RALEIGH – The ancient Greek adage goes, “The only constant in life is change”.  New technologies are discovered.  Businesses rise and fall.  Trends in fashion, dining, music and arts flow in many different directions.  But some areas of our society, by necessity, remain fairly constant.

Most local government services must operate at full capacity 24/7/365.  It is not acceptable for our emergency 911 services to suddenly be offline.  Or for the fire department to take a day off.  We painfully feel any interruption in transportation services, in utilities or public health.  The simple need of our government to provide stable, high quality and persistent services leads to a “don’t fix what isn’t broken” mentality.  Government by nature, is risk averse.  In other words, don’t change.

But it is important to modernize services and bring new technologies and approaches into government.  The Cities of Raleigh and Cary are taking a novel approach to striking the balance of maintaining steady services, while also experimenting and taking risks.  In partnership with RIoT, Google Fiber, US Ignite and other partners, they launched RIoT Your Reality to crowdsource new technology solutions from across the US and Canada.

Internet of Things development group RIoT expanding to Virginia, Colorado

Entrepreneurs and startups were challenged to submit ideas for how Augmented Reality could apply to problem statements defined by the cities.  Major focus areas include Workforce Development, Tourism and Equity & Inclusion for city services.

Earlier this week, the top 17 ideas were presented in a pitch style competition (video) to secure prototyping funding to build a proof-of-concept solution.  Six teams are awarded $1,000 each to build an AR prototype that will be demonstrated at a final competition on July 27th.  The winner of that competition will receive an additional $34,000 in prize money and a spot in the RIoT Accelerator Program, with the dual goal to run a municipal pilot project and explore how to scale a company to serve cities across the US and beyond.

Six teams that have advanced to the prototyping sprint stage are:

  • BlueCareer – AR course modules for solar industry training and certification
  • CyreneQ – AR learning tools on social media platforms that increase student engagement, interaction and fun
  • R-Town – Unlocks the history of Raleigh via walkable and R-line busable AR experiences
  • LiRA – Improves communication for voice-impaired people and in noisy environments by translating lip motions to text
  • NatureXR – Development tool to plan and build water gardens for storm/rainwater management
  • An Unconventional Raleigh-ty – A modern day  storytelling adventure of the ‘City of Oaks’ within the walls of Raleigh’s Convention Center

Humans have augmented themselves for years with technology.  Eyeglasses and Hearing Aids augment and improve our senses.  Vitamins augment our diet.  Augmented Reality is the addition of visual data onto the real world that we see through our glasses or on our device screens.  It is very cool to see our local government augmenting their own innovation processes with advanced technologies and the power of the crowd.  Maintaining operations while taking innovative risks on a parallel path.  Enabling change.

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