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In Henderson, problem solving goes high-tech

Updated April 6, 2019 - 2:04 pm

Henderson is going high-tech to solve some vexing city problems.

Last year, the city was one of three Southern Nevada agencies chosen to participate in Startup in Residence, a program developed by the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation that is dedicated to pairing tech companies with governments.

It’s an effort that Henderson’s Startup in Residence project manager Claire South said benefits both the city and the participating companies.

“We’re helping them build something and then they’re also helping us with our problems,” South said.

In December, the city picked five tech startups to address various challenges, such as predicting traffic impacts for new developments and tracking the deployment of traffic barricades.

Henderson brought in Dilli Labs to create Amazon Alexa voice commands for city information, UrbanLogiq to work on a program that predicts traffic impacts of new developments, On Point Barricade to track when traffic lanes are closed by barricades, SacTown Interactive to develop a game app to encourage kids to walk, and APPCityLife to develop a Henderson smartphone app.

The program is part of a larger effort to boost the use of technology in Henderson, South said.

It’s a good deal for the city, which does not pay the companies up front for their work, but does give them access to city resources during the development phase.

After a 16-week pilot program, the companies have the chance to secure a contract with Henderson. The city’s pilot period will end in May.

South said the city only brought in companies it had the budget to hire if it wanted to at the end of the 16-week period.

If a project does not work out for the city, South said the companies will have the benefit of having a product to pitch elsewhere. And Henderson may try to help contracted companies relocate to the city, she said.

Piyush Hari, principal of Dilli Labs, said the company is using Amazon Alexa to give residents access to information without having to look at a phone or computer.

If rolled out completely, residents would be able to get answers to their questions read to them directly from Henderson’s website, saving the time of scouring the city’s homepage for information.

The program works with several city departments, including police, the city jail, animal control and development services, Hari said.

It’s a development that he said will significantly reduce the amount of time it takes residents to find information about the city.

Hari’s product has the capability to autofill forms with residents’ information, but whether that service will be used has not been determined.

Dilli Labs’ technology will also be able to alert residents to emergency updates when the city tweets about them. The project would also give a digest of upcoming events in the city upon request, and tell residents to when public meetings will be held.

On Point Barricade is the only local startup to join the program. A collaborative effort by Nicholas Spindel, Megan Collins and Tom Mueller, the app will track the placement of road barricades in real time.

The city wants it for accounting and accountability to make sure vendors are setting things up properly and shutting down in time, Spindel said.

A construction company working in Henderson will be able to use the app to pinpoint exactly where they are doing roadwork and how many lanes are closed while they finish the job. Currently, the city manually tracks this information, Spindel said.

The data collected in the app could eventually be integrated with navigation apps, Spindel said.

“That’s going to be phase 2,” he said. “We don’t do that just yet. Right now we’re focused on what the city wants to help improve their systems.”

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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