At The Top) on the 7th floor of the Students Union Building, to keep the conversation going.

To get a sense of what to expect, check out my recaps of previous DemoCamps here. If you can’t make it in person, you can follow along on Twitter with the #democampyeg hashtag or on Snapchat by following StartupEdmonton.

DemoCamp is just one of the many events organized by Startup Edmonton, an entrepreneurial campus and community hub. You can learn more in this video:

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 34!

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 33

Tonight was Edmonton’s 33rd DemoCamp which took place at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CCIS) on the University of Alberta campus. Here is my recap of DemoCamp Edmonton 31 from back in May. I presented with Karen at the last one in September and didn’t actually post about it! More on that later.

DemoCamp

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.”

In order of appearance, tonight’s demos included:

Flock is a web-based tool that crawls and analyzes a website to surface useful, actionable insights about your content. For instance, it can determine how many pages you have, if there are any broken links, and some general SEO information (it can also connect with your Google Analytics account). It can also tell you word counts, reading level, and other information about your content. Flock is geared toward agencies and developers who are building websites for other people. It looks very useful!

Instead of just walking through the features of the app, TradePros told a story from start to finish and worked the app into it. I loved it – their demo was very well done! TradePros is an app available on Android and iOS that connects homeowners with home improvement professionals. If you’re not very handy, you can use the app to connect with someone who can help you get the job done. TradePros currently has around 500 contractors, more than 1300 users, and have been live for five months.

DemoCamp Edmonton 33
TradePros doing their demo

Cappsule thinks video is a better way to make recommendations so they’ve developed an app that is kind of like a video-oriented TripAdvisor or Foursquare. Users can upload 15 second videos tagged to physical locations. It’s available currently on iPhone, and so far users have left more than 1000 cappsules. The app uses Google Maps and Google Places API which means the geotagging should be pretty good.

The Lounge is a web app that helps business owners manage their IT infrastructure in the cloud. They’re focused initially on Windows platforms because that’s what most of their customers are using, but all of the technology they use is open source. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much of a demo, so I can’t say much more beyond that.

CargoTapp is kind of like an Uber for freight. It consists of two apps: one for the customer shipping products, one for the drivers doing the deliveries. It doesn’t appear to be for sending single packages, but rather palettes of cargo and other large deliveries. Pricing is based on current standard industry pricing based on distance, dimensions, weight, the type of truck being used, etc. CargoTapp is still working out how insurance will work, but they envision that truckers will be responsible, as they see themselves as a platform.

DemoCamp Edmonton 33
Demoing CargoTapp

Some upcoming events to note:

If you’re interested in demoing at a future DemoCamp, you can apply here. And because I neglected to write about it, here’s the list of demos from DemoCamp Edmonton 32:

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 34!

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 31

Tonight was robot & games night at Edmonton’s 31st DemoCamp which took place at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CCIS) on the University of Alberta campus. After missing the last two, it was great to be back to see some inspiring new projects and entrepreneurs. You can read my recap of DemoCamp Edmonton 29 here.

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.”

In order of appearance, tonight’s demos included:

DemoCamp Edmonton 31
Bento Arm

Rory & Jaden showed us the latest version of Bento Arm, a 3D printed robotic arm. It features pressure sensors in the finger tips, servo motors that track velocity and other metrics, potentiometers, and even includes a camera embedded in the palm. The idea with having all of those sensors is to use machine learning to improve its capabilities over time (for instance the camera might recognize objects to help the arm pick them up). The demo showed how the hand could be controlled using a joystick, moving the arm around, and opening and closing the fingers. Bento Arm runs on the Robot Operating System and the team plans to open source everything, hardware and software. To the end the demo, they played rock-paper-scissors against the Bento Arm, which won. Welcome to the future!

DemoCamp Edmonton 31
vrNinja demo

Nathaniel & Alexendar were up next and they showed us vrNinja, a ninja simulation game built for the Oculus Rift VR headset. In the game you are a ninja and you must learn and use new weapons as things get faster and faster. The game features positional audio and requires you to move quite a bit in order to play (so be careful what’s next to you). The team are hoping to release it in the Oculus store in the next month or so, and they have plans to look into the HTC Vive VR headset as well. If you’d like a closer look, you can check out the game this weekend at GDX Edmonton.

DemoCamp Edmonton 31
Anthrobotics

Next, Ian & Evan showed us what they have been working on with Anthrobotics. The idea is to build robots that do all the boring, redundant tasks that we all need to do each day. They showed three prototypes. The first was an anthropomorphic named Robio who sat in a wheelchair. Unfortunately the demo gods got the better of him and the speech demo didn’t work. They said they liked the humanoid form (even though it is difficult to build) because they think it has the greatest potential for being useful in our world. The next two prototypes were a hand that featured and opposable thumb and a leg that could move both entirely and just the foot. They are using Arduino boards right now but have plans to add Raspberry Pis in the future. Their robots are very much in the prototype stage, but if this is what they’re doing in high school, I can’t wait to see what they build in the future!

DemoCamp Edmonton 31
Hugo, the Twitter-powered robot

Jeff and couple of his colleagues from Paper Leaf were up next to show us Hugo, the Twitter-powered robot that you probably tweeted inappropriate things to last year when it launched. The way it works is you tweet something with the hashtag #hugorobot and Hugo will speak it aloud. You can read more about Hugo here. Hugo was a big success, and even helped Paper Leaf to win an ACE Award. At the experiment’s peak, Hugo was receiving 3100 tweets per hour and more than 7000 people watched the livestream. Hugo was posted to Reddit, 4chan, and 9gag, all of which meant that the team had to work hard to keep the blacklist updated. It’s a fun project and Jeff says you could apply the same concepts of social media and crowdsourcing elsewhere.

Our final demo of the evening was from Matt & Logan who showed us RunGunJumpGun. It’s a 2D side-scrolling “helicopter-style” game that they first prototyped at least year’s GDX Edmonton. Now a year later, they have improved and refined the game, and plan to release it this summer. The game features 40 levels that increase along a difficulty curve so that as you progress you should master the skills needed to win. Though honestly the last level looked impossible to pass! There’s a certain amount of frustration that comes along with the style of play, but it also has a high degree of replay-ability. They plan to launch an iPhone version at some point too.

DemoCamp Edmonton 31

Some upcoming events to note:

  • Monthly Hack Day is coming up this Saturday at Startup Edmonton
  • GDX Edmonton takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Robbins Health Learning Centre downtown
  • Preflight Beta takes place Tuesday at Startup Edmonton and “helps founders and product builders experiment and validate a scalable product idea”
  • The full Preflight program started today!
  • The next ROS Robotics Meetup takes place on May 19 at Startup Edmonton

Over 150 meetup events took place at Startup Edmonton last year! Keep an eye on the Startup Edmonton Meetup group for more upcoming events. They have also added a listing of all the meetups taking place at Startup to the website. You can also follow them on Twitter.

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 32!

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 29

Edmonton’s 29th DemoCamp took place tonight at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CCIS) on the University of Alberta campus. I wasn’t able to make it unfortunately, but I did follow along with each of the demos via Twitter (thanks to Karen Unland). In the spirit of continuing to document the startup scene in Edmonton, I wanted to do a quick write-up. You can read my recap of our last DemoCamp here.

DemoCamp Edmonton 12

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. The rules for DemoCamp are simple: 7 minutes to demo real, working products, followed by a few minutes for questions, and no slides allowed.”

In order of appearance, tonight’s demos included:

Home Tribe debuted back in October at Launch Party Edmonton 6. It’s a new way to explore real estate. They have a feature called Home Tribe Match which Karen described as “sort of like a dating site for you and your future home”. I saw the demo back at Launch Party and found it to be a clever way to sort through MLS data. Instead of just looking by location, you fill out a questionnaire of preferences and Home Tribe uses MLS and other datasets to narrow down to the best matches for you.

Shelfie is a project of some Jobber employees. It’s a “small library management” tool. You can scan books to add them, you can rent books with a single-click, and you can keep track of what you’ve read. Sounds a little like GoodReads but for libraries. The application won fourth place in the 2015 Rails Rumble hackathon, which is a distributed programming competition with participants from all over the world. Great to see an Edmonton team take part and do so well!

Run-WithIT strikes me as one of those things you have to see to get, but I’ll try. The website says they “create a continuous simulation of your future field conditions complete with real data and millions of metrics so you can have IT all figured out before release.” I gather it is a tool for planning through simulations, and those simulations are really about the performance and scalability of web applications. Karen wrote: “The field is the greatest teacher, so Run WithIT simulates the field so IT pros can learn.”

FitCoins sounds like a wonderful idea, though there’s nothing on the website to explore yet. Just an explanation that “Fitcoins are an activity based point system that allows kids to earn screen time.” It’s a smart way to tackle the challenge of getting kids to be physically active when all they want is to message their friends or whatever it is kids do these days on their devices. Sounds like FitCoins is still at a very early stage, as Karen noted: “Really neat to see a demo at the stage that FitCoins is at. It’s Arduinos in a box, but it works.”

The final demo was from CareNetwork, which also presented at Launch Party 6. It’s an app and service that “helps acute-care medical teams stay in sync without breaching privacy,” Karen wrote. It has a very clean and modern design with features like a newsfeed on each patient. I talked with the team at Launch Party and learned they have had difficulties piloting in Canada, which is why they’re focusing on the US to start. There’s huge potential for a service like this, so I hope they find success abroad and here at home.

Karen tells me every demo tonight was impressive but highlighted how interesting FitCoins was. I think there’s a certain appeal to the straight-from-the-garage projects, which is not meant to be a negative comment. But everyone can rally behind that “yay it works!” feeling that you get from seeing something early and rough and full of opportunity.

Some upcoming events to note:

Over 150 meetup events took place at Startup Edmonton last year! Keep an eye on the Startup Edmonton Meetup group for more upcoming events. They have also added a listing of all the meetups taking place at Startup to the website. You can also follow them on Twitter.

Want to work with a local startup? Jobber, Home Tribe, Granify, Drivewyze, and Invidi Technologies are all hiring, so get in touch with them!

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 30! (hopefully)

TransEd selected for the Valley Line LRT, interVivos turns 9, changes at Startup Edmonton

I’m trying something new, where I share some thoughts on a few topical items in one post. Less than I’d write in a full post on each, but more than I’d include in Edmonton Notes. I’ll organize them here. Have feedback? Let me know!

TransEd Partners selected as Valley Line LRT partner

Today the City of Edmonton announced that TransEd Partners has been selected “to design, build, operate, maintain and finance stage one of the Valley Line LRT.” TransEd is a consortium comprised of: Fengate Capital Management, Bechtel, Ellis-Don, and Bombardier. Additionally, TransDev, ARUP, and IBI Group are described as “other key team members.” TransEd was selected after an 18 month procurement process “that saw comprehensive proposals from three international teams.”

Acting City Manager Linda Cochrane said the City, the LRT Governance Board, and the fairness monitor were all “quite comfortable” with the bids that were received, but felt the TransEd bid offered the best value for taxpayers. She repeated what Mayor Iveson and other City officials have highlighted in recent months, which is that the P3 model “by its nature transfers risk” to the partner. It’s pretty clear everyone is nervous because of what happened with the Metro Line and Thales. I have no doubt the issues that were encountered with the Metro Line will not be repeated with the Valley Line. But the reality of a $1.8 billion project, the single largest infrastructure project in Edmonton, is that something else will go wrong. What’s important is how the City will handle it.

And that’s the other key thing that Linda talked about today – communication. She noted that the City is still responsible for the project and is the entity to complain to if and when things go wrong. And she acknowledged that the City has room to improve when it comes to communication. But they are committed to being “as transparent as possible” throughout the entire project.

The next step is to finalize the contract with TransEd, which will involve a deeper dive into all of the financials. That is slated to be complete by February 2016 and if all goes well, construction will begin in the spring. The new 13-km line from Mill Woods to Downtown would be complete in 2020, with service starting by the end of that year.

interVivos turns 9

Last night I had the pleasure of serving as emcee for interVivos’ latest mentorship networking event. It’s the second time I have hosted the event, so I was thrilled to be asked back!

“The mentorship program helps achieve the mandate of interVivos by “bringing together young professionals and students with Edmonton’s business, political and community leaders to develop the relationships and the skills required by young people to assume positions of positive leadership within our community”.”

The mentorship program began in 2012 and has been running twice a year ever since. I’ve had the opportunity to be a mentor in the past as well, and I had a very positive experience. The way it works is interVivos brings together sixteen proteges and sixteen mentors, and they meet in a speed networking format. Proteges get four minutes to meet each mentor, and then at the end of the evening they all rank their top five preferred matches. interVivos makes the matches within a few weeks, and then each protege and mentor pairing is responsible for communicating at least three times over six months. You get out of it what you put into it, but the relationships that are formed can be quite meaningful.

interVivos Fall Mentorship Networking
Rene Ziorio & Zohreh Saher

interVivos launched back in November 2006 making it nine years old this month, which is quite an achievement! Zohreh and the team should be very proud of what they’ve built. In case you were wondering, interVivos is a Latin word that means “from one person to another”. You can follow interVivos on Facebook and on Twitter.

Changes at Startup Edmonton

The secret is out now: Ken Bautista resigned last month from Startup Edmonton and EEDC. He wrote:

“After eighteen months since our acquisition, I came to realize that it was the right time to leave Startup Edmonton in a place where it could continue to be a platform to grow our community beyond my leadership.”

There’s still a great team at Startup Edmonton, including co-founder Cam Linke and COO Tiffany Linke-Boyko, but Ken’s resignation is a big loss for EEDC. The energy, creativity, and vision he brought to the organization will surely be missed.

Frankly this news leaves me wondering about EEDC’s ongoing culture change. Ken is not the kind of person you want to lose, and if he was frustrated by bureaucracy or other internal impediments then that’s concerning. I’m sure we’ll learn more about how things are going at EEDC during the budget process over the next couple weeks (and potentially at the IMPACT Luncheon in January).

As for Ken, I have no doubt he’ll be positively impacting Edmonton with his next project (whatever that might be) in no time.

Preview: Launch Party Edmonton 6

Tomorrow evening is Edmonton’s sixth Launch Party, part of Edmonton Startup Week (get tickets here). Launch Party has become our city’s flagship startup event and “gives you the opportunity to meet our city’s brightest entrepreneurs, demo their products, and celebrate everything that our startup community has to offer.”

edmonton startup week

There’s an impressive list of Launch Party alumni in Edmonton, including Granify, Mover, Yardstick, Poppy Barley, Jobber, and Pogo CarShare. Here’s my recap of Launch Party 5. Now we get an opportunity to see another ten grow and hopefully succeed!

Here are the presenting companies for Launch Party 6:


CareNetwork.com

@carenetworkcom
TWO WORDS: Doctor Collaboration
WHAT: “CareNetwork.com is the easiest way for teams of hospital doctors to stay in sync. With teams working in shifts to provide around the clock care to dozens of patients with complex problems it is incredibly challenging to stay organized. CareNetwork.com helps these doctors to keep track of who their sickest patients are, what their patients’ stories are, and what needs to get done now. Collaborating through the CareNetwork.com app ensures this typically ephemeral information gets shared during shift change. Happier doctors, safer patients.”
KEY PEOPLE: Dr. Noel Gibney, Kyle Fox, Emmet Gibney

Chitter

@trychitter
TWO WORDS: Social Education
WHAT: “Chitter is a mobile social media app that gives college and university students a digital way to engage with each other and keep up with what is going on around them in the fast paced environment of higher education.”
KEY PEOPLE: Mark Galloway, Tamara Bain, Kyle Kaiser, Ben Lavin, Sabby Choudhary

Evented

@evented_ca
TWO WORDS: Event Planning
WHAT: “Evented is a web-based platform geared towards serving the event industry. Evented works by offering people who are planning events a consolidated, comprehensive, and current directory of local vendors who can service their events. Users can use features such as sorting filters and user reviews to make finding and finalizing vendors a more streamlined and efficient process. Evented is also able to eliminate the need for vendors to advertise on multiple platforms by providing a marketing tool that specifically targets their intended audiences. Evented works to create something useful for you; your city’s essential event vendor directory.”
KEY PEOPLE: Ramneek Purewal, Avneet Purewal

Fitset

@fitsetpass
TWO WORDS: Fitness Membership
WHAT: “Fitset is a single membership to thousands of group fitness classes every day in 5 major Canadian cities — including yoga, spinning, obstacle course training, dance, boot camps, ballet barre and so much more. Our membership gives you the ability to try a new workout every day or visit each partner studio up to three times per month — for $99/month. Whether you are looking to diversify your workouts, discover your next favourite studio, or just explore your city, chances are we have studios close to wherever you live, work, and/or play. We aim to make fitness exploration as simple and convenient as possible.”
KEY PEOPLE: Tim Gourlay, Jake Stief, Raj Gandhi, Leila Panjvani, Bindesh Rach

Home Tribe

@home_tribe
TWO WORDS: Real Estate
WHAT: “Home Tribe is a technology driven real estate team dedicated to creating a more personalized real estate experience. We do this by combining traditional real estate services, technology, Big Data and Analytics. Our first technology application, “Home Tribe Match” helps buyers find the perfect home based on their lifestyle needs. We take into account safety, commutability, neighbourhood dynamics and more to determine the homes currently for sale on the market that are most desirable to a buyer. This time-saving, easy to use app makes it simple for a buyer to move through the buying process.”
KEY PEOPLE: Elisse Lara Moreno

InstaMek

@instamek
TWO WORDS: OnDemand Mechanic
WHAT: “instaMek removes the hassle and struggle associated with traditional automotive service and repair by making the process as simple as ordering a book online. Within seconds this on-demand service allows car-owners to request and schedule a fully certified mobile mechanic (“Mek”) to their home or workplace – all at a price up to 30% cheaper than a shop. All work is guaranteed with a warranty on parts and labor and Meks are reviewed after every job to ensure top notch workmanship. Since its launch in February, instaMek has serviced over 500 vehicles and currently operates in 11 different cities across Canada.”
KEY PEOPLE: Asem Alsaadi, Uzair Ahmed

PFM Scheduling Services

TWO WORDS: Intelligent Scheduling
WHAT: “PFM is a company that came out of Alberta Innovates Center for Machine Learning (AICML) at the University of Alberta after 3 years of ground breaking research. PFM has developed a scheduling product suite that automates schedule production, optimization and analysis for shift workers in complex organizations that contend with sophisticated rule sets such as collective bargaining agreements. Currently, PFM is focusing on healthcare and is partnering with Telus Sourcing Solutions as a distribution channel and United Nurses of Alberta Union and Alberta Health Services as clients.”
KEY PEOPLE: Dale Schuurmans, Csaba Szepesvari, Martha White, James Neufeld, Jason Harder

JumpSeat

@JumpSeat_io
TWO WORDS: Employee Training
WHAT: “JumpSeat is a product of Ten Speed Technologies and transforms how organizations onboard, train and support their employees. By providing in-context, interactive, step-by-step task guidance, users learn what they need to learn, at the moment they need to learn it. Our unique training method keeps the user in the browser, away from your support desk, and since it overlays on top of your existing web-applications, keeps them productive while learning. No code integration is required and no developers are needed to create your interactive guides.”
KEY PEOPLE: Mike Priest, Paul McCarthy, Trevor Dell, Christian Dendy

Varafy Corporation

@GetVarafy
TWO WORDS: Online Education
WHAT: “Varafy gives Educators the power to create an unlimited number of fresh and unique problems and their detailed solutions in minutes versus hours – and have fun doing it!”
KEY PEOPLE: Werner Biegler, Justin Sharp, Ken Fyfe

VR Bike

@vrbikeca
TWO WORDS: Virtual Cycling
WHAT: “MedROAD Inc. is a company designed and formed to act as a portal for delivering to the general community the exciting and state-of-the-art research and innovation developed out of the Advanced Man Machine Interface Laboratory, University of Alberta. These areas of innovation include: 3D virtual reality, telemedicine and enhanced image viewing. We at MedROAD Inc. are very excited to deliver some of the exciting and unique projects we have been worked on at the University; connecting our clients and consumers with the very forefront of research and development.”
KEY PEOPLE: Peter W Wood, Pierre Boulanger, Stephanie Shaeffer, Ga Young Kim


I’m really looking forward to learning more about each one. Here are a few thoughts in advance of the event:

  • What kind of Launch Party would it be in 2015 if there wasn’t “an Uber for” company? That’s instaMek, an Uber for auto mechanics.
  • Home Tribe’s Elisse is combining her experience as a realtor and her experience with Redman Technologies for this new startup. There are lots of tools out there that help you find a neighbourhood and a home, so it’ll be interesting to see what Home Tribe brings to the table.
  • JumpSeat looks like an iteration over TourGuide which was demoed back at DemoCamp Edmonton 26 (Mike Priest was the CTO at Glazr which built TourGuide).
  • Most products in the health care industry seem focused on patients, so it’s interesting to see one that aims to help doctors with CareNetwork.com. They’ve got a really impressive team and group of advisors, including Dr. Ray Muzyka and Bruce Johnson.
  • PFM Scheduling Services is the result of research done at AICML. Great to see that commercialization continuing!
  • I’m not familiar with Evented, but it reminds me a little of MASV from Launch Party 5 in that they aim to connect vendors and customers, but in a completely different industry of course.
  • Chitter is an anonymous post app targeting university and college students. I guess a little like the now defunct Secret app?
  • Fitset is basically an aggregator for fitness classes happening at gyms throughout participating cities. Instead of becoming a member of a specific gym, you can become a member of Fitset and get access to multiple gyms.

Launch Party 6 takes place from 6:30pm to 10:30pm tomorrow, Thursday, at the EPCOR Tower – you can get tickets here. For those of you who drive, the parking is free! Elm Catering will have treats for you to enjoy and The Volstead Act will be making cocktails. It should be fun!

You can see my previous Launch Party posts here: #1, #2 Recap, #3, #4, #5 Recap.

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 28

Edmonton’s 28th DemoCamp took place last night at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CCIS) on the University of Alberta campus. We had six demos, including two from Computer Engineering students at the U of A. You can read my recap of our last DemoCamp here.

DemoCamp Edmonton 28

In order of appearance, last night’s demos included:

Our first demo was from Trevan, Jeremy, and Jordan who showed us the game they built at MADJAM 2015. The theme was “What do we do now?” and they had just 48 hours to build their game. Called Super Time Warp Battle Force, the game is “a web-based multiplayer deathmatch-style game where you control your avatar through three different eras, each with their own unique mechanics.” The game won third place! They used socket.io for multiplayer and pixi.js for drawing things on screen. You can play the game here.

Michael and Craig from OMx were the second demo this evening (they were at Launch Party Edmonton 5 back in October). They showed us their beta kit, which includes a urine collection cup, two sterile test tubes, some wipes, and a plastic bag. You provide the urine sample, put the tubes in the bag, and ship it back to OMx and they analyze it and provide a report. They are hoping to be able to measure 120 different things, but are starting with a smaller subset intended to help you “optimize your diet, form healthier habits and learn about your body.” This field of science is called metabolomics – there are apparently more than 4000 indicators in urine. They recommend the easypost API if you need to ship something!

DemoCamp Edmonton 28

Our third demo was from Drivewyze. They’ve been around for a while, as they participated in Launch Party Edmonton 4 back in November 2013 and were founded in 2012. Sean showed us their system, which uses GPS and geofences to provide drivers with weigh station notifications and alerts via dedicated physical devices like the PeopleNet Blu2 or mobile phones. So that’s the first part – they save drivers time by allowing them to legally bypass weigh stations (in 34 states currently). The second part is that they’re collecting a lot of data behind the scenes, and it’s clear they are hoping to extract some value from that.

Up next was Tim who showed us LinkMetrics. The service allows you to create trackable links for your website that provide you with extensive information about what the user did after clicking, such as which pages they visited, how long they were there for, and more. The idea is to provide you with insight about whether or not it is worth following up with that individual. The service can also provide you data in real-time!

Our fifth demo was from James and Jesse who showed us what they call the Burgess Wireless System (which is their 4th year Capstone project). Focused on retail environments, the system allows a store manager to see a live map of the store that uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to determine where customers are, who hasn’t been helped in a while, and where the closest employee is. The service provides both real-time and historical data which can be useful for analysis over time. Because it was a learning project, they used dozens of different technologies to power the system.

The final demo of the evening was BarTinder from Jacob, Andrew, and Chris. Theirs was also a Capstone project and it was inspired by Darkhorse Analytics and their use of D3.js. The responsive website shows a visual representation of a cocktail and its ingredients, and also provides instructions on how to make the drink. You can also input what you’ve got in your bar and the website will tell you which drinks you can make. If you want BarTinder to suggest a random drink, simply click the “I’m Feelin’ Tipsy” button. It reminds me of an app I use on Windows called Cocktail Flow.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

I really liked BarTinder because it was both entertaining and useful. Apparently Darkhorse Analytics owns the intellectual property, so it’ll be interesting to see if they do anything with it. I continue to be intrigued by OMx. I’m sure that the self-diagnostic space is going to heat up considerably so they’re probably positioned well to take advantage of that.

Some upcoming events to note:

Over 150 meetup events took place at Startup Edmonton last year! Keep an eye on the Startup Edmonton Meetup group for more upcoming events. They have also added a listing of all the meetups taking place at Startup to the website. You can also follow them on Twitter.

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 29!

Edmonton wants to tap into local creativity with labs

The City of Edmonton is hoping to tap into the creative ideas and energy of Edmontonians with two new lab initiatives. Open Lab aims to “create unique technological solutions for municipal challenges” while CITYlab will “advance conversations around urban planning.” Both initiatives, if successful, will change the way the City does business. The hope is that a healthy dose of innovation will be injected into the organization to ultimately result in better, more efficient outcomes for citizens.

Open Lab

The program room at Startup Edmonton was packed yesterday for the launch of Open Lab. Mayor Don Iveson, Startup Edmonton’s Ken Bautista, a few other speakers shared an overview of what the program is and what they’re hoping to achieve with it.

Open Lab Launch

So, what is Open Lab?

“A physical and virtual space where City employees and Startup communities can work together to create innovative solutions to municipal challenges. It is a unique continuous innovation program that combines local government, open data, smart creatives, and lean startup culture to build new products that improve the citizen experience.”

Open Lab is part of the Open City Initiative, which launched back in June. It’s also a partnership with Startup Edmonton, and that’s what makes it different from previous attempts at this same idea.

Startup Edmonton believes there are three main ingredients for a thriving entrepreneurial community: people & innovation, community & collision, and leadership & growth. They believe in the importance of thinking bigger, valuing community, and building to scale.

  • “Smart creatives solve big problems.”
  • “Entrepreneurship is a team sport.”
  • “Entrepreneurial leaders grow & scale companies.”

One of the ways Startup tries to implement these principles is via the lean startup approach. The goal with Open Lab is to add some of that lean startup culture into the City. There are three main components to the initiative:

  • Collision Days – Deep dive events where startups and SMEs discuss technologies, tools, and issues impacting a particular industry or community.
  • Open Lab Accelerator – Helping teams learn how to use lean startup methodologies, customer development, and validate what products to build in the first place.
  • Leadership Program – Developing product managers and leaders inside the city who build and test ideas like startups, using prototyping, behaviour science, and design thinking.

The Open Lab Accelerator is not unlike Preflight, the successful Startup Edmonton program that has helped local success stories like Poppy Barley.

Open Lab Launch

Michael Strong, a planner with the City of Edmonton, was one of the speakers at yesterday’s launch events. He was sort of the guinea pig for Open Lab, and he described how the approach helped his team think about new ways of achieving one of their objectives, which is to get people using and thinking about LRT in a different way. They have mocked up an app that would combine the “get me from A to B” and “what’s around me” approaches to help people more effectively use the LRT.

As I indicated above, this isn’t the first time the City has tried to tap into the local startup community. I am reminded somewhat of the lackluster Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally program, for instance. I think what’s different this time is that everyone involved recognizes the biggest hurdle is culture. And certainly Startup Edmonton has demonstrated success with getting people to think differently in a way that gets results.

Another big difference from the past is that the City has continue to embrace open data and there’s a lot more to work with now than there was six years ago. There’s a greater understanding of what open data is, what the benefits are, and how the City can work together with citizens to get things done. Indeed the news release highlights the recently launched 311 Explorer as one example of “how City data can be useful to everyone.”

So I am optimistic about Open Lab. If you want to find out more in person, Startup Edmonton is hosting a series of Open Lab Meetups on the last Thursday of the month from 2pm to 5pm. Open Lab representatives will be there to hear your ideas and visions and to help guide you.

CITYlab

I have been hearing about CITYlab for months now, but no one could give me a clear description of what it was. In retrospect, that’s probably because no one knew! They had an idea but weren’t sure where to take it. Now CITYlab has found an anchor, in the Open City Initiative, and the City is ready to start experimenting with a new approach to placemaking.

citylab

From the news release:

“CITYlab will partner with groups and individuals on projects and events that test or support the City’s urban planning goals. CityLab will serve as a resource for Edmontonians with creative and new urban planning ideas.”

The aim is to be a “laboratory to support and create small, temporary projects, activities and events to advance conversations around urban planning.” They want to make urban planning fun, as difficult as that might sound!

You might expect a project like this to rely heavily on techology, but CITYlab’s first experiment is decidedly analog. Starting on March 7, CITYlab will be distributing self-addressed stamped postcards across the city. If you get one, they want you to write down your urban planning ideas or projects and send it back. All of the returned postcards will be used to make a temporary art installation, and CITYlab is committing to undertaking at least one of the ideas or projects suggested. If you’re so inclined, you can also submit a project idea online.

citylab

One of the folks behind CITYlab is Jeff Chase, a senior planner who you might know from Edmonton’s NextGen or #yegsnowfight. He is a big supporter of Make Something Edmonton and understands the value of a different way to engage citizens on urban planning. “These creative new approaches to planning will help us meet the challenges that our city faces as it grows,” he said in the news release.

CITYlab still feels a little nebulous to me, but at least it’s out in the open now. If citizens are willing to get involved, it feels like there’s an opportunity to help shape and define the initiative further.

You can follow @PlanEdmonton on Twitter for updates, or check out the #yegcitylab hashtag. You can also email citylab@edmonton.ca if you want more information or two request a postcard.

Taking steps to become an Open City

Here’s what I wrote about the Open City Initiative back in June:

“I like the direction outlined in the Open City Initiative, unfortunately I just don’t have much confidence that it’ll go beyond a report and lots of talk.”

I questioned whether the report would sit on a shelf or if its goals and objectives would be resourced and actioned. With the launch of Open Lab and CITYlab, I’m now a bit more confident that the Open City Initiative will have a real impact. These are tangible projects that I think will make a difference.

I’m excited to see how this unfolds!

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Edmonton’s 27th DemoCamp took place tonight at the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (CCIS) on the University of Alberta campus. It was hackathon night at DemoCamp, as more than half the projects demoed were created at a hackathon of some sort.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Teams from two local hackathons that took place recently were on hand to demo tonight. First was the MADJAM Global Game Jam hackathon that took place over the January 23 weekend. It had 72 participants and 15 teams that took part.

“MADJAM is an Edmonton-based, year-long event that is made up of quarterly game jams, each associated to a global or local event. At the end of each jam, the games will be judged by our panel of experts and voted on by the public. The developers of the best games will be awarded points. These points accumulate and the developers with the most points by the end of the year will win totally rad rewards!”

Their next event is coming up the week of April 26 – May 3, called GDX Super Jam.

The other hackathon was the HackED Computer Engineering Club Hackathon, which took place on January 31. About half the participants in that hackathon were software based, the other half were hardware based. The hackathon offered $2,000 in prizes and just 24 hours to build something cool.

In order of appearance, tonight’s demos included:

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

The Bees is a game that has you controlling a swarm of bees after the hive has died. “The bee colony must forge on, in hope of escaping a terrible fate,” the description reads. The team used an iPhone to compose the music, and built their game using the Unity engine. The bees swarm because the emit pheromones, and to keep the game interesting, the team made the seasons change. They focused on what could be done in just 48 hours. Wondering how the game ends? Well no matter what you do, the bees die! In a future version, they’ve talked about maybe having nanobots instead of bees.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

After Hours was also powered by Unity, and is a side-scroller not unlike Super Mario Bros. The team wanted the game “to be tough but fair” and also wanted it to be complete. They decided to do pixel art, because it went well with the music. They added a multiplayer mode too. The goal of the game is basically to make it through the level before the time runs out. If you do, you get to go for a drink!

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

The third demo was my favorite of the night – Broom Blaster. It won second place in the HackED hackathon and is essentially a tracker for curling brooms. Inspired by the Fitbit, Jacob, Jared, Stephen, and their fourth teammate decided to add pressure and motion sensors to a broom that could be paired with a smartphone over Bluetooth low energy. The system tracks both frequency (how many times you sweep) and pressure (how hard you sweep). The team wanted hardware that could be added to an ordinary broom, to make it more cost effective. The app collects the data, and can give training and coaching information. A possible future upgrade? A speaker, so the broom can yell “hurry hard!” at you.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Fourth was SafetyNet by Jobber. Ben demoed his app, which is essentially an online utility to backup your data from QuickBooks Online. He built it at a recent Intuit conference that featured a hackathon and took home the $15,000 prize in the new app category. For some reason QuickBooks Online doesn’t already have a backup feature, so Ben used the REST API to create one. He had just 36 hours to build it, but was able to come up with a simple-to-use but efficient tool. Built in Rails with Bootstrap on the frontend, the app encrypts the data and offers one click to save and one click to restore.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Our fifth demo was WANDA. Built by Visionstate (with some help from Dark Horse Analytics), WANDA is an interactive touchscreen for washroom management. Carolyn showed us how it can be used to give patrons an easy way to submit a request for cleaning or to alert staff that a resource (like toilet paper) is low. When staff go to clean the washroom, they use WANDA to record what they did and when they did it. You’d probably think twice about touch a screen in a washroom, but WANDA features an antimicrobial overlay on the displays. The backend dashboard by Dark Horse lets you make sense of the data, such as determining optimal cleaning times.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Our final demo of the evening was Trajectory from Rocketfuel Games. Matthew showed us a few examples of how Trajectory can make training and certification much more enjoyable and effective. Instead of just embedding a PDF on a web page and telling new recruits to go read it, Trajectory can make the experience much more interactive. Everything a user does is tracked, including how they take to do it, but that data isn’t visualized just yet – that’s coming next.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

A few upcoming events were mentioned. Startup Weekend EDU Edmonton is taking place at NAIT from March 6-8, and will be a great opportunity for transforming your idea for improving education into reality. The first ever Polyglot Alberta Unconference is taking place in Calgary on March 28 (and will alternate between Edmonton and Calgary). Preflight Beta is taking place at Startup Edmonton again on February 19, and is a great opportunity to learn about the Lean Canvas Model. And finally, on March 21, Startup Edmonton is hosting the Student DevCon at the Shaw Conference Centre.

DemoCamp Edmonton 27

Over 150 meetup events took place at Startup Edmonton last year! Keep an eye on the Startup Edmonton Meetup group for more upcoming events. They have also added a listing of all the meetups taking place at Startup to the website. You can also follow them on Twitter.

You can see more photos from the event here. See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 28!

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 26

After missing the 25th DemoCamp (I was there in spirit) I was very much looking forward to last night’s DemoCamp Edmonton 26. I enjoy seeing what other local developers have been up to, and I almost always walk away feeling inspired. It’s also a great way to meet some new folks in the startup scene over beer.

Cam Linke
As always, the event was hosted by Cam Linke

The demos were (in order of appearance):

For this recap, I decided to record some thoughts on each of the demos, which you can listen to on MixCloud:

You can also download the MP3 here.

My favorite demo of the evening was StormBoard. Maybe a little unfair considering how well-established the app is and how seasoned Reg is at presenting, but I thought it was great. Compelling, well-designed, and feature-rich. Give it a try if you haven’t already!

Team Stormboard

Keep an eye on the Startup Edmonton Meetup group for more upcoming tech events. They have also added a listing of all the meetups taking place at Startup to the website.

See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 27!