One of New Brunswick’s tech stars is still the Ultimate Geek.
Shawn Peterson received the honour for the second year in a row on Tuesday night at Toronto’s GeekFest – an innovation competition that pitted him against 11 other finalists.
GeekFest is run by T4G, a Toronto-based IT consultancy with offices in Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton.
The 28-year-old IT consultant from Saint John walked away with $10,000, winning for his work on the app Touroff – a mobile platform for downloadable walking tours of cities.
“We were going to these different communities and having people show us around,” said Peterson. “It just struck me how great of an experience that was, and it got me thinking: why can’t I get that same experience wherever I go?”
Peterson said the content of the tours will be supplied by third parties, and will be a mix of user-created free tours and paid tours run by professional operators.
“It’s like how you would go purchase an app on your phone,” said Peterson. “You can find free apps; you can find premium apps. This should be a similar concept.”
He said he hopes to get a working prototype of the app ready within the next few months.
Touroff is currently available solely on its website, where only a handful of local tours are available.
Peterson said a major advantage the app will have over the website is that tours can be available offline.
“If you’re travelling somewhere where roaming fees might be an issue, you can download the tours in advance,” said Peterson.
“You’ll also be able to utilize the GPS on the mobile device,” he added. “It’ll be really good at knowing where you are and where the next point in the tour is and providing directions to guide you to that point.”
Peterson said he hopes to produce a “nice and polished” app by the end of 2013, when tours will also be made available in more than 40 different languages.
Peterson added that he hopes to eventually make the app available on all three major mobile platforms – Android, BlackBerry and iOS – but the prototype will only be for one. He hasn’t decided which one yet, but he said it will be a toss-up between Android and iOS.
The top three – chosen by judges from the 12 finalists – present their ideas to an invite-only crowd of about 300, who then vote for the winner.
The runner-ups were Michael Heyd with Pic N Pay, a self-service shopping app, and James Craig with PromoDealz, a digital retail app. All of the top three will have their ideas further explored by T4G with potential for future development.
via telegraphjournal.com (written by Ethan Lou)
I will be there to show off my idea TourOff.com.
We met some amazing people in the various communities who took us in and showed us around – from their point of view. The experience was fantastic, and it got me thinking – why can’t I access this type of experience when I travel and visit new places?
TourOff.com is focused on providing a common platform for people to create and share digital tours, as well as a cross-platform App to take tours.
For tour operators and marketing organizations, the platform offers eCommerce support (to allow selling tours online) as well as custom branding options (to allow a unique look/feel for their tours).
With this platform, anyone can create and share their tours – offering unique perspectives and experiences to newcomers. With the technology costs removed, even small communities can offer a fantastic digital experience – allowing their stories to live on.
If you are unable to be at the event tonight, don’t worry – you can view the prototype from any device:
More information about the event can be found here: http://geekfest.t4g.com
While it’s a fully functional responsive website that users can access to see the idea – it’s only the tip of the iceberg (in terms of actual work) when you look back on the project as a whole.
I won’t go into details on the actual solution (as it could be re-written in any number of languages and platforms).
I will, however, share some details and tips that lead me to this point.
Validate, validate, validate
Once again, validating the concept/idea has been the biggest part of this project.
Most of my time early on was spent meeting with local groups and individuals in the tourism sector – especially those involved in creating, marketing, and selling tours. Many meetings with lots of coffee (and a few lattes). The key is getting outside of the office to talk to people.
I’ve also been surveying potential end users, and finding some pretty interesting information – specifically the type of content they are looking for and how much they would pay for it.
Understanding what was involved in creating and marketing the tours helped identify the type of platform that would help these users promote their communities. Understanding the business challenges of the tour operators and marketing organizations helped drive the business model.
While some details continue change on a daily basis – the idea is starting to take shape; however, it’s ready to pivot at any time to meet the needs of the users. I’m even flexible on the domain name.
You should talk to…
The biggest benefit I’ve had has come though talking about the idea with anyone who will listen.
In addition to getting great feedback/suggestions; I usually get a reference or introduction to someone else who may be able to help.
Here are a few examples:
- Discover Saint John (our local DMO) was very helpful in understanding the market conditions – as well as providing the contact for three walking tours in Uptown Saint John.
- By talking to others within T4G, I was put in touch with other walking tour advocates. The Moncton Heritage Tour was added after talking to a T4G spouse working for the City of Moncton!
- Another T4G lead put me in touch with a senior contact with Microsoft Canada. After a variety of emails and phone calls, he helped me narrow down and implement the translation component – even offering to get me in touch with the team working on it.
- Enterprise Saint John (our local economic development agency), helped arrange meetings with various agencies to discuss funding options. They also helped setup a meeting with a tourism company, who we are working with now as an Early Adopter – helping us narrow down the business model.
- Another T4G lead put me in touch with a lean development company in Fredericton that is doing some amazing prototyping for local start-ups They are interested in helping create the MVC app (minimum viable product) at a cost that makes sense for us!
- After receiving a lead about NBCC, a phone call lead me to an instructor at NBCC St. Andrews who helped arrange adding a walking tour that one of her students created. The class took the guided tour (with some checking out the digital version on their phones as they went).
- By talking about the idea on Twitter, I was able to receive a fantastic logo. Another interested person asked about creating a Boutique Shopping Tour. After sending along the content, I added it to the site where it has received a great deal of traffic and interest.
The point I’m trying to make is there isn’t anything overly special about the TourOff.com solution (in terms of design or code).
The real opportunity is created from identifying challenges faced by businesses, individuals, and groups. Talking to them helps determine the solution; however, it has to be supported by the business case. That’s what makes this special.
TourOff.com has done the homework. We have a proposed a solution with a solid business case, and we will be at T4G’s Geekfest Event to pitch to the judges (and hopefully present to the audience) on Tuesday night.
Follow along on Twitter at: #t4ggeekfest.
Check out the site: http://touroff.com!
What exactly is Geekfest you might ask?
GeekFest is T4G’s annual showcase of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurialism.
GeekFest is T4G’s preeminent Ideas Competition where the ongoing efforts of our most talented employees and teams are featured in a competitive arena ending on the final stage where the TOP 3 teams present their ideas to the crowd, each team, hoping to win the grand prize of $10,000! And YOU get to watch the whole thing! Wrap that up in the grandeur of the MaRS Centre at The University of Toronto, and you have an evening that you won’t soon forget.
Our goal for 2013 is to light a fire under our ongoing innovation efforts and give our employees a chance to show off their skills and passions. It’s an open playing field for new ideas, new takes on old ones, and all-around geekiness! Bring your pocket protectors!
GeekFest is also a gathering of our friends, our customers and our partners. It’s not a dog-and-pony show with everyone suit-and-tied and on their best behaviour. It’s a casual chance to come together and share and discuss ideas. GeekFest will be a success if everybody goes back to their jobs the next morning a little more fired up than usual!
This year, I have been working on an idea that has made it into the top 13 for the event this year.
My idea is TourOff.com – a platform for creating, accessing, and selling digital audio tours. The goal is to disrupt the traditional tourism industry.
There are lots of exciting things happening right now with this idea – so stay tuned for updates.
Until then, cross your fingers, and wish me luck!
The article features Geoff Flood, President of T4G Limited, and Larry Sampson, CEO of the New Brunswick Information Technology Council, talking about the potential for Big Data and the idea of a Data Science Centre of Excellence.
From Facebook posts to Tweets to mobile news updates, we live in a world of constantly flowing data and information.
Much of that data is useless, of course. But much of it is extremely valuable.
Yet drawing out the important bits is akin to drinking from an ever-growing fire hose: the flow of data is overwhelming.
“It’s coming from all directions, all the time. We’re talking about an exponential increase in volume,” says Saint John technology entrepreneur Geoff Flood.
“It’s like nothing we’ve seen before,” he adds. “The sheer volume of data requires a different approach to managing it and analyzing it and interpreting it.”
The sector focused on harnessing and filtering that wave of information is called “Big Data”. And it’s a sector Flood believes Atlantic Canada is well positioned to gain from.
That’s why his technology firm, T4G, is the lead sponsor of the upcoming Big Data Congress. To be held Jan. 24 in Saint John, the conference will bring together national delegates from the business sector, government and academia. It will also feature leading authorities on the future of Big Data. Among the speakers will be Andrew McAfee, a best-selling author and principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Digital Business.
“The primary objective of the conference is to help people see the potential,” says Larry Sampson, CEO of the New Brunswick Information Technology Council, a co-organizer of the event.
“Big Data is a means of capturing and parsing and dealing with vast amounts of data… so that we can leverage that information to improve the quality of our lives and the performance of businesses.”
As Sampson notes, Big Data is an emerging field within the computer science world – one with the potential to alter many aspects of society, from business to health care.
It’s also a field that New Brunswick is familiar with. Radian6, the province’s best-known technology company, rose to fame – and later fortune – by helping Fortune 500 companies see what’s being said about them online.
More recently, the province’s main tech startup accelerator – Launch36 – helped develop LeadSift. The startup, which recently raised $1.1 million from investors, sifts through reams of Twitter data to generate sales leads for companies.
And the potential for further Big Data job creation is immense.
According to Gartner, a technology research firm, 4.4 million jobs will be created worldwide by 2015 as companies work to harness and filter the Big Data deluge.
Atlantic Canada, argues Geoff Flood, must work cooperatively to ensure many of those jobs are created locally.
That will require universities to provide proper training for mathematicians and analysts. Governments must also embrace the opportunities presented by Big Data.
As well, Flood is hoping the Big Data Congress will lead to the creation of a Data Science Centre of Excellence – to unite the public, private and academic sectors.
“This is something we can pursue. It just requires a commitment and an alignment across government, academia and industry,” he said.
“There’s no reason why we can’t do this here. We have as much opportunity as anybody.”
via telegraphjournal.com (written by Quentin Casey)
Learn more about the event at leadingthinkers.t4g.com!
How I See The Opportunity
Why is this such a BIG deal to us in New Brunswick – and especially in Saint John?
Big Data is a huge (and growing) opportunity and we are well positioned to take advantage of it.
In Saint John, ICT (Information Communications and Technology) is one of the high-growth sectors identified in True Growth 2.0, our recently revised Regional Economic Development Strategy. I was honoured to be a member of the volunteer Steering Committee that spent four months interviewing community leaders to figure out how to renew and update Saint John’s regional development strategy. During those conversations, big data came up a lot – and not just with traditional ICT companies. Everyone is grappling with figuring out how to manage data, including how to create a workforce ready to meet this growing need. That’s why a Centre of Excellence makes so much sense to a growing number of people.
That’s why it’s so fitting the Big Data Congress take place in Saint John at Port Saint John’s two cruise terminals, overlooking the Bay of Fundy. This is the same location where a single cruise ship, redirected here due to a hurricane, ignited the idea of a cruise ship industry in Saint John. Since that time, we have welcomed over 1.5 million visitors – boosting the tourism sector in our region and across the province.
This event can be the same type of catalyst – learning from leading thinkers, identifying opportunities, and spurring action to move forward.
I hope you can attend and be part of this initiative!
Information is being frequently updated on the Leading Thinkers website:
Big opportunity. Big ideas. Big data.
T4G and the NBITC invite you to spend the day with some of North America’s leading Big Data thinkers, doers, and innovators on January 24th, 2013 in Saint John, New Brunswick. Data science is driving economic and technological change and the implications are limitless for the private and public sector.
Join us as we bring together Atlantic Canada’s emerging data science innovators with some of North America’s leading thinkers and doers for a day of open conversation to explore what big data means for us, our communities, and how it can reshape your business.
A trio of big data thinkers headline the Congress.
- Breakfast keynote: MIT researcher and author Andrew McAfee (Race Against the Machine; Enterprise 2.0)
- Lunch keynote: Harvard lecturer and Deloitte Analytics senior advisor Tom Davenport (Judgment Calls; Analytics at Work)
- Closing keynote: Wired contributing editor Steven B. Johnson (Future Perfect; Everything Bad is Good for You)
The Big Data Congress also features breakout sessions, workshops, a Big Data Kitchen Party, a Maritime dinner feast and a closing concert with award-winning Canadian rockers Joel Plaskett Emergency.
via Leading Thinkers
If you are interested in attending, sponsoring, or just looking for more information – please contact me!
Related Big Data Articles
Well, we actually did it (after many lunch hour practices) – and it turned out to be a very fun evening!
Not only did we get a chance to perform at the event, we also managed to raise over $16,000 for MindCare NB.
Want to check out our performance? See the video below that was shot by a co-worker at the event.
Who says technology companies can’t dance?
The Village People are back (in spirit)
They’re supporting MindCare New Brunswick. And we need your help.
There is this really fun and energetic event planned for Friday, November 16th at the Saint John Trade and Convention Center (Picture a 1970’s disco themed night). It’s an old fashioned Variety Show and the Stars of the show include all local talent and folks that you know! A sample of the acts include Andrew and Leslie Oland as Sonny and Cher, Mel Norton and Paul Zed as the Blues Brothers, Susan Barry is with a large singing and dancing ladies group, and a team from T4G representing the Village People
T4G’s macho-macho men include Mike Alexander, David Baxter, Shawn Peterson, Mark Ryan, Scott Anderson, and Matt Humphreys. They be trading in their smartphones, laptops, and servers for iconic costumes and microphones as they transform into the Village People to raise funds and awareness for mental health care in New Brunswick.
Expect classic hits like “YMCA, Macho Men, and In the Navy as we support an outstanding organization, MindCare New Brunswick.
Mental health illnesses affect, directly or indirectly, every single Canadian. MindCare is the only organization in New Brunswick dedicated to research, education, and outreach for mental health issues. T4G and Innovatia want to rally Atlantic Canada’s IT community around this important cause.
Here’s how you can help:
- Join us at the event: Tickets are $125 and your amusement and entertainment are guaranteed. Just contact me and I will secure your tickets. You will receive a receipt of $80 for your contribution.
- Individual Donations: Visit the Team’s donation page and make an individual contribution to MindCare and team Village People if you aren’t able to make the event. You will receive a receipt for your full donation.
Thank you for your support of this fun and important event in Saint John. There will be drinks, hors d’oeuvres, mingling, singing, and dancing and lots of fun for a great cause!
Kurt Peacock’s latest article appeared in today’s Telegraph-Journal and it features some great points on Open Data:
Saint John is now officially an intelligent community, at least according to the latest world competition organized by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum. I can think of no better way to celebrate than to order in some pizza and hold a civic hack-a-thon.
I state this because I’ve actually attended one of these events before. Bringing together public policy researchers with computer programmers, a civic hack-a-thon is meant to reinvent government – by harnessing the data processing speed of computer technology, and creating open collaboration between citizens and civil servants. Civic hack-a-thons have been a vital component of the growing open government movement across North America, and have been welcomed by mayors from New York to San Francisco.
The hack-a-thon I attended was actually held in Fredericton a few months ago, and was organized by T4G, the innovative tech firm with a talented New Brunswick workforce. I was invited to the event by Shawn Peterson, the T4G tech wizard who revolutionized the way New Brunswickers looked at their property tax assessments, through the construction of his very userfriendly Propertize website.
I asked Peterson (via Twitter – we live in a digital age) how the city should translate intelligent community status into something tangible for city taxpayers. His response, in 140 characters or less? Order the pizza, and start the Saint John hack-a-thon now.
“I think the best thing we can do is show government how we can save money and provide good services without them needing to do it,” noted Peterson. In another tweet, the Propertize founder emphasized how easy access to government data was critical to citizen-led innovation: “The best way to encourage them is to start opening up data. Besides some obviously confidential or personal data, most could go live anytime!” Given the enthusiasm of local hackers like Peterson, Saint John is certainly ready to hold its own open-data pizza party. But before it does this, city hall should open up its mountain of administrative data from city agencies and commissions. The data that could be made available for examination is potentially endless: hourly attendance at city rinks or the Canada Games Aquatic Centre, the number of passengers on different bus routes, the amount of parking violations issued or the number and location of 911 emergency calls could all be looked at.
Under open government, the more data points made available, the more likely that public policy could be improved. A bunch of kids manipulating spreadsheets and making Google maps can in turn translate into the discovery of real efficiencies for taxpayers.
Of course, city hall undertakes some initiatives right now (in policing, and energy management) that show it’s ripe to host a hack-a-thon. Now that we’re branded as intelligent, let’s build on this momentum, and extend it to every cost driver. Some have talked about developing a more robust fleet management policy, policed by common council. Why not simply attach GPS locators on all city vehicles, so city taxpayers can click on a website, and find out where the cars are parked any hour of the day or night?
For more “smart city” ideas, I turned to Craig Allen, one of the architects of the online #livelifeuptown movement. His advice? Continue the online conversation, something that Allen suggests has made the city the “social media capital of the Maritimes.” Naturally, Allen wants to see city hall embrace social media much more than it does now:
“I’d love to see city hall dive even further into two-way communication aspects of the medium by encouraging all employees to use social media to listen & collaborate with citizens I’d love to see a steady flow of information out of city departments such as tourism, arts and recreation.” Allen also argued for more city focus on the app economy, including some QR code content on city landmarks. His most far-out idea?
A Saint John foghorn app for smartphones.
“How fun would it be to offer that free download to visitors on a foggy day?” asked Allen.”Can someone please build this? Perhaps we should have a contest.” If this ever gets built, I’d upgrade my cellphone to get it. Stuck in uptown fog? There’s an app for that.