Using location-based augmented reality for social good


1) One of the biggest challenges of sustainability is inspiring and influencing behavioral change. Keeping volunteers involved and engaged over time is especially difficult. Moreover, government and non-profit organizations seeking to do social good in local communities typically are under-resourced and have limited access to data.

2) Like Pokemon Go has done, there is strong potential for location-based augmented reality to be used to encourage people to visit and experience places they never would have before, helping to create more awareness into the environmental and social issues right in their local communities. With Pokemon Go, people are beginning to explore new places in their surroundings, especially those areas that haven’t been traversed much before – abandoned parks, grey space, and otherwise. It unlocks a potential for players to pass through areas with potential for environmental and social support. Moreover, in the example provided in the article, the author points out that with location-based augmented reality, Pokemon Go could enable players to report non-urgent environmental or safety issues like potholes, trash pile-ups that could be shared with government and non-profit organizations. This would have the potential to create a powerful crowd-sourced data set for these organizations to use.

3) Stakeholders would include consumers, city dwellers, city government and non-profit organizations, technology companies.

4) The first step in implementing this type of technology is to identify the opportunity size for new environmental and social issues to be surfaced through crowdsourced data – for example, looking at a neighborhood in Brooklyn and using a small pilot group of volunteers to test. Once the opportunity size is identified, we could use this information to work with city government and non-profit organizations as well as technology companies like Pokemon Go to discuss private public partnership potential – and requirements for integration, accessibility, etc. Once the requirements are defined, we could develop a pilot app to test in the city and evaluate the amount of data gathered. Once successful, this could be rolled out to additional cities.

mst2135 august 4, 2016

Digitizing city properties to strengthen communities and improve public safety


1) Public works and public safety are significant and often overwhelming problems for city and state governments. Lack of information or insight into these potential issues can lead to poor economic opportunities and dangerous or unsupported communities. In the case of Detroit, there were numerous vacant properties and “the city had no mechanism for understanding the space of itself,” as entrepreneur Jerry Paffendorf stated.

2) Access to data is key to help solve this problem. In an effort to revitalize the city of Detroit, Jerry first digitized a vacant lot and invited people from around the world to invest in one-inch squares of the property for a dollar. He also set up a solar-powered webcam to allow the inch-vestors to monitor their properties. This project grew to a larger initiative later coined Motor City Mapping which enabled the public and government alike to have better insight into the city’s property information which previously was unavailable.Motor City Mapping enabled the city of Detroit to work with private and public organizations to more effectively improve public safety and public works. The project has since received grant funding to expand into Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, as well as into a national project called Loveland. The goal of the project is to make information visible and readily accessible to all online – one parcel at a time. As stated in the NYT article, “Loveland’s ambitious project cannot fully solve the problems vacant and abandoned properties have wrought in the Motor City, but it shows how technology can be used as one tool among many in solving the seemingly intractable challenges of urbanism.”

3) Stakeholders that would need to be involved include city governments, public agencies, non-profit organizations, city service providers, etc. For Detroit, this list included:

  • Center for Community Progress
  • City of Detroit
  • Office of the Emergency Manager, City of Detroit
  • Data Driven Detroit
  • Detroit Land Bank Authority
  • DTE Energy
  • Loveland Technologies
  • Michigan Nonprofit Association
  • Michigan State Housing Development Authority
  • New Hope Community Development
  • Rock Ventures Family of Companies
  • The Kresge Foundation
  • The Skillman Foundation
  • US Department of Housing & Urban Development
  • US Department of Treasury

4) The first step in implementing this solution is to start with a pilot land area, similar to Jerry’s approach. With this pilot, we can evaluate both the concept and the technology. The second step would be to get feedback from initial adopters, which in this case would be the “inch-vestors”. This feedback would be used to identify potential opportunities for improvement especially as the project continues to scale to the city level. The third step would be to gain buy in from city government and public service organizations to ensure alignment on the approach and evaluate impact of the program. Finally, once success is proven in a first city (in this case Detroit), the project could expand to nearby cities and evolve to adapt to scaling concerns.

mst2135 july 21, 2016

Improving charitable donations through virtual reality


1) Providing clean and affordable access to everyone in the world is a lofty goal, and one that an organization called Charity:Water is currently pursuing. Their goal is to “solve the water crisis and reinvent charity for a new generation.” However, while a worthy cause, it is often difficult to encourage donors to connect to a project that takes place hundreds of miles away.

2) Charity: Water has used virtual reality to help connect potential donors to the charity’s causes. In a recent fundraising event, the organization leveraged virtual reality headsets to allow attendees to get an intimate glimpse into how a recent project to provide clean water in Ethiopia changed a young girl’s life. The technology enabled guests to gain a better understanding of the issues the organization is looking to tackle and emotionally connect to the causes they were donating to. The Clinton Global Initiative used a similar technology to “drive collaborative action” as many other non-profits are looking to do the same in a meaningful and “transformational” way.

3) Stakeholders that would need to be involved include technology companies, potential donors, non-profits, digital media specialists, engineers.

4) The first step in deploying this technology would be to identify potential projects (based on success) to highlight as part of the initial VR filming process. Once the project(s) are identified, the organization would have to assembly a crew of VR specialists or a third party to manage the development of the short VR experience to test on an initial set of potential donors. The high potential or high loyalty users could be leveraged to test the approach and evaluate potential opportunity size and costs to implementing the technology more broadly. Once this is validated with the industry, technical and user experience experts, the VR program could begin to showcase additional projects.

mst2135 july 14, 2016

Cleaning up the oceans with a giant floating barrier


Sustainability Problem: With the increasing worldwide population, the amount of plastic waste generated and landing up in the oceans is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. And not only is plastic waste a threat to marine life, but the current processes for collecting ocean trash is dispersed and energy intensive.

Technology: A non-profit from the Netherlands called the Ocean Cleanup Foundation may have found a solution for this with a 238 foot floating barrier to collect ocean trash such as bottles and bags. While still early, the organization has already began testing of a 100foot version of the barrier, which will include evaluation of the impact to the ocean ecosystem. The system aims to be a passive approach to collecting the plastic trash through currents without harming the marine life in the process, and has the benefit of being low maintenance and energy intensive to operate. The trash collected by the barrier will be recycled. If it proves successful, the plan is to install the large version of the barrier in the North Pacific in 2020.

A giant floating barrier might be the answer to cleaner oceans

Stakeholders: Consumers, Governments, Offshore operations, Plastics manufacturers, Marine institutions

Implementation: (1) Identify top offshore operations companies and marine institutes to create partnership opportunities for piloting the MVP technology. (2) Evaluate financing options such as opportunity size of recyclable plastic gathered in the pilot (and in future production version) that can be re-used and sold for profit to support the program. (3) Evaluate effectiveness and technology enhancement areas from the pilot, depending on key factors such as waste collected, impact to marine ecosystem, speed, coverage, etc. (4) Work with governmental organizations to determine and evaluate 2020 production plans for initial launch of the product after addition of the technology enhancements based on the trial.

mst2135 june 30, 2016

Solar roadways and clean energy


Sustainability Problem: Roadways (city streets, highways, driveways, parking lots, etc.) as we know them today are made of miles of concrete that absorb heat and do not contribute to the grid. Moreover, these roadways are often outdated and not well-maintained, resulting in unsafe and inefficient surfaces for transport and storage of vehicles.

Technology: Solar roadways are intelligent and modular solar panels that can work on any road surface. This technology pays for itself through clean energy generation. The solar roadways are heated to keep roads ice / snow free, pressure sensitivity for safety, and multi-colored with lighting. Every panel has series of LED panels that enables programming of various markings (whether that’s a sports court or a roadway dividing line) and facilitates safety guidance. In the future, the technology will also allow for charging vehicles through mutual induction. Overall, the technology allows increased use of clean energy and re-use of existing non-efficient and outdated infrastructure.

Solar Roadways on Indiegogo

Solar Roadways on Youtube

Stakeholders: Consumers, Governments, Federal Highway Administration, Parking

Implementation: (1) Research and development on scalable technology to support this mission, including identifying high potential use cases. (2) Raise funding to begin manufacturing and testing, particularly for hardware. (3) Begin pilot work with Federal Highway Administration on selected road surface types (highway, parking lot, etc.) and collect data on improvement opportunities with the technology. (4) Launch pilot program and evaluate scaling needs.

class june 23, 2016 – uni mst2135

Creating new products out of food waste


Sustainability Problem: Waste management – 40% of US food supply ends up in the trash.

Technology: Providing data, transparency, and hardware for “upcycling” or reducing food waste. These types of products can include those that link wholesalers with food that may go to waste soon with restaurants at a significant discount OR provide hardware or services to generate fertilizer, animal feed, or human food from food waste. More and more startups are emerging that create new products out of food waste, such as Back to the Roots which sells mushroom kits made from used coffee grounds and Wtrmln Wtr which sells watermelon juice made from melons which were un-sellable in grocery stores.

NY Times Article here

Stakeholders: Consumers, Manufacturers, Grocers, Farmers, Wholesalers, Restaurants

Implementation: (1) Identify points of major food waste (from manufacturers, grocers, consumers, etc. and analyze data to understand and prioritize biggest areas of waste to focus (2) Partner with providers and consumers of identified area of food waste to pilot process and technology for one location (3) Scale with existing partners to additional locations or manufacturing plants

class june 16, 2016 – uni mst2135

AI driven health app Your.MD aims to bring better health information to consumers


your-mdSustainability Problem: Safety and Health – Lack of affordable, accessible, and trustworthy health information

Technology: Your.MD is an app that describes itself as a “Personal Health Assistant” that provides users with more relevant and “trustworthy” health information from end to end. The app integrates with Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Slack and other messenging apps to help users better understand the problems and solutions for their personal health questions as well as connect them to services as needed in a seamless experience. Artificial intelligence facilitates a smarter and more personalized experience based on reliable data.

Your.MD Scores $5M For Its AI-Driven Health Assistant

Stakeholders: Consumers, Doctors, Hospital Administration, Nutritionists, Pharmacies

Implementation: (1) Partner with Hospitals to work directly with patients on a pilot basis; make enhancements based on feedback from patients and doctors. (2) Integrate with health news sites and apps where consumers are already looking for better health information. (3) Integrate with other specialized health apps such as those that specialize in on-call personal doctor services to create a true “one-stop” experiences for all personal health needs.

class june 9, 2016 – uni mst2135