Hack the Beach

Hack the Beach, Santa Monica’s four-month-long civic innovation competition, will reach its climax Thursday evening at the State of the City event when a winner will be announced from one of seven finalists.

Thursday’s event is the culmination of the contest, which kicked off in October, designed to tap the brainpower of Silicon Beach for innovative ways to improve Santa Monica in three categories: Civic Engagement, Community, and Mobility.

“The Chamber is thrilled to have partnered with the City and our Tech Community in developing Hack the Beach: The Contest,” said Carl Hansen, director of Government Affairs for the Chamber. The seven finalists were chosen in November and have been given “behind the scenes access to city staff experts” to help incubate their ideas, he said.

Proposals ranged from a new water-borne transit system to a digital Town Hall to a web-based platform that allows users to submit important paperwork to the city digitally and receive real-time feedback from officials. A panel of judges heard all seven finalists pitch their ideas on Monday before they adjourned to make their final decision.

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“As a result, we saw some incredibly inspiring pitches at our Finish Line event earlier this week, and the judges had a very difficult time narrowing it down to just a single winner,” Hansen said. “Indeed, we expect to see great success from more than just our winner.”

And what’s in it for the winner (besides making the world a better place, of course)?

According to the Hack the Beach website: “Prizes will be awarded for the best ideas, including bringing you and your entire team out on stage at the 2016 Twilight Concert Series, loads of PR, mentorship and coaching from local accelerators, and more.”

Below are brief descriptions of each of the seven finalists.

Ocean Ray: This project proposes a coastal ferry system that would connect Santa Monica to Malibu, the South Bay, and other communities along the Santa Monica Bay coastline. According to Ocean Ray’s website, “Ocean Ray will connect Southern California’s coastal cities using a fleet of modern ocean vessels selected for their safety, efficiency, speed, and comfort. Launching from the Santa Monica Pier, at the end of the Expo line, our service will grow over the next 5 years to connect commuters, residents, and visitors with destinations as far north as Oxnard and as far south as Orange County, with stops in Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice,  Marina Del Rey, Redondo Beach and Long Beach.”

Synaccord: This is an online public forum for civic — and, hopefully civil — discourse. The idea is that there is an internal policing of comments by the users, who can flag inappropriate comments and vote ideas they like up — or the ones they don’t down. From Synaccord’s website: “The place for everyone to get together online to participate in the fair and balanced pursuit of solutions that unite us to our democratic challenges.”

Cityholla: This app connects users city services they may not have known existed. According to the website, the app would solicit responses from users about what they like to do: “We use data science to match your answers to event tags based on continuous confidence thresholds of your preferences.” Then, the app would make recommendations based on your interests from events it gets from publicly posted calendars, like the one on the city’s website.

Citygrows: This is something for anyone who has had to physically go to City Hall to fill out a permit or other paperwork and wondered why the process couldn’t somehow be easier. Citygrows is an online platform that digitizes and streamlines the city’s permitting and application processes. It allows for real-time feedback and updates on your paperwork status from city officials via dashboards.

Anyway: This is a rideshare app that specifically targets people commuting to and from work. It looks it falls somewhere between a digital bulletin board and a Transportation Networking Company, like Lyft and Uber. It does promise much cheaper rates, however.

MassKnowtify: This is an app that uses GPS to deliver tailored notifications about events, alerts, and other happenings in a user’s community. According to the site, it allows users to pick what type of notifications they are interested in seeing, whether it be alerts related to police and fire calls for service, public transit issues, recreation related notifications, or others.

LA Street Park: This is an app that lets drivers use their phone to see where it is legal — and where it is not — to park their cars, based on the existing signage. Part of the pitch is that by giving people reliable information about where they can park, it cuts down on traffic by preventing them from cruising for parking, which is, in fact, a major contributor to traffic.

Lots of potentially interesting concepts here, but just like Highlander, there can be only one. Make sure to attend tomorrow’s State of the City event to find out. Or, we will probably write about it here, too.