Mayor Eric Garcetti today named Peter Marx as his chief innovation technology officer, fulfilling a campaign pledge to hire a tech guru to oversee innovation at City Hall.

Marx was vice president of business development at Qualcomm Labs, where he has focused on making smartphones more aware of users' environments. Among the things he worked on was an app for last year's Star Trek movie that made use of sensor data.

Marx started out as an engineer, and has also worked at Electronic Arts, Universal Studios and Mattel.
Garcetti vowed during the campaign to hire a chief technology officer to improve customer service and pursue innovation in city operations. Marx also will be working to promote job creation efforts with the L.A. tech community.

“Peter was my top choice from a very strong pool of applicants,” Garcetti said in a statement, calling him “incredibly talented, a force in the tech community, and an L.A. native to boot.”

At Qualcomm, Marx was involved in developing the company's Gimbal platform, which improves processing of smartphone sensor information. Those improvements help pinpoint a user's location and identify what they're looking at or listening to. Such “context awareness” could be used by app developers to, for example, tailor advertising to individuals.

“As smartphones become ubiquitous, they cultivate our digital 'sixth sense,'” Marx said in a 2012 press release. “By leveraging the multiple sensors in your phone, Gimbal opens up new opportunities for developers to innovate and create intuitive apps that deliver bespoke experiences for consumers.”

The city of L.A. already has an app that allows residents to access city services like graffiti removal and bulky item pickup. The app, MyLA311, is designed to replicate the experience of calling 311, but is not nearly as popular as the phone service. The mayor's office said that Marx would be tasked with improving the app, as well as revamping the city's websites.

At Qualcomm, Marx envisioned improving smartphone sensing to the point where the phone becomes a “personal concierge.”

“We want to make the smartphone and the network as useful as possible,” he said at a technology conference in 2012. Someday, he said, your phone would know “the fact that you're driving home without having picked up the milk that you were supposed to pick up.”

“These sort of things sound trivial,” he said, “but the amount of R&D effort that it takes to do these things is significant.”

Update: Here's a video that explains what Marx has been up to at Qualcomm:

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