Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 25, 2011


Host: Ted Simons

Downtown Smart App


  • Students from Arizona State University’s Cronkite New Media Innovation Lab have developed a smart app to help people navigate attractions and businesses in downtown Phoenix. Lab director Retha Hill will talk about the new smart app.
Guests:
  • Retha Hill - Director, ASU New Media Innovation Lab
Category: Education   |   Keywords: downtown, technology, ASU,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Students from ASU’s Cronkite New Media Innovation Lab have developed a smart app to help people navigate attractions and business in downtown Phoenix. I recently talked to lab director Retha Hill about this new application's applications. Thank you so much for joining us tonight on "Horizon."



Retha Hill: Thank you for having me.



Ted Simons: The smart Phoenix app. What are we talking about here?



Retha Hill: We're talking about a city guide just for downtown Phoenix. So we're talking about the area between 7th Avenue to the west, 7th Street to the east, from Roosevelt to the north, all the way down to the stadiums.



Ted Simons: And how does it work? You press on the app and it takes you to where? I think we have graphics here to show the home page, and where we go from there.



Retha Hill: Right. It's a mobile web application, so basically you press on the app, you pull up the application, and you can search for dining, for events, for arts and culture, for sports events. For shopping, whatever it is you might be looking for, but just in downtown Phoenix.



Ted Simons: We're looking at the dining section right here, and I believe arts and culture is another one that's on there. You basically have all these options, then, to find out what's happening in downtown Phoenix. Including what's happening at Cityscape and maybe some deals that are going on as well.



Retha Hill: Exactly. What we wanted with to show people is that there is a lot going on in downtown Phoenix, but I think a lot of people don't know. Because they still think of downtown Phoenix from perhaps 10 years ago, when it was a sleepy little area. And that much -- not much was happening. Now from the Suns playing, to great dining, to events happening at Cityscape, there's a lot going on.



Ted Simons: Kind of like a concierge thing for lack after better term?



Retha Hill: Exactly. When we were building this app we thought of it as a concierge app. The same way you would go to a concierge at a hotel and ask, what's there to do in Downtown? Where should I eat? What's a nice place for a romantic dinner? We tried to think of all of those things and incorporate that into the app.



Ted Simons: Who helped you think of these things, or who asked you to think of these things? It sounds like the folks at Cityscape were involved.



Retha Hill: Cityscape wanted us create a way to help people to connect to downtown Phoenix. There's a lot of students, and other people down here, but they were like, how do we get people to not just come to Cityscape, but to explore everything there is to do in Downtown, and after talking to a ton of people, we felt a mobile application would be the best way to go.



Ted Simons: Is it designed for people who don't necessarily come Downtown as much as they should, or is it for people who live Downtown and want to know what's going on?



Retha Hill: It's for both. It's for people, the 83,000 office workers who work Downtown Phoenix, the people who live in the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as people who might come down here for a ball game, or Herberger then get in their cars and go back out to the suburbs. We wanted to tell them there's a lot to do Downtown, and you can make a day out of it.



Ted Simons: If I own Ted's Hot Dogs downtown, or Hamburger hHamlet, whatever it is, and I want to get on this app, I do have to pay? Am I there because somebody found me?



Retha Hill: We have a write-up of every venue in downtown Phoenix, and we will put your information out there, even if you have deals or something you want to promote, a special, maybe have you a happy hour, or maybe have you a two for one special lunch special. We can put that on the site as well. It's all free. It doesn't cost the users anything to download it, and it doesn't cost the venues anything to be on it.



Ted Simons: Talk about the students involved here, and what kind of research they did, how much they were involved, and it sounds like again, it's a public private sort of student and outside company -- outside client sort of operation here.



Retha Hill: Right. The new media innovation lab is a research and development lab where we do products for clients. Mostly media clients or marketing clients. Our students are journalism majors, undergrad and graduate students who did all the research, but we also hired in computer science majors from the Tempe campus who did some of the programming along with our full-time web developer. So it was a student effort where we were doing this for a private client. And we've done this many times before with other clients.



Ted Simons: And it sounds like not just the client, but other aspects, the mayor's office, other folks got involved as well?



Retha Hill: Exactly. The main thing that was driving this is we knew we had a number of large conventions coming to town this summer as well as the All-star Game. So they wanted an app that could showcase everything that was happening in downtown, so of course the (Phoenix) Convention Center was very interested in it. They have the app broadcast and on of their monitors at the Convention Center, the mayor's office was very interested. The downtown Phoenix partnership, and the Arizona State University downtown campus as well as cityscape. Those are the people who are really interested in promoting downtown.



Ted Simons: You guys have done other work as well. You've worked with the Arizona guardian and newspapers and such?



Retha Hill: Exactly. We're approached by different media clients to help them think through new media development. A lot of times when you're at a news company these days, you're so busy trying to put out the news that you don't have time to think about the future. Our students can sit back and say, have you thought about this? And then we can go ahead and build it for them.



Ted Simons: Interesting. And it sounds to me as if this is bringing money into the University.



Retha Hill: It is. It's a revenue center where we charge our clients a certain amount of money that helps to offset the cost of hiring these students in, it offsets my time and it offsets the research time, and the development cost.



Ted Simons: So how long has it been around, and what kind of response are you getting so far?



Retha Hill: For the smart Phoenix application?



Ted Simons: Yes.

Retha Hill: It was actually -- it launched on July 4th, and we've been getting great, thousands of downloads. And the great thing is that people are staying on the app anywhere from five to six minutes. So they're searching for dining, events, and they're searching for deals. So that's been really gratifying to us that we are getting out a product that people are using.



Ted Simons: All right. Very good. We're looking at the home page there, it looks as though as we go to the pages again, it looks as though there's a lot of stuff offered there, and fits bringing money into the University and it's getting kids interested in getting this kind of stuff out there and selling their products, can't be all bad.



Retha Hill: Not at all. Our students are learning, and our students are graduating from our program and going off to work for web development, firms all over the country, and all over the world. We have graduates who are in Holland working in augmented reality, we have students at PBS in Washington, we have students who are at NPR. They learn their skills in our lab and they're being hired once they graduate.



Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.



Retha Hill: Thank you for having me.



Ted Simons: That is it for now. You have a great evening.

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