Inspiration

I want to know if there's a snow emergency so my vehicle doesn't get ticketed and towed. When a municipality declares a snow emergency vehicles in violation of parking rules can be ticketed and/or towed to facilitate clearance of snow from roadways.

Some Minnesota municipalities explicitly declare snow emergencies and message via a cellphone application, a website, or social media. But many municipalities just have a standing policy and do not announce for every snow emergency declaration.

Snow Emergency will tell you if there's an explicit declaration and/or will show the standing policy for snow emergencies for a particular Minnesota unicipality.

What it does

You ask Snow Emergency about a municipality in Minnesota and it tells you whether there is a snow emergency and/or what the policy for snow emergency parking restrictions is.

How I built it

I have a Ruby Lambda deployment that's used by the skill. The skill uses the Alexa Presentation Language (APL) to manipulate the visual and voice components of the skill. Previously templates were used, but the APL development tools are a great improvement over display templates.

Challenges I ran into

I created reusable Ruby code to handle text scrolling and list item display because I found the XML-based interaction with the Alexa devices challenging to work with. The Alexa developer console for my skill was a great tool that made creating and testing the visual experience easier than the template approaches I've used for skills in the past.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

  • Creating reusable Ruby code to handle APL interactions
  • Dynamic sizing of text depending upon the display size and resolution of the target Echo device

What I learned

There are several different strategies municipalities use to handle snow emergencies. Some explicitly declare snow emergencies, others institute snow emergencies whenever the accumulation exceeds two or three inches, and others have parking restrictions in effect for the entire snow season.

I also learned that the testing and design tools for APL have gotten more sophisticated.

What's next for Snow Emergency

I'm planning to have the application interface with one or more weather APIs to predict when a snow emergency may be declared beforehand and to understand when a snow emergency is in effect for municipalities that don't explicitly declare snow emergencies.

Snow Emergency may also expand to provide snow emergency information for municipalities outside of the state of Minnesota.

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