People & Civic Tech in NYC.

Sustainability Issue.

People living in Manhattan now have access to public wi-fi through LINK-NYC. In addition, people living in big cities can observe how solar tech is used for multi-purposes and at different scales. However, most of the population have neither access to tech solutions, nor proximity to deployable technologies to solve day-to-day problems.

In 2017, after many weeks of civic engagement activities, starting by training sessions about tech opportunities, building advisory teams, and figuring out potential economics improvement by using Tech, the program Neighborhood Innovation Lab (NIL) was launched in Brownsville, NY. NIL seeks to enhance economic development through technology, but it also compromises the deployment of two civic technologies during the implementation of the strategy.

Osborn Plaza, Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York.


Solutions deployed

Technology Objective: Show how the technology can be part of our daily routine, as well as to familiarize people to new devices using internet of things (IOT).
Bigbelly solar-powered smart waste and recycling system, which can hold up to five times the amount of a regular trash bin and uses sensors to notify maintenance crews when it is full.
Soofa smart benches, which use solar power to offer free charging for mobile devices.
Big Belly (right), Soofa Smart Bench (left)

Where and How?
Big belly could be a potential solution to remote or public areas, while the Soofa Smart bench, can be deployed at any plaza if a cost-benefit analysis supports the investment. Most of the tech solutions for civic engagement require the use of the internet, for example, big-belly to report full capacity.  Therefore, sites, where Link NYC is already installed, are potential areas to take advantage of the use of public wi-fi.

Steps for Implementation.
1.- Mapping areas where tech could create a new economic development opportunity. Create a tech strategy, invite partners, create an advisory team, and get support from the Mayor´s office of Tech + Innovation.
2.- Solve people, SME´s, and other´s problems, if possible, by implementing tech solutions.
3.-Deploy civic tech in the area to create engagement in the civil society.

Neighborhood Innovation Lab.
Waste Management Solution.
Smart Solar Bench.

by, Gabriel Guggisberg (gg2642)


4 thoughts on “People & Civic Tech in NYC.

  1. I looked more into the Soofa Smart Bench. It apparently uses sensors to collect data on nearby pedestrians. Parks can use it to determine the most active times of day, which can lead to more effective event planning and development choices. This can also lend itself to marketing opportunities for parks/businesses to advertise local events/promotions during peak hours. I’m left wondering if the device itself can offer other services as it’s sort of clunky and appears to take up a significant amount of space.


  2. Big Belly solar trash bin also has a monitor inside of it. It will let the trash collector know when the bin is full, which saves approximately from 17 hours a week to 4 hours a week for trash collectors. It helps to increase the efficiency but also raise the maintenance cost. Not everyone is a fan of a solar trash can. In Philly, it was found damaged and garbage overflowing from Big Belly trash can. It will be helpful if the crews are trained to operate and care for solar trash cans and also people are aware of how to use them.


  3. Interesting example and nice way of introducing people to IoT devices. I just wonder if, in the case of NYC, the required use of internet limits the scalability of these devices to the city’s poorer areas where LinkNYC is not present.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s