Open Data coming to Cary

Yes, it’s time for another Technology Blog post.

(This is the moment when I know my mom is rolling her eyes – I can feel it.)  But, there is a “method to my madness,” because, as Nicholas Negroponte says:

Collage by Will Lion

Collage by Will Lion

So, with this post I hope to give you an idea, even if it’s a glimpse, into what Open Data IS, and why it is so important for Cary.  First, what is it?

What is Open Data?

Open Data is the act of making information that is collected during the course of normal Town operations (that doesn’t identify individuals or breach commercial sensitivity) available in a standardized way.  The data that we are talking about here includes geographic information (greenways, roads, parks), public event schedules, and basic crime statistics.  This is already public information, the act of making it OPEN and easily accessible in a standardized format allows users, developers, the Town itself, and the technology community to leverage and use this data in new and innovative ways. That can mean applications that increase citizen engagement, provide vital information to our citizens, and improve their quality of life. It can also mean ways to leverage the data to help us become a “smarter town”, by looking at ways to improve our processes and become more efficient.  Without consistent streams of this data, few people will invest the time it takes to unlock the immense value hidden in the information that is collected every day by the Town.

What does that really mean to me?

It means that by making this information more easily accessible, cool people (and companies) can create awesome apps.

RGreenwayLet me give you an example.   Check out RGreenway. (You can download the app for free from iTunes.

RGreenway is an iPhone app that came out of the CityCamp Raleigh event last year. (I was honored to participate in CityCamp with all of the fantastic citizen hackers out there.)   Read More…

Apps for your Phone (FREE)

It’s a common question you hear… “So, what are your latest, favorite apps for your __________?” (Fill in the blank – iPhone, Android phone, iPad, Tablet…whatever.)

In fact, now that many of my fellow Councilmembers have tablets, I hear this question more and more.  During our drive to the Cary Town Council retreat, Councilmember Jennifer Robinson and Mayor Pro Tem Gale Adcock and I started talking about this very subject.  I offered to send them a “tip” or “App of the Week” as they get used to their new devices – and then realized I could do better than that,  I have a blog!

As a “gadget girl” I tend to get the “What’s your favorite app?” question all the time. But more importantly, I ask it. Think about it. It’s probably why the “most popular” buttons (TOP APPS) on the iTunes store or Amazon (Customers who viewed THIS item also viewed…) are so prevalent. But I think it’s not that we want to know what other people HAVE, it’s that we want to find what might work for US. Make our lives a bit easier (if that’s possible), or help save us time, money or be more productive.

So, having said all that I thought I would highlight a few apps that I have, and use frequently. I will try to do this every month. (Gulp!) But, more importantly, I’d love to know what you use and love and can’t do without. (So please comment, or contact me!) I’ll start with my phone apps.

CardStar
From iTunes

From iTunes

I can remember the day I found this application. It was like a day of freedom.

Oh, wait, I have to tell you about it.

CardStar is a FREE application (for the iPhone and Android) that literally FREES YOU  from those little key chain and wallet membership cards. You know the ones, they are hanging from your key chain and making your wallet bulge. You can put all of your loyalty cards (Harris Teeter, A.C. Moore, CVS, Panera Bread, etc.) into the application, and voila, they are gone from your keychain.

Read More…

Deep Dive into Aquastar

One of the truly innovative and cost-saving projects that I’ve been privileged to learn about since I joined Town Council is Aquastar.

Aquastar is the name we use in Cary to refer to the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system for our water. The Aquastar program replaces what WAS the monthly manual reads of your water meter, with a wireless system that collects multiple remote meter reads every day. The technology used is often referred to as part of a Smart Grid infrastructure. The vendor of the system, Sensus (in Raleigh), worked closely with the town to find the right solution, while Johnson Controls developed and managed the project.  (In what the Town Staff refers to as “The Cary Way.”  I like that!)

(Here is the video that the Town used to share the process with all of us.)

Read More…

Planning for the Future

Last week/weekend was my second Cary Town Council retreat. So, I guess that means I’m not a newbie anymore. Seems weird to say that. 

Staff and Council

This retreat felt a bit different than last time – a little more relaxed, with more deep dives into some of the specific issues headed our way rather quickly. Last year’s retreat was more of the strategic, longer term planning – where we made some decisions regarding our Bond referendum (now since passed), the Cary Community Plan (in full planning mode), and received more information regarding demographic trends impacting our community.

Our Town Council retreat (which is ANYTHING but a retreat, more like a MOVE FORWARD) includes Town Council members, a facilitator, the Cary Department Directors and Administration, Town Clerk and a few others.  We generally arrive Thursday night, work all day on Friday and through about 3:30pm on Saturday.   Read More…

A Police Ride-Along

Last week I got the chance to ride up front and “shot gun” in what is often referred to as a ride along with a Cary Police officer.  For me, it was an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the day (or in this case, evening) of a Cary Police Officer.  I came away with more than that. I left my evening with a real appreciation for the hard work of our officers, and the entire Police Department, and what they do to keep Cary one of the safest places to live.

A Tour 
Photo from Town of Cary

Photo from Town of Cary

My evening started with the GRAND tour of the Police department by Lieutenant Jerry McCormick.  We started in the 9-1-1 Communications Center where, you guessed it, your 911 calls are sent.   Read More…

A Solar Farm in Cary

On Friday I got a chance to visit the new solar farm located at the South Cary Water Reclamation Facility. 

We’ve all seen solar panels, but you haven’t seen anything like this before.  Ok, well, I haven’t.

What is it?

Picture from Town of Cary

This solar farm is Wake County’s largest public-private solar energy system, located on a 7 acre plot of land within our South Cary Water Reclamation Facility. FLS Energy, an Asheville, NC company, was selected at the Town’s solar energy partner.  (You may have read about them before, they installed the solar project as SAS, and have several other projects in the area.)

Not only is this our first and largest public-private partnership, it’s the beginning of a number of installations that will not only support our sustainability efforts, but will also make money for the town. Yep, that’s right.  Without any upfront costs or maintenance costs during the life of the lease, the Town will generate lease revenue of $35,000 a year for this part of the project, alone.  (The town’s lease is for 20 years.)   Read More…

The Gifting Season

It’s the holiday season and it is one of my favorite times of the year.

Why?

Because it’s one of the times during the year that I can give gifts to friends and family to let them know how much they mean to me every day throughout the year – without folks thinking that I’m a nutcase. (Ok, maybe they think I’m a nutcase, but that’s beside the point.)

Anyway, I’m kind of known around my group of friends as the “gift guru.” I work really hard on finding a gift that shows the gratitude, love and regard that I have for the recipient. For me, finding the “right” gift isn’t a chore. It’s a opportunity to demonstrate or show love to that person. (Have you read the book “The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman?” Great book that speaks to finding how to best show love to someone, so that they REALLY get it.  Worth a read, for sure. )

For me, the fun of gift giving isn’t just the brainstorming on what the best gift is, it is also the hunt to find, create or make the gift. It’s the act of unconditional love, an opportunity for me to demonstrate my love, esteem or care for that other person – and not wanting anything in return, except to hopefully see the look on their face when they receive the gift.

Having said all of that –I thought I would showcase some of my more interesting gift ideas, in case you are having a hard time finding a gift for one of your loved ones.

(NOTE: I do NOT get anything from directing you to these items, and I make no warranties on their applicability or appropriateness for your intended.)

For the Crazy Kid (Or Young at Heart) 

Jumping Stilts

JUMP!

These are not for the faint of heart – but very cool. They are bouncy stilts that will allow the user to jump, run and do crazy things once they are attached to the legs of the wearer. You can jump as high as 9ft and run as fast as 20 miles an hour. They are made by several vendors – Power Risers and AirTrekers, or look at this page. You may have seen them used at the 2008 Olympics.  (Below is a video of my son, once he got the hang of them!)

Read More…

A Theatre is Reborn

4 Councilmembers shovel the sand

Being a council member does have its perks. Ceremonial duties such as groundbreakings or award programs are some of my favorite activities. I’m also looking forward to a promised ride-along with a Cary police officer, and my first chance to be in a parade (that’s next weekend!) Sometimes these events give me a behind-the-scenes look at some of Town projects in development in Cary.

That’s what I got on Saturday at the ground breaking ceremony of “The Cary,” the first indoor movie theater built in Cary.

“If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you are.” James Burke”

Read More…

A visit to the Hospital

Yesterday, At-Large Councilman Ed Yerha and I were treated to a unique experience — a behind-the-scenes tour of WakeMed Cary located at the corner of Tryon and Kildaire Farm Road. (Take a Virtual Tour!)

I’ve had the opportunity to visit WakeMed before, as both a patient and visitor when my kids needed to check out the Emergency Room. I’ve always been impressed with their quality of service and the care that each and every employee shows the patients and visitors. And I’ve seen the hospital grow from a relatively small facility 20 years ago to one that is now expanded out and UP, and serving so much of our Cary community.   Read More…

Having Your Say

One of the things I like best about being on the Cary Town Council is hearing from citizens all across Cary. In our town of more than 140,000 residents, we have people from all walks of life, with varied interests, insights and experiences. The intellectual capital and the passion of our citizens is what makes this town great.

As a Town, we are about to embark on one of the most ambitious long-range planning efforts in the Town’s history. Creating a Community Plan for the future to be built on the values, needs and aspirations of the community. And we need your help!

Why a Community Plan? 

As we have grown over the years, the Town has done a good job in updating many of the various area plans across the community.  These plans are components of our overall Land Use Plan, and they have addressed the growing development needs across the town.  We could continue to “piece meal” these plans together, but to do it right – it became clear that we should update the entire Land Use plan that was last updated in 1996.  This comprehensive update will help align all of our many plans, reduce the overlap and blend all of the components into a comprehensive planning document that will guide us for the future.   Read More…

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