Bringing Smart Bus technology to Edmonton

On Tuesday the Transportation & Public Works Committee will receive a report on Smart Bus technology. In short, Smart Bus technology is actually a collection of technologies that will help modernize Edmonton Transit’s entire fleet of nearly 1000 buses. It includes things like automated stop announcements, automated vehicle monitoring, and yes, GPS location services.

There are a number of reasons that this technology is becoming necessary. For instance, between 2000 and 2009:

  • Annual ridership increased from 43 million to 68 million (60% increase)
  • Annual service hours increased from 1.56 million to 2.08 million (30% increase)
  • Annual passenger concerns increased from 8,327 to 13,616 (60% increase)

During the same timeframe, the number of staff to manage service and concerns increased from 25 to 30, which is just a 20% increase. In other words, “staffing has not kept pace with the growth and complexity of the increased workload.” I would add that if we really want to shift Edmonton’s transportation modes, we need to ensure our transit system is modern and efficient.

That’s where Smart Bus technology comes in. The technologies include:

  • Automatic Vehicle Location
  • Computer-Aided Dispatch
  • On-board Mobile Data Terminals
  • Real-Time Passenger Information Systems
  • Automated Stop Announcements
  • Automated Vehicle Monitoring

What will those technologies do for the day-to-day transit rider? Automated Vehicle Location and Real-Time Passenger Information Systems means no more waiting outside when it is 30 degrees below zero for a bus that is running late – you’ll be able to see the real-time location of your bus using the web or a mobile device. Computer-Aided Dispatch and On-board Mobile Data Terminals means that three buses on your route will never be running together – they’ll be evenly spaced out and thus will stay closer to the schedule because ETS control will know where they are and can provide direction. Automated Vehicle Monitoring means fewer buses broken down on the road, and fewer spare buses sitting in the garage – it’ll help ETS monitor the health of its vehicles to ensure they stay on the roads.

The other technology, Automated Stop Announcements, is really what drove this report in the first place. In some jurisdictions, calling out stops has become law, and there have been fines handed out when drivers failed to call out stops. There is no such legislation here, at least not yet, but we shouldn’t have to wait for that to happen. Automated Stop Announcements is an important accessibility feature of modern transit systems, and helps to support Edmonton’s diverse community of transit riders.

The report has been written to highlight the direct benefits to Edmontonians, but there’s important benefits for ETS itself too. The fleet size for 2011 is 959 buses, and that number is not getting any smaller. It’s amazing how much is done manually at the moment, and how “in the dark” ETS control is most of the time. There is no live telemetry from buses right now, which means any information control does receive is via radio transmission. I have heard that even on a normal day, there are a couple thousand calls into control from drivers. Furthermore, bus maintenance is difficult at best right now. There is scheduled maintenance of course, oil changes, etc., but really until a bus breaks down and must be towed into the garage, ETS doesn’t know if something is wrong. And because of the size of the fleet, the garage is packed – buses are parked nose to tail. The automated vehicle monitoring would let ETS know if something was wrong on a bus currently on the roads, and would enable them to pull problem buses into a “trouble lane” when they come back into the garage.

In the implementation details, the report says that tapping into the City’s open data catalogue “could” be possible. I think that once we have GPS technology on the buses, making that information available to citizens is vitally important and should be considered a “must”. In other cities with the technology, coffee shops have mounted LCD screens that show when nearby buses have arrived (kind of like airport display screens). Citizens always know where the bus is simply by glancing at their mobile device. ETS cannot be expected to write all of that software – Edmontonians will, as long as the data is made available (likely as an API rather than in the catalogue, because the data is “live”).

According to the report, outfitting the entire fleet with all of this technology would cost $32.7 million, and would cost $4.3 million to operate each year. It would take between three and five years to roll out completely. A pilot has been proposed (for 50 buses covering 2 routes) which would cost $3.4 million and would likely start by September 2012. For budgetary purposes, a second option has been included, which is just the Automated Stop Announcements. That would cost $11.5 million to equip the entire fleet, and would cost $1.2 million  to operate each year. The corresponding pilot would cost $2 million.

City Council likes options, but they shouldn’t have one in this case. Going with just part of the technology doesn’t make sense. It’ll deliver only partial benefits today, and will cost much more in the future to add the other technologies (which we will have to do at some point). Furthermore, if the Smart Bus technologies are separated, that opens the door for multiple vendors and thus integration problems. I really hope Council recognizes the importance of having all of the Smart Bus technology together at once and doesn’t delay unnecessarily (though I do think it would be worthwhile to figure out if/how Smart Bus technology can be deployed alongside the proposed civic smart card).

I think $33 million to make Smart Bus technology happen across the entire ETS fleet is worth it. The notion of using commodity GPS systems (like cheap cell phones) is attractive, but probably unrealistic given the harsh environment of a bus (hardware needs to be hardened and you can’t be running out to replace components all the time) and other operating requirements. The suite of Smart Bus technologies will provide major benefits to both riders and to ETS itself. And to be frank, the proposed budget is a rounding error compared to the amount of money we plan to spend on LRT, and we need buses to efficiently feed our LRT system to really get the return on investment that is possible.

Let’s bring Smart Bus technology to Edmonton!

You can see the report and attachments here, and you can follow along on Tuesday here.

Edmonton’s 2010 Grey Cup Festival Never Happened

In November 2010, Edmonton hosted the 98th Grey Cup. The Montreal Alouettes defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the second straight year to capture the CFL’s top prize. Of course, the event was more than just a football game. We’re festival city, and we turned the Grey Cup into a very successful festival. There was something for everyone, and downtown was full of people, which unfortunately doesn’t happen very often. It wasn’t a perfect event, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an Edmontonian who would consider it anything less than a success.

2010 Grey Cup Festival Kickoff

Here’s what Todd Babiak wrote (archive):

Ten years from now, only the statisticians and the really, really heartbroken will recall the winner of Sunday’s Grey Cup game in Edmonton.

What we would like to remember, in 10 years, is that many thousands of warmly audacious people from Saskatchewan came to witness Edmonton’s transition from a cosy little prairie city to something else.

I would go further and say that we absolutely need to remember what we accomplished with the Grey Cup Festival. We need to be proud of it, we need to learn from it, and we need to improve upon it.

But, the Grey Cup Festival never happened.

If you try to visit the festival website, at http://www.greycupfestival2010.com, you’re redirected to the website of the Edmonton Eskimos. As far as the web is concerned, the festival never happened. And in 2011 and beyond, the web is all that matters. Think about it for a second – less than two months after the event took place, the most important online record of it has vanished.

Ignoring the fact that the website barely worked during the festival (which is an important, but different issue), this is troubling. I have written before about the need to preserve our local, digital, cultural artifacts. The web is the single most important platform for doing so. The web is accessible and pervasive. Too often, however, it is not permanent. We can and must do better. We also need to stop thinking of event websites as only being relevant during the event.

Now obviously the festival happened. And there are other places online that provide evidence and a record of it. There’s the Wikipedia entry, the many blog posts that were written, thousands of photos uploaded to the web, etc. But all of these should be ancillary to the event website, not a substitute for it. And there’s no guarantee that they’ll exist in the future. For instance, you can read Todd’s article today, but in six months it will no longer be available on the web (hopefully my archive link is…this is a problem the Journal is aware of and hopes to address).

The saddest part about this particular instance is that I guessed it would happen. I should have spoken up sooner. The good news is that I archived the entire site on November 27, 2010. You can see the front page here.

I don’t think this is an easy problem to solve, but I believe it is important that we do solve it. I’m going to do what I can to help educate others about why this is so important, I’ll continue learning from the very smart people we have in the “archival” business, and I’ll continue doing what I can to help archive.

Recap: DemoCamp Edmonton 13

Last night we held Edmonton’s thirteenth DemoCamp, our second in the larger space at the Telus Centre on the University of Alberta campus. It was another fantastic turnout, with close to 100 people eager to see what startups and developers in our city are working on. We had a great turn out at Original Joe’s afterward too (and if you’ve been to DemoCamp before, you know that’s where the magic happens). Snow can’t keep the local startup community down!

DemoCamp Edmonton 13

We had five demos:

  • Scott Montgomerie showed us My Edmonton, an app he originally developed with a few other people at Edmonton’s first Startup Weekend. It started life as a real estate app, but evolved to be more of a local utility, with information on events, news, property info, and nearby services. My Edmonton is available both on the web and as an iPhone app. You can learn more at the blog.
  • Our second demo was from Yegor Jbanov, who showed us Deckle, an online print job automation tool. Targeted at the professional printing industry, Deckle integrates with Adobe Creative Suite and supports precision printing, such as for cheques which have strict requirements on layout and positioning. Yegor said that if you can do it with InDesign, you can pretty much do with with Deckle.
  • Mo Hamdan was up next, to show us Promptu Manager, a tool for managing fixed assets. Promptu is a Windows application, with a user interface very reminiscent of accounting packages such as Simply Accounting or Quick Books. Unfortunately the demo didn’t go as smoothly as Mo had hoped. It’s difficult to make a series of data entry screens interesting, I guess.
  • Our fourth demo was from Trevor MacDonald, who showed us Pluggin.it. The idea is to leverage your social network to help you sell stuff. Let’s say you have a car that you want to get rid of. You can offer a reward and then get your friends to “plug” your listing, and if their assistance leads to an eventual sale, they can claim part of the reward. Pluggin.it is in beta (they are having a launch party tonight) but looks pretty polished and definitely has some potential. You can learn more at Brittney’s blog.
  • Our final demo was from Andrew Czarnietzki, who works at 3DI (here’s a profile I did in 2009). He showed us a game he developed in his spare time that makes use of some of the interesting technology available to him at 3DI, such as pureLIGHT. It was really interesting in that it used “weird geography” and light as its unique features. When you fired your weapon, for instance, the light would bend around the geometrical shapes in the game. Looks like it would be a fun game to play on Xbox Live or something like that!

DemoCamp Edmonton 13As a fan of open data and local apps, I really enjoyed My Edmonton. If you haven’t seen it before, check it out. I think Pluggin.it is a neat concept as well, and everyone really seemed to enjoy the demo. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of uptake it gets. My favorite demo was probably the game though – I love it when developers experiment with stuff just because they love it. Who knows, maybe one day Andrew’s game will be available on Xbox Live!

A few announcements:

Thanks to everyone who came out to lucky number 13. See you at DemoCamp Edmonton 14!

DemoCamp Edmonton 13

Sick of hibernating inside because of all the snow and cold weather? Join us on Wednesday evening for Edmonton’s next DemoCamp – lucky number 13! If you’ve never been to DemoCamp before, it’s time to stop missing out. There is no better opportunity to connect with Edmonton’s technology and startup community. Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Time: 6:30pm (and drinks/networking afterward)
Location: Telus Centre 150, University of Alberta (map)
Cost: Freesign up
See the event on ShareEdmonton or on Facebook.

The rules for DemoCamp are simple: ten minutes to demo real, working software, followed by a few minutes for questions. No slides allowed. You can read my recap of our last DemoCamp here (the archive of recaps is here).

If you can’t make it on Wednesday, follow along online using the #democampyeg hashtag. Stay tuned to Startup Edmonton for more technology and startup events.

See you Wednesday evening!

Edmonton Transit (ETS) now offers schedule information via SMS text messaging

Today Edmonton Transit (ETS) officially launched its new text messaging service. You can now send an SMS text message to 31100 from virtually any cell phone to get bus schedule information for free (standard messaging rates may apply). The service is yet another example of the GTFS feed that ETS released in 2009 paying dividends.

The way it works is simple – text the bus stop number you’re interested in to 31100 and you’ll get a response like this (using 1859 as an example):

1859 (111) 01:26P 01:56P (112) 01:06P 01:36P (2) 01:08P 01:23P ETS – THE EVERY DAY WAY

That’s the stop number, followed by each route with two upcoming times for each. If you’re interested in just a particular route, say the 2, simply text the stop number followed by the route number, and you’ll get upcoming times for just that route at that stop:

1859 (2) 01:08P 01:23P 01:38P 02:08P ETS – THE EVERY DAY WAY

ETS has produced two videos that demonstrate how it works (they were filmed just before Christmas). Here’s part 1:

And here’s part 2:

Starting next week you’ll also be able to create a profile on the website to setup favorite routes and stops specific to your daily routine.

The ability to get route & stop schedules via text messaging might be new here in Edmonton, but it’s not a new concept elsewhere. Transit riders in Vancouver have had that functionality for years, first unofficially thanks to a couple of enterprising students, and later as an official service from TransLink. The story is somewhat similar here. Local developers Sean Healy and Joel Jackson hacked together a service called TXT.2.ETS back in March of last year, something they won a prize for in the Apps4Edmonton competition. They subsequently met with ETS representatives and talked about what an official service might look like.

I talked to Nathan Walters, Strategic Marketing Supervisor for ETS, about the new service yesterday. He told me the service is run by Vancouver-based Upside Wireless (presumably their Transit SMS product). Nathan confirmed that it uses the same GTFS data that anyone can download from the City of Edmonton’s open data catalogue. “The GTFS feed made things significantly easier, and brought the service to market a lot faster,” Nathan told me. He also said it “speaks to how much we stand behind that information.”

Though it is a pilot, don’t expect the service to shut down any time soon. Instead, ETS plans to monitor usage, gather feedback, and will be conducting market research later this year, and will re-evaluate and improve the service as necessary. In fact, if all goes well, the service will pay for itself and perhaps even drive an additional return to the City via the advertising service that will launch in the spring. The last 40 characters of the messages sent back to commuters will be allocated toward advertising (the “ETS – THE EVERY DAY WAY” part in the example above). I think that’s a smart move.

It turns out the service has actually been live for about a month, in testing by Upside and City of Edmonton employees. Apparently there has been quite a bit of buzz internally at the City about it. Today was not the planned launch date, but the accidental release of parts of the outdoor marketing campaign pushed things up. Nathan confirmed that we’ll see lots of advertising for the new service, including billboards, benches, and transit shelters. He sounded pleasantly surprised that they had been able to keep the service under wraps for so long (no doubt the holidays helped in that regard).

I had to ask Nathan the question he’s undoubtedly going to be asked over and over now that the text messaging service is live: scheduled information is great, but when are we going to get live information, perhaps via GPS? His answer: “The technologies that transit uses are always evolving, and the service will evolve as well.” In other words, nothing to announce, and don’t hold your breath.

I also asked about the shortcode, 31100. Nathan said they briefly considered a repeating number (such as TransLink’s 33333) or something like “txtets” but realized that using letters would be problematic considering most modern smartphones do not have traditional numeric keypads. They settled on 31100 because it offered great potential for the future. Just like 311, other departments at the City could make use of the shortcode for their services as well. Nathan confirmed that at least one business unit outside of transportation has already expressed interest in exploring that possibility.

This new service is exciting and will have a positive impact on the daily commute for thousands of Edmontonians. But it’s more than that. ETS made a decision to open up its data to anyone for free, and they continue to see a return on that very minimal investment. Releasing the GTFS data feed has resulted in Google Maps support, apps for the iPhone, and now text messaging. Importantly, all ETS had to do for all of this to happen was focus on its core competency – providing transit service. It’s a success story that other business units at the City of Edmonton should be very eager to replicate.

Having said that, I would have preferred to see a solution from a local company or even the adoption of Sean & Joel’s project, but I realize there are other considerations. As the Apps4Edmonton competition evolves, I hope we’ll see the City adopting more of the solutions that Edmonton’s talented entrepreneurs create.

The new text messaging service is a great way to start 2011. In fact, Nathan said it “sets the tone for the year” and indicated that ETS was going to be looking at additional opportunities to work with the community on other services as 2011 unfolds. I can’t wait!

You can learn more about the service here, and you can find additional Apps for ETS here. Check out the Open Data catalogue for ETS data and more, and follow the #yegtransit hashtag on Twitter for ETS-related updates.

UPDATE: Does the new text messaging service work for the LRT? The answer is yes! If you know the stop numbers, that is. The route for the LRT is always 201, but here are the stop numbers you need.

Station Name North Stop # South Stop #
Clareview 7797 7797
Belvedere 7692 7830
Coliseum 1889 1742
Stadium 1981 1723
Churchill 1691 1876
Central 1863 1935
Bay/Enterprise Square 1985 1774
Corona 1926 1891
Grandin/Government Centre 1754 1925
University 2969 2316
Health Sciences/Jubilee 2014 2019
McKernan/Belgravia 9982 9981
South Campus 2116 2115
Southgate 2114 2113
Century Park 4982 4982

 

Hopefully they can make it more user friendly in the future.

Thoughts on my Kinect for Xbox 360

I got what I wanted for Christmas! Santa, aka Sharon, gave me a Kinect for Xbox 360. It’s one of the hottest gadgets out there right now, and Microsoft expected to sell 5 million units by the end of 2010 (we might hear actual sales figures at CES this week). We’ve had fun playing with it over the last week, and it has proven to be a hit with friends and family too.

We have three games – Kinect Adventures, which came with the Kinect, Kinect Joy Ride, and Dance Central. I like different things about each, but I guess my favorite at the moment is Joy Ride. It’s really fun to steer, drift, boost, and stunt the car around the track! The interface seems to be the most touchy of the games, however. Adventures is also fun, but the downside is that it requires a lot of space in order for two players to play together. We have just enough space in our condo after we slide the couch out of the way. Dance Central is probably the most well-known Kinect game, and it is more or less what you’d expect from the makers of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. It’s fun, as long as you’re not afraid to look ridiculous! It also has a really attractive interface, with Minority Report-style swiping, rather than holding your hand stationary to select as in the other two games.

I have to admit, the Kinect is much more of a workout than I anticipated. There is no sitting down! If you play long enough, the Xbox actually pops up a notification asking if you need to take a break.

Kinect Joy Ride

One of the best parts about Adventures, Joy Ride, and Kinect Sports (which we don’t have), is that each game takes photos as you play. Some of them are just embarrassing! But they are fun to look at, and you can upload the photos to KinectShare.com, where you can download them or share them on Facebook. It looks as though that was built specifically for Microsoft’s games, but it would be fun to see it extended Kinect-wide (or better yet, just let me upload straight to Facebook or Flickr).

The picture above is pretty low quality, but I am guessing that is just to save space/bandwidth, because the quality of video using the chat feature is impressive. Sharon and I did a video chat on the Kinect with my parents who used a normal computer with Windows Live Messenger, and it worked flawlessly. Made me wish for Skype support on the Xbox (as that is where the majority of my webcam contacts are).

Another interesting feature of Kinect is the voice recognition. So far it seems to listen to Sharon better than it does to me, but either way it does a decent job of interpreting commands even with background noise. The downside is that it is limited to the “Kinect Hub” – a kind of mini-dashboard within the Xbox 360 dashboard. I look forward to broader voice support, so that I can tell my console to turn off, or launch Netflix.

I love the Kinect, so far! It’s hard to believe that the device I stood in line for over five years ago has changed so dramatically, but it has. And I can’t help but think that this is just the beginning. There’s so much you can do with a Kinect-style interface, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Thanks Santa!

Recap: Launch Party Edmonton 2

Tonight we held the second Launch Party here in Edmonton at the old Art Gallery space in Enterprise Square (you can read my recap of Launch Party 1 here). With over 200 people in attendance, awesome startups, and that signature Startup Edmonton vibe, I’d say the event was a big success!

Launch Party 2

If you haven’t already done so, I strongly recommend you check out Doug’s preview of the companies at Launch Party tonight. It’s a great rundown of what everyone is working on. Each company had a table tonight to demo their products and to chat with attendees. They also had the opportunity to make a short elevator pitch in front of the whole crowd (though due to the space configuration, I know some people couldn’t hear, sorry about that).

Here are the companies that participated tonight:

Some of these companies you may have already heard about, such as Fluik or Smibs.tv, both of which were recently written up in the Edmonton Journal. Others, such as Robot Rhythm, have been flying under the radar but are on to something really interesting. Either way, Launch Party is a great way for these companies to showcase some of the really innovative work that is happening right here in Edmonton.

Launch Party 2Launch Party 2

Launch Party is also a great opportunity for the companies to practice their elevator pitches. The space was a little tighter than it was at Launch Party 1, which made saying hello a necessity!

Launch Party 2Launch Party 2

Drinks, music, and great company made the evening an enjoyable one for everybody who braved the first onslaught of winter to attend. Thanks to everyone who came out tonight to support Edmonton’s thriving tech scene.

Launch Party 2Launch Party 2

For more on Startup Edmonton and to find out about future events, check out the website. You can also follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

You can see the rest of my photos from the evening here.

TechDays 2010: Edmonton

This year Microsoft finally brought TechDays, its Canadian technical training conference, to Edmonton. Some of us had been asking Microsoft to add our city to the cross-Canada tour for a while, and when enough people spoke up, they listened. And it paid off too. Initially Microsoft was expecting 250-300 people to register for the Edmonton event, but we blew that out of the water! Nearly 500 people registered! And judging by the large crowds, I’d say that most of those people attended too (it’s probably quite uncommon pay the registration fee and then not attend).

There is always criticism of the sessions offered at TechDays, but I think they had a decent mix this time around. Lots of introductory stuff I suppose, but that seemed to match the makeup of the audience. The addition of the Local Flavours track was a good start toward including some more diverse content as well. I was the track host for the “Optimizing the Development Process” track, and I did two presentations of my own.

TechDays 2010

My first presentation was Top 10 Mistakes in Unit Testing, adapted from a similar talk that was done at TechEd. The goal of the session was really to get people thinking about the little things that can help them be more successful with unit testing. I included three demos: a simple MS Test demo, a more involved demo using Ninject and Moq, and finally a demo showing JavaScript unit testing. Here are some resources for the session:

For my second presentation, I teamed up with Devin Serink to present A More Programmable World with OData. We talked about open data in general, about the work the City of Edmonton is doing, and then showed how easy it is to create and consume OData services. We spiced things up by using some PHP and Google Charts in the demos! Here are some resources for the session:

I thought both talks went well, and I hope people found them useful!

TechDays 2010

Given the success of the inaugural TechDays in Edmonton, I’m sure they’ll be back again next year. You can follow along as TechDays continues to travel across the country using #techdays_ca on Twitter.

Joey wrote about Day 1 here, and you can see the rest of my photos here.

Recap: CloudCamp Edmonton

Tonight was the first-ever CloudCamp here in Edmonton, an unconference focused on cloud computing. Held at the Shaw Conference Centre, kind of in conjunction with Microsoft’s Tech Days (happening tomorrow and Wednesday), around 60 people attended. Here’s the brief overview:

CloudCamp is an unconference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas. With the rapid change occurring in the industry, we need a place where we can meet to share our experiences, challenges and solutions. At CloudCamp, you are encouraged to share your thoughts in several open discussions, as we strive for the advancement of Cloud Computing. End users, IT professionals and vendors are all encouraged to participate.

The format was similar to other unconference events. Moderated by Larry Carvalho, we started with six lightning talks:

  • Barnaby Jeans went first and gave an overview of Microsoft’s cloud computing strategy and offerings.
  • Associate Professor Paul Lu from the University of Alberta was up next and talked about the university’s proposed adoption of Gmail, its experimentation with Google’s Fusion Tables, and its research work on virtualized RAM.
  • Third was Rob Bissett from 6fusion. He talked more about infrastructure-as-a-service as well as the need for consistent price-per-compute units across the industry.
  • Li-Yan Yuan, a Professor at the University of Alberta, talked about LogicSQL, which is basically a grid architecture for a DBMS.
  • Fifth was Sean Ouimet, who dared to be different and used a flipchart instead of slides to talk about how to design your applications for the cloud so that they scale.
  • Last but not least was Timothy Dalby, winner of Make Web Not War, who discussed his application Find-A-Home.

CloudCamp Edmonton

After the lightning talks, Larry asked everyone in the audience to raise their hands if they thought they were an expert in cloud computing. The four guys that raised their hands become the panelists on the “unpanel” (and it was guys…I think there was maybe one woman in the whole audience). Everyone in the audience then had the opportunity to ask questions, which the panel fielded. Larry took notes, and the questions eventually formed the basis for the breakout sessions.

Some of the topics that came up included: geography (where is your data located), multi-tenancy, cost, building a cloud application, and startup opportunities. We ended up breaking into just two separate groups though, one more focused on the business side and one focused more on the technical side.

I decided to join the business group, and for an hour or so we had a really great (not to mention really broad) discussion about the impacts of cloud computing. I had to leave before the two groups came together again, but that was to be the final part of CloudCamp.

One of the more basic questions that arose throughout the evening was the difference between the various “as-a-service” offerings:

  1. Software-as-a-Service
  2. Platform-as-a-Service
  3. Infrastructure-as-a-Service

I think the Wikipedia articles do a good job of explaining each one, so I won’t expand on that here. I tend to think of it like this: SaaS is something like hosted Exchange, PaaS is something like Azure (which hosted Exchange runs on), and IaaS is something like Amazon S3 (which could host the Azure data).

It was great to see so many people interested in discussing cloud computing! You can see a few more photos from the evening here.

Recap: DemoCampEdmonton12

Tonight we held our twelfth DemoCamp in Edmonton. We changed up the venue this time but decided to stay on the University of Alberta campus, so instead of the familiar ETLC we found ourselves at the Telus Centre. To me the vibe in the room felt different, like there was less energy, and it actually seemed like there were less people because it was a bigger room. It’s amazing how the layout of the room can have such an impact.

We had four short demos tonight, from some of the winners of the Apps4Edmonton competition:

  • Eugene showed us Statistics Edmonton, which lets you easily look at demographics and other information on a map.
  • Ben showed us Alertzy, which can send you a text or email notification when it is time for garbage pickup where you live!
  • Mitch showed us Diner Inspect, which lets you look at health inspects for restaurants in your neighbourhood.
  • Chris showed us YEG Live, which aggregates music events in Edmonton and does e-ticketing as well.

DemoCamp Edmonton 12DemoCamp Edmonton 12

We also had five regular demos:

  • Chad Smith from Hybrid Forge kicked things off by demoing TRACpac for iPhone, an iPhone application that lets users search the combined catalogue of more than 150 libraries. He also demoed an iPad app that offers the same functionality but with a different interface. The apps looked great, and I love that they use a variety of 3rd party APIs to pull in data.
  • Jas Panesar showed us an app he had built for clients to deal with managing warranties. We didn’t get to see too much of it, but it seemed to have some solid workflow behind it. And certainly as a customer, making my interactions with warranties better is a good thing.
  • Next up was David Nedohin and Kieron Quigley from Statusfirm. They demoed Core Catalyst, a CMS tool targeted at government, enterprise, and other large organizations. It’s actually the platform that is powering the City of Edmonton’s election webcasts.
  • Fourth tonight was Joel Adria and Yuri Delanghe, university students who built Bearbook which is a Facebook app that makes it easy for students to share their timetables with other students, and to find common breaks. Joel said they were inspired by Bearscat and currently have 3700 students using the app (half of which have uploaded their schedules).
  • Last but not least was Trystan Kosmynka and Colin Humber. They showed TestFlight, a beta testing management platform for developers targeting the iOS platform. It fills a big gap that Apple developers face, and does it without iTunes, cables, or jailbreaking.

You can see all the presenters on Twitter here.

Overall, I’d say my favorite demo was probably Bearbook (though I also really liked the TRACpac app that Chad showed). I think a lot of other people in the room enjoyed Bearbook as well, feeling that Joel and Yuri brought some of the old-school-DemoCamp back. And I love that Joel was more than happy to respond to questions about new features with “we wanted to keep it simple.”

I think the most popular demo was without a doubt TestFlight. I’m not an iOS developer, but a lot of people in the room were, and they seemed to be salivating at the solution that Trystan and Colin showed. I also love that they tackled a real problem, and solved a major pain point. TestFlight isn’t just cool tech, it will actually have a really positive impact on the lives of iOS app developers and their testers.

We definitely had some issues tonight. Internet connectivity was a problem, due in part to us being on the U of A campus I think. We need to get that figured out. A lot of our demos tonight used iPhones or iPads, so we made use of the camera display. It worked well enough but the constant switching of video cables did get somewhat annoying.

The after-party tonight was awesome! The entire top floor of Original Joes was packed. I’m sure some people skipped or couldn’t make the demos and just came for beer, which is fine! It was a good time.

DemoCamp Edmonton 12

There were a few announcements tonight:

  • The next BarCamp is tentatively scheduled for October 23.
  • The next Launch Party is tentatively scheduled for November 17.
  • There are a bunch of other tech events coming up! I’ve got them listed at ShareEdmonton.

Stay tuned to Startup Edmonton for updates. You can see a few more photos from the evening here.

Thanks to everyone who came out tonight. See you at DemoCampEdmonton13!