Alexa App Around Oakville

Brett Gillett


Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a Smart Cities meet up co-sponsored by the Town of Oakville and Silicon Halton. It was interesting to have a chance to hear many different perspectives on what precisely a Smart City is. Many people spoke at the event including town employees and consultants, as well as from Silicon Halton members.

After the formal part of the meeting had concluded I had the opportunity to chat with a few different folks about Smart Cities in general and in particular Open Data. We talked about how in some cases there still seems to be a lack of openness or in certain situations datasets which used to be publicly available are removed when the interests of those who are responsible for publishing and maintaining the data sets shift - or the technology responsible for storing the data makes it more difficult to publish.

I left the meeting energized and with a rediscovered sense that while Smart Cities are inevitable, the real value will come when the data collected is provided to citizens in a form they want, when they want it, and in ways that are easily consumable.

With the idea of making data accessible to consumers, I left the meeting with an idea for an Alexa app. Over the last week, I’ve built a simple prototype Alexa app, called ‘Ask Oakville.’ Right now, you’re able to get information about your Oakville councilor, when the next town council meeting is scheduled and when should you put out your recycling, green bin or garbage.

Currently, I’ve added data manually from many sources - the town website (councillors and meetings) and the physically printed waste collection calendar, but I’m hoping in the future for some new data sets to be published so the application can be more easily maintained.

Here’s a simple overview of how I built the ‘Ask Oakville’ Alexa application.