Gather Road Quality Data from Crowdsourcing

We walk our streets and some of us drive on them, everyday. We know a bad road when we walk or drive through them. Unfortunately such rich information is dispersed among us, rendering it useless. At the same time, road quality problems persist, due to lack of timely detection and reporting to a large measure, and cause injuries or damages and become a major source of liabilities for the cities that have bad roads.

Crowdsourcing is not a new idea. In its essence, it aggregates dispersed information, capital, or knowhow for a common purpose. Several startups have been formed to crowdsource the road quality information leveraging the little supercomputer in our pockets or cars that can sense motions and therefore infer quality problems like potholes. Carbin, an app from is one such app. 1 This project was started by some MIT students and professors out of frustration that they could not get road quality data from city governments. The first iOS version of the app was released in February 2019, and the android version was released soon after. After that, they had a media blitz culminating in a New York Times article on the startup in Jan 2020. 2 Their plan was to commercialize the app. Then COVID came. They faced their first hurdle. 

Wide spread use of road sensing apps like Carbon clearly provides benefits to many parties. The municipal governments who have long relied on call-in reporting to gather road quality data from complaints (by its nature, complaint data may not be timely or accurate as they depend on the subjective judgement and emotional state of the reporter), can acquire more timely and good quality data from such apps which leads to timely repair. This in turn will benefit citizens who can enjoy safe roads they use daily.

Despite benefits to city governments and citizens, the success of road quality sensing startups is far from being assured. At the core of the uncertainty lies the incentive structure. Some civic conscious users will use the apps, but what is the incentive for large groups of users to download and use such apps? For the startup themselves, while it is all good to contribute to social welfare, where does their income come from? In order for crowdsourcing apps to scale, three things startups must do: 

  • continue to improve their technology, 
  • provide incentives to users for large scale adoption and 
  • work with municipal governments to help improve their operations. 

As the biggest beneficiary, the municipal governments should step in to influence the development of the sector and help resolve some of the problems startups will face, by working with and funding startups, for example. 


skyscrapers of the future could be built with the garbage of today


Area: Sustainability

From Recycled Plastic Waste to Building Material

The buildings of the future can be built as net-zero buildings by 2050.  Buildings generate pollution in two significant ways. power use and generate waste. Residential and commercial buildings account for 70 percent of power consumed in the United States — electricity that largely comes from burning carbon-intensive coal and natural gas.  Building pollution is in the use of materials like steel and concrete, which have a sizable carbon footprint.

Conceptos Plasticos (a start up) works with local communities to  source plastics to create building blocks that are fire-resistant to construct home. The plastic building blocks will degrade around 500 years or more down the road, but for now they offer shelters for families who can’t afford other housing or are fleeing crises. During the last two years, the Conceptos Plásticos team melted and molded 300 tons of plastic into building blocks for the construction of eco-homes in rural areas impacted by the internal conflict, such as a temporary shelter in Guapí, Cauca, for 42 displaced families.



  • Melts down plastics and create building molds
  • Builds homes in marginalized communities
  • Recycles plastics & rubber from garbage / landfills
  • Provides inexpensive housing option


  • Conceptos Plasticos
  • Investors
  • Homeowners
  • Communities generate large garbage
  • Landfill owners
  • architects / engineers
  • low income families


  • 2016 The Venture award winner
  • Increase financing (company is start up)
  • Continue to enter architecture building competitions win projects increase name recognition.
  • Funding for future projects






50-Qubit Quantum Computer

IBM Raises the Bar with a 50-Qubit Quantum Computer

IBM has developed a quantum computer that can handle 50 qubits per second. The computer IBM developed is still unstable, only preserving its state for 90 microseconds.



Sustainability Issue:

Category: Energy

The world generates 2.5 exabytes of data every day [0]. With the explosion of data being generated and preserved combined with billions of devices connecting to the internet, an issue the world will face is the ability to power all the machines and devices on a modern world.  Rolf Landauer calculated and demonstrated that each bit operation of a computer requires a minimum amount of energy.  With the amount of data being generated and saved, researchers are predicting the world will encounter energy issues to power all of our devices by 2040[1]. The world’s fastest computer processes 33 Petaflops per second, which consumes 17.8 megawatts[2].

  • energy requirements of computers and devices will outpace ‘reasonable’ supply
  • volume of data requiring more processing time
Technology Solution:

Traditional computers store information in the form of a 1 or 0.  As a result, traditional computers require energy and generate vast amounts of heat to perform complex calculations and operations.  IBM’s development of a 50 -qubit quantum computer is 100 million times faster and consumes less energy than traditional computers.   Quantum computers are able to store information as 1 and 0 simultaneously, vis-a-vis a feature of quantum mechanics known as superposition. The key feature of quantum computers is they can perform complicated calculations beyond the reaches of today’s computer while consuming less energy.  Today’s computers can take days and weeks to calculate factors with hundreds and thousands of digits, which consumes vast amounts of energy.  With IBM’s 50- qubit quantum computer, factors with 555 digits can be calculated within seconds.


  • Revolutionize  computer architecture
  • Development in new materials
  • Increase encryption for devices / communication networks / etc..
  • Improvement in artificial intelligence (particularly deep learning)
  • Climate models can be more complex





  • Inventors: IBM, Google, Facebook, Intel, Rigetti, etc..
  • Consumers: change the world
  • Energy companies: utilities will see lower demand as servers and server farms consume less energy
  • Telecommunication / internet companies: cryptography will be improved dramatically.
  • Researchers / scientists / physicists / climate scientists / etc.. – complex calculations will be able to be performed faster
Next steps:
  • Ongoing research – develop a stable state system (companies listed below)
  • Continue funding – Intel, IBM, Google, Facebook, Rigetti, & universities
  • IBM QX – 20 qubit cloud computing system continue to beta testing.  March 2017 rolled out python API and SDK.
  • Once stable state system is developed then likely to be deployed in large institutions  (governments/ research centers / data farms/ etc.)





Comments Other Posts:

PipeGuard: Water pipe leak detection robot.

1) Sustainability problem: Detecting leaks in the aging water infrastructure posses financial and infrastructure problems to the city. Area: Water

  • Most city’s water distribution systems lose an average of 20 percent of their supply because of leaks.
  • These leaks not only make shortages worse but also can cause serious structural damage to buildings and roads by undermining foundations.
  • Leak detection systems currently in use are expensive and slow to operate, and don’t work well in systems that use wood, clay, or plastic pipes, which account for the majority of systems in the developing world.

2)  Technology

  • The PipeGuard is a small, rubbery robotic device that looks something like an oversized badminton birdie. The device can be inserted into the water system through any fire hydrant.
  • It then moves passively with the flow, logging its position as it goes. It detects even small variations in pressure by sensing the pull at the edges of its soft rubber skirt, which fills the diameter of of the pipe.
  • The device is then retrieved using a net through another hydrant, and its data is uploaded. No digging is required, and there is no need for any interruption of the water service. In addition to the passive device that is pushed by the water flow, the team also produced an active version that can control its motion.




3) Stakeholders

  • City and local governments
  • Department of Water
  • Private citizens and local businesses.

4) Deployment 

  • Research cities who’s water infrastructure sustains the most loses due to leaks.
  • Bid for contracts with the Department in charge of the water infrastructure and the local governments to use the PipeGuard system in those areas
  • Research the scalability of the robot to other city systems such as gas pipelines.

JV2610  COMMENT TO ANOTHER BLOG POST (NEWater is tackling Island Nation’s Primary Challenge)

“The process starts with sewage water that is filtered to extract larger particles, bacteria and viruses. Then, through reverse osmosis, membranes refine the water again, sifting out further contaminants and getting rid of any disease-causing agents. Finally, ultraviolet disinfection is used to make sure the water is truly pure and ready to use. The final product even exceeds the FAO’s safety standards.”

 UNI – jv2610

How to monitor water smartly

1: Area of sustainability category: water infrastructure

Maintaining balanced water levels is critical to avoid flooding in residential areas and conserve enough water for the dry season. And the technician has to drive back and forth between 11 lakes and make sure the levels don’t get too high.”

2: “Florida city employs Sensus tech for remote water monitoring

  • Enables proactive and preventative maintenance
  • Enables quick resolution of equipment failures
  • Decreases the need to deploy field crews
  • No additional power line infrastructure is necessary

3: Implementation

  • Identify sites for installation
  • Develop contracts with building owners
  • Install sensors
  • On-site Testing and Implementation

4: Stakeholder

  • Municipal
  • Technicians
  • City residents


Comment on “Plastic Bottle Concrete

Manufacturing concrete generates 4.5 percent of the world’s human-induced carbon emissions. So far, substituting 1.5 percent of concrete with irradiated plastic has been proved to improve the mixture’s strength significantly. It means 0.0675 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions is deducted. If this technology is implemented on a global scale, the impact could be significant.


ShotSpotter Gunshot Detection System

Sustainability Issues

Gun-related violence has become a pressing issue in many communities and resulted in a high level of healthcare cost and productivity loss for society. While the gun violence issue has many underlying causes, mobilizing law enforcement to act effectively and efficiently after the occurrence of shooting incidents is critical in preventing further shootings from happening. However, 8 out of 10 gun violence incidents are never reported to law enforcement for many reasons. Therefore, reporting shooting incidents to police in a timely manner becomes the critical first step since they cannot respond effectively if unaware of the incident. “ShotSpotter” is designed to solve this issue and reduce gun-violence by detecting gunshots and notifying law enforcement for the location of the shooting incident.

Technology: ShotSpotter

  • Acoustic sensors (high-sensitivity microphones)  are installed in communities and buildings to detect gunshots in large and complex geographies
  • Once acoustic sensors identify and time-stamp impulsive noises (gunshot, the system then triangulates the location of the sound source to within 25 meters and runs features of the sound through machine classification
  • The Incident Review Center (IRC) human experts confirm the machine classification and publish an alert to law enforcement within 30-45 seconds
  • Notify law enforcement and first responders via a push notification, including precise location of the incident


  • Law Enforcement
  • Municipal Government
  • University Campus
  • Department of Transportation
  • Citizens


  • Law enforcement identify “hotspots” of gun-violence incidents and engage citizens for employing the technology
  • Local government launch a pilot program to install Shotspotters in the neighborhood
  • Monitor performance of the detection system and provide feedback to provider
  • Install Shotspotters on citywide scale, including street, university campus, and park



UNI: MH3730


Ch2217 is my uni


1)Energy, transportation





A smart Internet connected elevator/escalator can alert owners in the event that it needs service before failure, inconvenience or rider injury occurs. It also provides the owner/operator with detailed information on the performance and usage of the equipment.


3) The stakeholders are anyone owning or managing a building that utilizes elevators.


4) I would market the technology to building management companies and suggest that it might lower insurance rates for the building by reducing the likelihood of rider injury or entrapment.


My comment is for the Energy Producing Homes: I wonder if the homes could be manufactured offsite semi-preassembled, further reducing the CO2 footprint of construction.

Ocean Cleanup

A lot of garbage is being dumped and left to swim around in the world’s oceans. Due to water currents and movements, most of it gets grouped to form a “patch.” Due to its composition and low density, these patches rise to the top of the water and float around. There are many patches around the world, with the largest one, called the Great Pacific garbage patch, being discovered between California and Hawaii only in 1988. Although many countries and cities are finally starting to think about fixing the issue at its source (through waste separation and recycling/burning), it is important to also clean up the damage that has already been done. These patches mainly effect marine life as plastic finds a way into their digestive system, and as many humans depend on seafood, this is also a health risk for them.

Boat Passing Through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

A Dutch inventor called Boyan Slat and his team at TU Delft has come with a solution that takes advantage of technology that study and monitor water current movements and the garbage’s low density to efficiently collect garbage from the sea. The system has a U shape that funnels the trash into the middle of the system to efficiently pick it up and transport it back to off shore recycling facilities. The system requires no external energy source and fully relies on solar energy. Furthermore, it has a heavy anchor that can alter its speed and direction through automation and algorithms that use real time information about current movement. The system only collects trash floating on the water’s top layer, for that reason it does not go further underwater and avoids effecting nearby fish.


  • The Ocean Cleanup team and researchers working on the project
  • The UN – ocean cleanup is part of their sustainable development goals and they can potentially back projects such as these
  • Manufacturers of technology used such as solar panels
  • Countries nearby these garbage patches that are directly effected
  • Fishermen and seafood suppliers

Next Steps
The project at the moment is in the latter stages of testing. Currently, they are running drift testing in the North Pacific with plans to launch their first cleanup system within the next year. The program is a foundation that relies on donations and awards to function. So reaching out to the UN and other potential backers is key to make sure the project can run smoothy. Furthermore, as mentioned above, the issue needs to fixed at its core, and that is consumers need to learn to produce less waste and effectively separate and manage it. This project needs to be used to raise more awareness on the severity of the problem and perhaps reaching out to waste awareness campaigns needs to be on the agenda.

By: Ahmad Al Zubair (aa4098)

Resources used:

Comment on “Cities Get Smart by Prioritizing Mobility
I agree that cities need to focus more on mobility and changing their transportation culture in order to reach the “next level” of being a city, a smart one more specifically. I want to focus on the examples of London and Copenhagen and their cycling culture that is growing. I previously lived in the Netherlands, a country famous for perfecting the bicycle culture. While living there, I never even considered moving around in the car and although having nice bike lanes and traffic lights and a system in place helped me feel comfortable with cycling all the time, there was also an element of safety in it. Many of these projects (for ex: building bike lanes in NYC) fail to look at the safety issues that stop many from cycling. Not only do you need to educate people on how to ride safely, a plan needs to be put in place to lower bike stealing rates in a city. I have seen many examples of people who start riding until their first bike gets stolen and they lose all “faith” in this lifestyle. This was once an issue for cars, but evidently most people do not fear that they may return from work to find their car missing. Cities need to study that closely in my opinion to give citizens the confidence and comfort of changing their transportation behavior.


Solar-powered Vertical City is a self-sustaining, green-infused tower planted into the ocean floor

  1. Sustainability Problem: With rising sea levels and the ever-increasing population growth, alternative living solutions are in dire need. Italian architect Luca Curci has just unveiled a design that envisions a soaring zero-energy tower infused with greenery on each level that will be planted into the sea floor, resulting in what could be the future of self-contained architecture.
  2. The Vertical City tower is designed to reach a height of 2,460 feet with 180 floors. The tower will be layered with a membrane of photovoltaic glass to ensure there is sufficient energy for the entire building. Other features are as follows:
    • 190,000 square feet of mixed-use floor surface
    • Natural lighting due to perforated slots throughout the exterior
    • 66,000 feet of outdoor green space
    • Access possible through water, land or air


Solar Vertical City is a self-contained, green-infused tower planted into the ocean floor| Inhabitat – Green Design, Innovation, Architecture, Green Building

Vertical City | Luca Curci Achitects

  1. Stakeholders:
    • Citizens around the world
    • The Gulf countries
    • Global and Local government
    • Building contractors and architects
    • Engineers
  2. Next steps:
    • Do a feasibility study and engage with stakeholders to improve relations
    • Reach an agreement on costs and economic outlook
    • Initiate the project or decrease scale of project (if denied by government)


By: Timothy Wiranata

UNI: tw2618

Comment on OLLI – the self-driving electric mini bus:

“A very innovative idea! However, my concern is, how would Olli cater to many different passengers’ destinations? Will it be able to find the most optimal route to drop each passenger (like Via)? Or will it drop the passengers one by one according to when they stepped into the bus?”


Sensor-Packed Pedestrian Crossing


Sustainable Problem: Civic Engagement, Safety

Sensor-packed pedestrian crossing is fit for a modern city


  • A prototype LED crossing uses sensors to respond to the movement of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians
  • “We’ve been designing a pedestrian crossing for the 21st century,” says Usman Haque, Umbrellium‘s founding partner. “Crossings that you know were designed in the 1950s, when there was a different type of city and interaction.”
  • This smart crossing doesn’t just look more modern than the 60 years old versions; it uses machine learning to make the crossings safer. Figures from the Transport Research Laboratory show that 7,000 incidents happen on them each year in the UK.
  • The actual crossing doesn’t exist until it’s safe for you to cross – then LED patterns appear to direct people and stop cars.
  • The machines could also learn to project the crossing at a slightly different orientation if, for instance, everyone makes a beeline for a certain shop after a school days.


  • Umbrellium
  • Insurance Firm – Direct Line
  • Cities


  • The project is still some way from completion.
  • To speed up the process, the code behind it is being made open source.
  • Deploy when figure logistics of implementation are figured out
  • Have multiple detection systems, to be fail safe such as version that has a pressure sensor which detects where footsteps are.


Comments to: World’s First and Largest Vacuum Air Cleaner #BT2443

The results confirm that the tower captures and removes up to 70% of the ingested PM10 and up to 50% of the ingested PM2.5. For a tower in an open field in calm weather, this provides PM10 reductions up to 45% and PM2.5 reductions up to 25% in a circle with diameter of more than 20 m around the tower. When the tower is applied in semi-enclosed or enclosed courtyards, the beneficial effects can be much larger. These statistics are astounding to me and these towers can help many people in very polluted areas.

UNI:  AV2698