Sustainability problem: Water pollution and Civic engagement
Because of water pollution and health concerns, New Yokrers haven’t been able to swim directly in their rivers since 1938.
+POOL is an initiative to build a water-filtering, floating swimming pool designed to filter the water that it floats in through the walls of the pool, making it possible for New York City residents and visitors to swim in clean river water.
This projects aims to recover the river as a recreational space for the city, while educating the public about issues affecting water quality and contributing to clean it.
The pool will filter bacteria and contaminants using concentric layers of filtration materials in the walls of the pool, leaving clean and safe river water inside. With this mechanism, the pool will be able to filter over 600 thousand gallons of water per day.
New York City government
Department of Environmental Conservation
Rise funds through a public campaign and partnering with interested parties.
Test the filtering technology in the river to prove the concept.
Work with the city to create a public-private partnership to make the project a reality.
“The article mentions that this new bags are not only more affordable than a regular bag, but also reduce greenhouse carbon emissions, save water in the process, and generate jobs in developing countries.”
Drivers usually circle the blocks around their destination to find parking, and over 30% of traffic in cities is caused by these cars looking for a parking space. The problem is that there is almost no real-time information about available parking spots. Even in cities with smart parking meters that make this information publicly available, this data doesn’t account for those who park illegally, park with a permit, or depart early from still-paid meters.
Technology solution: Machine learning prediction
Earlier this year, Google Maps started showing an icon with predicted parking availability when displaying driving directions. This feature is available in 25 cities across the US.
“Parking difficulty” is estimated by identifying users that circled around a destination instead of arriving right away to a place. The more circling, more difficult the parking in that area must be. Using this information, the machine learning model assigns a descriptive prediction of parking availability to display to the user, like “Easy” or “Limited parking”.
In a pre-launch experiment, Google researchers saw a significant increase in clicks on the transit travel mode button, indicating that users with additional knowledge of parking difficulty were more likely to consider public transit rather than driving.
Department of Transportation
Parking lot owners
Implementation steps (for a more integrated solution)
Connect with City Officials and Department of Transportation to incorporate traffic data sources into the model
Connect with parking lot owners to incorporate real-time information of the parking availability on their garages
“One great feature of this solution is that it is can be assembled by anyone. It comes with a DIY kit and easy instructions, so there is no need for a professional technician and you get the system ready in a few hours.”
Each year, we are collectively producing 40 trillion kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2). The Paris climate agreement aims at reducing this emission rate to keep global temperature from increasing more that 2°C. Because we are on track of emitting more CO2 than needed, we need a way of taking back the extra greenhouse gas.
This article in Quartz highlights the work done by a company called Climeworks to turn a carbon-neutral geothermal power plant in Iceland into the first “negative emissions” plant.
The technology developed by Climeworks is called direct-air capture, and it consists in machines that suck CO2 directly from air using coat plastics with an amine, a type of chemical that absorbs CO2.
This captured CO2 is then injected into the ground, where it reacts with basaltic rock and turns it into stone. This ensures that the recovered CO2 won’t escape back to the atmosphere for millions of years.
Climeworks’ CO2 capturing system works using waste heat from the geothermal plant, making the whole installation effectively carbon negative.
This is still a pilot scale, capturing only 50 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year, about the same emitted by a single US household.
Firms looking to reduce their carbon footprint
Climate change advocates
Pilot the technology in different settings, proving the viability and cost effectiveness of the solution.
Start scaling into bigger projects and look for opportunities to have economies of scale and costs reduction.
Sell the technology to companies and governments that have set an aggressive emission reduction goal.
“Niwa comes with an connected smartphone app, which is the place where the owner enters the type of plants he is growing in his high-tech indoor garden. Along the way, the app will routinely ask you to check on the plants and answer some questions, so it can monitor the progress on the garden and adjust conditions to maximize growth.”
Large cities are facing increasing levels of air pollution, which causes severe respiratory issues and public health problems. Identifying with precision the main sources of air pollution is essential to design and enforce effective policies to reduce it.
Scientists from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health are working with the School of Engineering to develop a platform for measuring air pollution using drones. Also, in this crowdfunding website another group of scientists from Eastern Michigan University are rising money for a similar project.
The basic idea is to attach lightweight and low power pollution sensors to remote controlled multi-rotor drones, in order to collect samples and information on air quality and toxic gases for later analysis in a lab.
This technology would enable the monitoring of air conditions in a city, and control polluting levels directly at the source where many of the emissions are happening, like industries, coal plants or residential wood-burning heating.
Department of Health and Sanitation
Develop air pollution sensors suitable to be attached in a drone, which have to be lightweight and with low energy demand.
Test the drones in a known pollutant facility, where a static sensor should be installed near the source of pollution to compare results.
Partner with City Government and the Department of Health and Sanitation to deploy a fleet of drones to monitor pollution in a specific industrial area of the city.
Every internet connected device needs a power source, which could be a battery or a power cord. With the increasingly ubiquitous IoT, where more and more small devices are deployed to measure and record all kinds of data to make cities smarter, making sure each and every device doesn’t run out of power could be a problem.
2) Technology solution
This article in MIT Technology Review describes a new technology that lets small gadgets power themselves and communicate using energy harvested from existing wireless signals nearby, like TV, radio, cell-phone or WiFi.
Researchers from the University of Washington that are developing this new technique have demonstrated it working on internet connected temperature and motion sensors, and even cameras.
The principle behind this technique is called backscattering. The device reflects an incoming signal and modifies it to communicate, while at the same time absorbing some energy from the incoming signal to power its internal circuits.
3) Organizational stakeholders
Tech companies developing IoT devices
Public organizations that make intense use of IoT devices for their operations
Private companies that make intense use of IoT devices for their bussiness
4) Implementation steps
Partner with big tech companies in the field making small sensors and cameras to start developing a prototype
Iteratively improve the prototype, testing it out in real situations in order to create a reliable product
Talk with a public institution or business that relies on IoT devices for its main operation to try the technology at scale
“One of the problems with this new technology is that it has a conversion efficiency of 70%, while conventional wind turbines are already near 90% efficiency. According to Vortex, the significant reductions in manufacturing and maintenance costs will outweigh the efficiency losses.”
City governments constantly struggle to find stable revenue streams in order to maintain good public service delivery and invest in new infrastructure for the city. Most of the time, there are small projects that have support from both City Hall and citizens, but simply lack the necessary funds to be completed.
Enabling this same citizens to invest in their own communities and get the funds they need is a way to empower them, increase civic engagement and create real change.
2) Technology solution
This article in CityLab describes how local governments are using crowdfunding to solicit donations to fund different projects. Companies such as Citizinvestor, a government-specific crowdfunding platform launched in 2012, act as middlemen between City Hall and citizen donors.
After a project is posted on Citizinvestor, citizens can donate tax-deductible money to the projects they want. As any other crowdfunding platform, donators will not be charged unless the project reaches its full funding goal before the deadline.
Once a project reaches 100% of its funding goal (or more), the project is built. Citizens that donated money can keep monitoring the project’s progress in the online platform until its completion.
Apart from providing a template to create a website and a system for collecting donations, these platforms help public agents build an online marketing campaign for their projects.
Donating to government crowdfunding campaigns gives citizens a sense of control about how their money is being used and the project they are funding. Paying taxes, on the other hand, feels like throwing dollars into the unknown.
3) Organizational stakeholders
4) Implementation steps
Engage with local government officials in the city to show how this platform could help fund small and big projects that citizens want.
Start campaigning one emblematic project for a community in the city, and use it as an example to prove the effectiveness of the platform to city government.
Build over the momentum of the first successful campaign, positioning the platform as the solution for projects that have support from City Hall and citizens but lack the necessary funds.