Hundreds of engineers compete in SF hackathon to solve city's major issues

Luz Pena Image
Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Hundreds of engineers compete in SF hackathon to solve city's issues
Hundreds of engineers competed in Accelerate SF two-day hackathon to solve San Francisco's major issues including break-ins, theft and more.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Over the weekend, hundreds of engineers worked on solving some of San Francisco's challenges with artificial intelligence.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena spoke to city officials and one of the founders of Accelerate SF to see how their solutions could be game-changing for the city.

Could AI save San Francisco? Hundreds of engineers are hoping for that.

"We started working on this back in August. We decided to reach out to a number of organizations in San Francisco's public sector and find problems. Find challenges that we can find solutions for," said Anthony Jancso, co-founder of Accelerate SF.

That's when Accelerate SF was born. A project to identify problems in San Francisco and build AI solutions. Over the weekend, over one hundred engineers and people with specific areas of expertise got together for a hackathon to help San Francisco.

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According to Brooking Institution, the vast majority of AI job postings are in the Bay Area, most in San Francisco.

Co-founder Anthony Jancso welcomed San Francisco's Mayor London Breed to speak on what the city needs.

"What we are planning to do after the hackathon, is to deploy some of these applications working with the departments and the San Francisco government," said Jancso.

During the two-day hackathon, 22 projects were developed with three winners that could reshape how the city works.

"First place was '311 plus,' which is an incredible tool where you can just take a photo if your car had a break-in. You take a photo of it and it uses AI technology to automatically input a 311 report - sorry your Lexus window was broken into - it takes meta data from the photo and its says where and when and automatically fills out the form for you," said Kay Sorin, co-host of Accelerate SF.

A key tool considering that there have been over 17,000 car break-in incidents this year so far in San Francisco and many don't report it.

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Second place allowed homeowners and developers to enter an address to check for the expansion potential or ADU eligibility.

"It runs data from the planning department and it tells you how many units could be built on that lot, how much profit could be made and what it would cost to develop there," said Sorin.

Third place was an AI tool to make reporting property crimes easier and more accessible.

City Attorney David Chiu was one of the judges at the hackathon.

"You had a bunch of folks who literally thought overnight of what to do and by Sunday afternoon, had demos that were almost ready for primetime. These are changes that can happen overnight if we can figure out the right way," said City Attorney, David Chiu.

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Supervisor Matt Dorsey spoke to the group about the importance of data to accomplish real change.

"I really wanted to emphasize anything that AI can do to make sure that people are connecting to their government when there is a complaint that the government knows about, but that is how we are going to be smarter about governing better," said Dorsey.

The winners received a cash price but also connections to make these ideas a reality which was ultimately the goal.

"My thought is that we should pilot some of the things that we saw that were working, hopefully on the city side people would agree and the more we are able to innovate in different corners of city government," said Chiu.

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