Palo Alto launches 'apps challenge,' deadline Feb. 28

City hopes to elicit ideas for apps to improve civic engagement

Calling all geniuses and creative types. The City of Palo Alto is looking for someone to create software applications to help government better interact with its citizens.

The city's 2014 Apps Challenge builds on its CityCamp Palo Alto event, which was held last June as part of the first Annual National Day of Civic Hacking. The apps competition is open to all and aims to launch an app that will improve engagement between local government and the community, city officials said.

Applicants can register at through Friday, Feb. 28. Submissions are free and open to anyone legally residing in the United States. Cash prizes include $3,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third place. Winners also receive a commemorative plaque and free incorporation services. Participants can enter as many times as they wish.

"We hope that this competition will bring people together from different backgrounds and ideas to all focus on one thing -- helping to make a difference in our community. An apps competition sustains the momentum of our efforts to be a leading digital and smart city. We also expect it will be a lot of fun for families too," City Manager James Keene said.

Individuals and teams can enter as many times as they wish. Initially, entrants just need the ability to communicate an idea in a convincing manner, while finalists will be ultimately required to demonstrate their idea as a working prototype, city officials said.

"People want to participate and make a difference in their community using their unique skills," said Jonathan Reichental, the city's chief information officer. "The apps competition is an exciting forum for that to happen. There is no doubt now that mobile devices are where the future of user computing will reside. We have to bring more government services to those devices and this competition will help to spur innovation and idea creation in this important area."

The city will announce the finalists on March 13. Finalists will display their work in progress for public and judges viewing on April 27. A showcase of the final prototype with judging and prizes takes place May 31, the 2nd Annual National Day of Civic Hacking. Updates are available at and on Twitter at


Like this comment
Posted by Bambi
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 24, 2014 at 10:47 am

Let the games begin! This should be an amazing family and fun event in the town that started it all!

Like this comment
Posted by randy albin
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 24, 2014 at 10:50 am

who would have thought that something like this would be going on? learn about the technology. once you're cooking, try to figure out how you can afford the cost of living. give this a try and see if you can figure these applications out

Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2014 at 11:13 am

I don't have the skills or time to build this app, but applaud the city for this open source call. As a "user" of local democracy, I would really like to see an app that allows citizens across town to participate remotely in city meetings in real time. Something that allows some data collection, too, so Council knows how many and why people are participating, can poll them, etc. and allows remote users to submit written or video comments. I'd like one of these for school board meetings, too!

I would really like a way for everyone to quietly let the Councilmember speaking know that no one buys what they are saying, effectively, a BS button every member of the public can press that will be tallied and if exceeds a certain level, will let that Councilmember know they should perhaps stop and think a moment or do a better job explaining. If they get buzzed again, they'll know to really rethink it. While such a truth-o-meter should not interrupt a meeting, it's results should be available minute by minute and relatable to the video and minutes afterwards. There should lso b an Amen-to-that button that lets members of the publc express a strong support, again, not disrupting the meeting, but quietly letting the member speaking know, and making the info available later. Perhaps only after a controversial matter has been hashed out? Don't know.

Someone spoke at a City meeting this year to say that other cities are already doing remote participation, so perhaps someone can take a look and give us something even better...

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Posted by APPropriate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2014 at 11:48 am

Great idea, but it does not ensure that the city council will listen to the residents any better than they do now. The real,problem, unaddressed, is that the powers that be appear to listen, then do the exact opposite of what the majority asks for.

Maybe, hopefully, they will respond better to an app, which is visual, than to words spoken to them at council meetings, which are auditory. Maybe they all have auditory processing problems and an app will get through to their brains better,

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm

How about an app to help visitors to the city find somewhere to park, particularly for more than 3 hours. They need to know where they can pay and where the empty spots are too.

How about an app to help us know about traffic delays on major arterials around the city.

How about an app to help us find our way around on public transit.

How about an easy way to find out about trash collection, street sweeping days.

I think this would be good for starters.

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Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2014 at 9:09 pm

In many countries, there are real time updates of where the buses are and when they will arrive...

Here, I can't just go to one place and get an idea of what my options are when I want to go somewhere on public transit...

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmmmmm
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 24, 2014 at 9:20 pm

Look like the city is still using the time card system.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2014 at 5:38 pm

On a day like today we could have an app telling us about flooded roadways and whether the creeks are likely to overflow. There are a lot more cars on the roads because people who normally bike are in cars. Technology could certainly be helpful on rainy days.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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