SXSW 2019: Civic-Minded Startups Compete for Mayors' Votes

Innovators got the chance to pitch their tech ideas to mayors from across the country for a $10,000 prize on March 10 during the Civic I/O Mayors' Summit at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

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AUSTIN, TEXAS — Local governments are increasingly turning to startups with new ideas to meet the demands of citizens. While some needs go largely unrecognized until a solution presents itself, others are more front and center.

Take for example a new approach to the mental health crisis in policing or a way to accurately measure whether tenants are provided adequate heat in apartments during the winter months. These and other ideas were pitched to a panel of U.S. mayors for a $10,000 check at the Civic I/O Mayors Summit at SXSW on Sunday, March 10.

Click through for a look at the entries and the ultimate winner.

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The pitch from San Marcos, Texas-based Augmented Training Systems focused on improving the daily mission of first responders, specifically where training is involved. CEO Scott Smith said the augmented and virtual reality solutions were designed to allow personnel training wherever and whenever, all while reducing costs to departments. As it stands, training is costly, and requires overtime and substantial coordination.

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To address the issue of landlords not providing adequate heat to their tenants, New York City-based Heat Seek relies on heat sensors to provide irrefutable proof of deficits. Executive Director Noelle Francois explained at-risk tenants often rely on patchy personal records when issues are finally taken to court. A lack of access to heat or air conditioning continues to prove deadly for certain groups.

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Bloc founder Amina Yamusah pitched the mayors on using automation to bolster the workforce through the use of artificial intelligence and software. The goal, Yamusah said, is to use the technology that could potentially displace workers to improve training and ease entry into the workforce.

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Machine learning algorithms and software are behind ODN’s crash-prediction technology. CEO and founder Carey Anne Nadeau said the technology can help government visualize where citizens are most at risk of traffic accidents in real time.

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And the Winner Is… 

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The winning pitch came from Cloud 9 founder Dr. Elizabeth Truong and centered on a mobile application to help police, fire and EMS personnel better respond to mental health crises. Through a mesh software network, first responders are able to remotely connect with clinicians from the field, as well as access pertinent information about the individuals they are interacting with. The solution, according to Truong, is substantially cheaper than sending clinicians into the field with officers.

Eyragon Eidam is the Web editor for Government Technology magazine, after previously serving as assistant news editor and covering such topics as legislation, social media and public safety. He can be reached at eeidam@erepublic.com.