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SmartPHX app helps visitors navigate downtown Phoenix

July 08, 2011

A new smartphone application created by Arizona State University digital media students is now available to help people discover restaurants, night life and other attractions in downtown Phoenix.

The SmartPHX app, downloadable to any smartphone, functions as a concierge, enabling users to search for restaurants, clubs, arts venues, shopping and sports. It filters search results according to personal preference and current location and tells users which venues are open and where to find nearby parking and public transportation.
SmartPHX is the first app of its kind for the 1.5-square-mile downtown center of the nation’s sixth-largest city.

“This is one more way to expose downtown to more people and to get the message out: There are a ton of things to do in the heart of our city,” said Mayor Phil Gordon. “I’m downtown virtually every day and it is even hard for me to keep up. Luckily now my iPhone will help me out.”

The innovative app was developed by students of the New Media Innovation Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism for CityScape, one of the newest dining and entertainment hubs in downtown Phoenix.

“SmartPHX is a great example of what our downtown community can create when we come together,” said Development Manager Jeff Moloznik of RED Development, the developer of CityScape. “The concept originated from an informal brainstorming session between RED and students in the NMIL and expanded into a collaboration between the City of Phoenix, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, the Phoenix Community Alliance, the Phoenix Convention Center and multiple others into something truly unique in the Valley and the country.

“I’m excited because it brings downtown’s merchants in direct contact with consumers and vice versa. This is the only app that breaks down the barrier between businesses and their consumers and rewards both for using it,” Moloznik said.

The New Media Innovation Lab is a research and development center that contracts with clients to pioneer new media innovations. Other projects include a smartphone app that allows people to locate by GPS elected representatives for the Arizona Guardian; a campaign finance database for 100 Gannett news sites nationwide; and MamaMarket, a Craigslist-style market for mothers for

Lab Director Retha Hill said it was exciting to work on the SmartPHX app because it gave students “a chance to create something that will help define downtown Phoenix,” home to the Cronkite School.

Hill’s students interviewed business owners, tourists, downtown boosters, local workers and area homeowners to get an idea of what the app should do.

“The biggest issue was people didn’t know what is here or how to get there from wherever they happened to be,” Hill said. “By building in accurate geolocation functionality, as well as functionality to show them when venues are opened or closed, where parking and transportation is in proximity to where they want to go, and what the atmosphere will be like at the venue when they get there, we feel like we are being their expert guides to downtown.”

The Phoenix Convention Center also contributed to the development of the app and will promote it on its 55 digital signs to help convention visitors learn about downtown offerings.

“The SmartPHX mobile app will be a great resource for our out-of-town convention attendees," said Phoenix Convention Center Director John Chan. “SmartPHX will serve as a virtual concierge to connect our guests to local dining, shopping and entertainment options right at their fingertips.”

In the last five years, about $4 billion has been invested in the downtown area, which has 83,000 workers and more than 10 million annual visitors. Entertainment and retail developments such as CityScape are part of the long-range plan.

To download the app, go to on your smartphone’s Web browser. Tap + or the iPhone arrow key and then “Add to Home Screen.” Or download from Android market.