Can the Internet of Things Combat Child Obesity in Cities?

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A new technology accelerator is giving Olathe, Kansas, the tools it needs to help create the parks and playgrounds of the future.

The city government in Olathe, Kansas, wants the Internet of Things to change behaviors causing child obesity by connecting wearable devices to public parks and playgrounds.

TechRIoT-KC, a community-building event for participating entrepreneurs and corporations, is working with Kansas City-area officials to speed innovative, new IoT products and services to market.

The Nov. 2 effort at Garmin’s corporate campus is part of the Denver-based TechRIoT XLR8 accelerator’s national search for 10 companies to pilot—started by the Innovation Pavillion and Arrow Electronics.

“City governments spend around $6 billion annually on parks and recreation, not including federal parks and land,” Kerianne Leffew, a TechRIoT co-organizer, told Route Fifty in an interview. “We’re exploring the idea of gamification, incentivizing students with real-world prizes like gift cards to make better eating choices played out in a game, and working with Olathe Parks & Recreation to launch a pilot with partners like Panasonic.”

Lured by a local investor, TechRIoT has been working on the ground in Olathe for about six months—collecting data on and assessing how IoT-enabled parks might affect community health. The accelerator wants to build a 100,000- to 200,000-square-foot campus downtown in a couple years, Leffew said, but will continue hosting smart city community events in the meantime.

So far, TechRIoT has had success in Denver using city buildings as grassroots event centers to host IoT programs on and gauge interest in 21st century libraries, traffic mitigation, mobility and accessibility.

Olathe, which has a population of about 130,000 residents, envisions placing sensors like accelerometers in parks connected over Wi-Fi or a low power wide area (LPWA) network—shown to accelerate IoT growth. Student wearables would collect data on the length of time a particular piece of equipment was used and the amount of energy exerted.

Under Armour will also assist with a product solution that makes use of its world’s-largest fitness app platform.

“The city has show leadership and commitment to innovation by agreeing to be a testbed for piloting technology at a rapid pace,” Leffew said. “It all goes back to benefitting cities via economic development and job creation because IoT is going to change everything about the way we live and work, business to business and business to consumer.”

Olathe has the option of piloting various other startups as well if it wanted to, say, apply IoT to parking meters.

Unlike a traditional accelerator, the 10 established companies ultimately chosen by TechRIoT won’t be expected to relocate to Denver or give up a percentage of equity in exchange for funding because there will be no financial backing.

Because the piloting period is only six months, TechRIoT wants to work with second-stage companies with products, rather than simply ideas, to help them catch the eyes potential customers and attain the Fortune 500 stamp of approval.

The deadline for applications is Nov. 30.

Dave Nyczepir is News Editor for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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