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Amazon finalists highlight city cloud innovation

Initiatives up for awards include the use of data to tackle the opioid crisis and homelessness, an open-data-powered Alexa service and an earthquake warning app.


Amazon has named the finalists in its 2019 City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge.


The sixth annual contest includes categories for constituent services, solving persistent problems, sustainability and equity, powered by AWS, dream big and public datasets.


The competition received more than 100 nominee use cases around how AWS customers are using the cloud to innovate and improve quality of life for citizens.


The competition received more than 100 nominee use cases around how AWS customers are using the cloud to innovate and improve quality of life for citizens.


Initiatives up for awards include the use of data to tackle the opioid crisis response and homelessness, an open-data-powered Alexa service and an earthquake warning app.


Winners will be announced at re:Invent during the AWS Worldwide Public Sector Breakfast on December 4. They will receive AWS promotional credits, training and support to use toward their projects.


The finalists are as follows:


Constituent services:

  • Broward County Library: Broward County Library’s (BCL) AWS DeepRacer Educational Cohort will teach people how to use artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning to deploy fully autonomous scale race cars.
  • The Carroll School: In collaboration with MIT, Carroll School researchers developed cognitive programmes that improve academic outcomes for children who struggle with learning to read.
  • City of Johns Creek, GA: The City of Johns Creek, Georgia, developed an automated call centre based on Amazon Connect that answers citizens’ phone calls using data from the city’s open data portal and an Amazon Lex bot.
  • NYC Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity: ACCESS NYC is a mobile-responsive web application that helps people identify, screen for and prepare to enrol in benefits.
  • City of Omaha: The Omaha Police Department has built a portal leveraging AWS for anonymous reporting, which will be implemented at mass scale for all the school districts within Douglas County. K12 students can report suicide risks, bullying/cyberbullying, drugs on campus and more.
  • Minnesota IT Services (partnering with MN Department of Health): An initiative to support the efficient distribution of medications during a public health emergency.
  • City of Los Angeles – Information Technology Agency: Application to warn citizens of imminent earthquakes.

Solving persistent problems:

  • Tyler Technologies on behalf of Virginia’s Framework for Addiction Analysis and Community Transformation: A secure data-sharing platform to help combat Virginia’s opioid addiction crisis. The platform, delivered by Qlarion in partnership with Socrata and AWS, combines previously siloed data from across different agencies and local organisations to generate insights about the contributing factors to opioid abuse and the most effective ways for communities to respond.
  • West Virginia State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force: A web application that provides tools and support to assist law enforcement investigating suspected child predators.
  • Homeless Network of Texas: A Homeless Data Sharing Network that will allow different homeless crisis response systems and social service providers to communicate and coordinate resources to house people and better understand the nature of homelessness across Texas.
  • Community Solutions: Working with AWS and Tableau, Community Solutions is helping 84 communities use the data they collect to inform their work to end homelessness and track results.
  • Baltimore, Maryland: Mayor’s Office of Homelessness Services: The digital wallet is a web-based platform where citizens, specifically people experiencing homelessness or housing instability, could safely and securely store, retrieve and share vital records as an alternative to physically storing or carrying documents.
  • Baltimore City Health Department: Using data-based predictions to reduce mortality in Baltimore.
  • Reliance eHealth Collaborative: Community-designed social determinants screening platform.

Sustainability and equity:

  • Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW): The proposed project seeks to expand the YH2O Youth Mentorship Program through the introduction of an IT component and its application within the water industry to combat environmental injustice.
  • Face-to-Face Integrated Technologies: The Face-to-Face (F2F) Child Welfare Data System was created to support Indian Child Welfare Agencies in meeting federal data reporting requirements.
  • DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority: The DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (HBX) works with local organisations to conduct in-person outreach with underserved and uninsured citizens. Using the AWS Cloud, DC implemented open-source Moodle training tools to develop culturally relevant training modules for partners, while saving HBX tens of thousands of dollars in software licencing fees annually.

Powered by AWS:

  • Passport: Passport provides a mobility management platform that is the central control hub for a city’s transportation environment.
  • Atlas One: A universal public safety communication app which allows data to be sent to places, rather than people or groups. An API allows any smart city sensor, platform or 5G IoT device to automatically geo-fence alerts to specific locations during an emergency.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Space Systems Laboratory: STEM competition programming ISS satellites using AWS.
  • Utility Associates: Active Shooter Response Technology (ASRT) provides real-time alerts of the location of gunshots. The AWS Cloud and ASRT ultrasound waveform AI processing can further identify gunshot signature metadata, such as gun type and calibre. Police and school administrators can immediately respond.
  • Iteris, Inc.: ClearGuide: A web-based, AWS Cloud-hosted service used by agencies across North America to prioritise signal timing, perform before and after studies, and to perform maintenance of traffic during construction and special events.
  • Democracy Live: AWS-hosted OmniBallot is the largest online balloting platform in the US. Serving over 400 federal, state and local jurisdictions, OmniBallot delivered online balloting in over 1,000 elections to millions of voters in the US.
  • VoiceXP and State of New Hampshire Elections: The State of New Hampshire’s elections used VoiceXP to build a first-of-its-kind Alexa skill that helps voters get information about polling places, absentee ballots, overseas and uniformed military process, and more.

Dream big:

  • biLAB at New York University: Project aiming to develop an automated approach for quantifying human perception towards urban environments and their restorative capabilities.
  • Vrain Valley Schools: St. Vrain’s vision is to empower students to become the next generation of tech leaders in shortage areas such as AI and cybersecurity. AWS will serve as the central technology of St. Vrain’s new AI and cybersecurity hub.
  • City of Virginia Beach, Virginia: The Virginia Beach Open Data portal is built on AWS and designed to create a central repository and user-driven analytics capabilities for data published by the City of Virginia Beach.
  • Minnesota IT services partnering with the Minnesota Department Of Health: Using AI and machine learning to transform manual business processes.
  • C2SMART, New York University: Pedestrian safety analysis leveraging large-scale NYCDOT cameras.
  • Circuit Attorney Office, City of St. Louis: Early-warning crime prevention and intervention app.
  • City of Detroit: Using the Miovision TrafficLink Intelligent Traffic System platform, Detroit can connect to existing analogue signal equipment and add connectivity and intelligence, enabling it to more efficiently measure and manage traffic.

Public datasets:

  • Louisville, Kentucky City Government: Multi-city data analysis of dockless mobility open data to determine latent mobility demand across any city, including low-income and underserved areas.
  • City of Boston: Boston’s open data portal, Analyze Boston, is run on Amazon S3.

Past winners of the challenge have included City of Johns Creek, which used Alexa to communicate issues throughout the city and the District of Columbia Health Benefit Exchange Authority, which was the first state-based marketplace to migrate from traditional data centres to an agile, cloud-based model using open-source code.


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