The Quark app, a winner of the 59 Days of Code competition, allows users to track their home energy use.

published on September 5, 2018 - 12:06 PM
Written by Donald A. Promnitz

A Fresno-made app might be the next big thing in energy-savings — and the local tech community is taking notice.

The app in question is Quark, which was developed as part of the Smart Cities-themed “Ignite” category for the 2018 59 Days of Code competition. The app took 1st place, along with a check for $10,000.

According to Ian Garoian, the team’s marketing strategist, Quark is designed to connect to the user’s utility service and allow them to view the data on their usage. Along with saving energy and driving down costs by setting up goals, the team hopes that it will educate on energy usage by translating the data into laymen’s terms.

“When you look at your bill it looks like a legal document — the average person isn’t going to understand what they’re reading,” Garoian said. “So we’ve just wanted to break that down and make it more easily accessible, so people understand what they’re doing, why their bill might be so high, or why they’re doing a good job.”

“There were a lot of conversations we were having prior to the competition about what is the most effective tool that we can create for a smart city,” said Alex Gutierrez, the lead software developer. “And the one that we just kept going back to was something for homeowners, something in the realm of energy.”

Getting Quark ready, however, was no easy undertaking. Over the course of just under two months, the five-person team had to develop the code and design the product from scratch, draw up a marketing strategy and prepare a minimum viable product for presentation by Aug. 11.

Their app then had to compete with the other contestants in their category, including an app that combats human trafficking and one that helps people electronically pay for their parking. But despite the challenges, Team Quark was able to come together.

“I’ve been on other teams before, but I just felt like were all on the same boat, just going toward the spot, and it was really nice to really feed off of each other in that sense,” Gutierrez said.

Ultimately, apps were judged on code, design, business and marketing, and prospective impact. Though not one of the judges, Rebecca Olson, executive director for 59 Days of Code, described what impressed her about Quark.

“I think they did a really good job putting all those elements together,” Olson said. “I think they did a really good job of saying: ‘Hey, a smart city starts with a smart household,’ so it was really a bottom-up approach.”

Both Garoian and Gutierrez were part of the same cohort at Geekwise Academy in 2013. Bethany Mily, CEO for Geekwise, said there were approximately 65 contestants to enter the 59 Days of Code that had been in their cohorts. The result — win or lose — is that new products, jobs and businesses are being opened up and are adding to Fresno’s rapidly growing tech scene.

“I think it’s really exciting for us to see the growth in creativity and just the development of ideas and application,” Mily said. “And 59 Days of Code was just a really great place to showcase the things that folks in the Valley are working on.”

According to Gutierrez, this is only the first iteration of Quark. In the near future, they hope to create hardware that will connect to all of a homeowner’s smart devices, giving them the ability to not only monitor but also remotely turn off devices from their phone.

They hope to have the initial app up in time for the Christmas shopping season, when customers will be buying their smart devices.

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