The NTx Apps Challenge Hopes To Save Resources One App At A Time.

Right now North Texas is considered one of the fastest growing regions in the United States. That's not hyperbole, either. Currently the region is home to over “6.5 million residents, more than 30 colleges and universities and the headquarters of 18 Fortune 500 companies.” With growth comes an influx of people carrying new ideas, opportunities, and possible business that will hopefully make North Texas a better place.

With an estimated population increase of six million over the next 50 years, one has to think about sustainability.

“They're not going to be bringing their own own electricity, and they're not going to be bringing their own water,” says Robert Kent, Director of Public Policy for the North Texas Commission.

The North Texas Commission is a regional non-profit that was founded in 1971 to improve economic vitality, infrastructure and lifestyle of North Texas.

It's also the organization that's behind the NTx Apps Challenge, which had its kick-off event yesterday evening. This three-month challenge targets both developers and entrepreneurs to team up and take on some of the problems facing North Texas and it's resources. These problems are boiled down into four “Verticals”: one for water conservation, one for waste and recycling, one for smart energy, and one for alternative fuel vehicles. Any team can choose one of these four verticals to tackle with a $10,000 cash prize for the best app developed. There's an additional $10,000 for the best app in each category, with a possible follow-up fund of up to another $10,000 for continued development for the app.

Each team gets a mentor from a local company and could even win more money by having best utilized the technologies required for the Internet of Things Challenge Horizontal. But, as Kent likes to emphasize, this challenge is meant to attract more than just developers.

“At our kick-off event last night, Calvin Carter, the CEO of Bottle Rocket, had this great slide about why mobile is such a powerful tool,” Kent says. “One of the things we talked about was how mobile allowed us to take big problems and make them small through this incredibly powerful tool you have, which is a little computer in your pocket, your iPhone or Android phone.”

So why should the average North Texas resident care? Simple, says Kent: the apps created by the challenge will hopefully not only save the region's natural resources, but also save money for its residents as well.

“We sense that there is a huge market opportunity out there to save energy, to save water because at the end of the day those things cost us money,” Kent says. “Look at Nest, that smart thermostat that’s all the rage right now. When you consider the Nest service app, people who use it are not necessarily environmentally conscious, they get it because it’s a cool product that saves them money. We want to create apps that are cool products to help the users save money. We think that’s what’s going to drive toward use to these solutions, and not because they’re doing it for a certain moral reason.”

Tomorrow the real work starts for the teams that have accepted the challenge, and by October 17th, the winning apps will be announced.

In the meantime, teams of North Texans will be busy trying to take matters into their hands in their attempts to develop solutions to problems local governments don't necessarily have the time or resources to get around to.

Says Kent: “We think that a mobile solution helps basically democratize the solution to these problems. Through the mobile app, instead of waiting on the city to solve these problems, instead of waiting on the businesses to solve these problems, it allows the individual to solve these problems.”

Cover photo via WikiCommons.

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