Solar Technology to Illuminate the World’s First Underground Park

Screenshot 2017-11-29 22.24.47Sustainability Problem: Urban Greening

While urban green space is important for people’s health and well-being, it is getting harder to come by with rising real estate prices and development.

Sustainability Technology: Solar Reflectors

Idled underground space can be transformed to public parks by creative solar technology. The Lowline in the Lower East Side of New York City will be the world’s first underground park with “remote skylight”.

  • The 60,000 square feet space will be illuminated by an innovative solar technology: above ground, parabolic collector are set up to reflect and gather sunlight at one focal point; the sunlight is then transmitted to a reflective surface on the distributor dish underground through an intricate system of mirrors and tubes.
  • The technology will transmit the necessary wavelengths of light to support photosynthesis, enabling plants and trees to grow. There are already 50 species of plants growing in the park.
  • The solar reflectors on the roof will track the sun all day and electricity is not needed when sunlight is available.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology:

  • City Department of Design and Construction
  • Businesses and residents in the community
  • General public and community organizations

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology:

  1. Procure underground sites with potentials and benefits of urban greening.
  2. Set up model lab as proof of concept of the technology to convince and educate stakeholders.
  3. Obtain supports from the city and local communities, both in terms of funding and permitting.


The Lowline

Inside the Lowline: The Technology Behind NYC’s First Underground Park


The TZOA air quality monitor


Smart Parking Meters

Screenshot 2017-11-23 22.11.43

Sustainability Problem: street parking and payment 

Finding close-by street parking can be a frustrating endeavor, and equally frustrating is that one often has to find enough quarters in the wallet, to keep track of parking time, and to return to the car to add time.

Sustainability Technology: Smart Parking Meters

  • The Park Smarter App allows drivers to connect directly to a physical parking meter and pay with their smartphone.
  • The App also prompts the driver when the meter is about to expire, and offers the ability to add time from the phone without needing to go back to the car.
  • The App also comes with the Parking Finder tool telling drivers where inactive meters (i.e. free parking spaces) are.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology:

  • Parking Administrator for the City
  • Department of Transportation
  • Individual drivers

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology:

  1. Conduct pilots in selected areas of cities with high volume of meter traffic.
  2. Collect data from the pilots: compare parking revenues before and after introduction of the technology, as it should improve city’s parking revenue; conduct surveys from drivers on the technology comparing with traditional coin-based parking meter.
  3. Leveraging on success and experience learned from the pilots, branch out to other cities and areas.


It’s about ‘time’: Parking meters are becoming smarter

App-Enabled Meters to Replace ‘the Boot’ in Delray Beach, Fla.


Communicating without Internet Access Using Mesh Networks“: Very handy technology to provide connectivity when traditional internet network is either unavailable or unaffordable. The company can partner up with hardware companies, such as MeshPoint (it provides relief WiFi hotspot for disasters and outdoor areas), to refine the technology and provide a holistic solution.


Kite Power: A New Way of Harnessing Wind Energy


Sustainability Problem: how to better harness wind as a renewable energy

While wind is among the top sources of renewable energy, it is also one of the most unpredictable as the behavior of winds near the ground is highly variable. Meanwhile, winds are much stronger and steadier at higher altitudes and are ideal for power generation.

Sustainability Technology: Kite Power Systems to capture wind energy

Kite Power Systems has developed specially-designed kites that can capture winds at high altitude where conventional wind turbines cannot reach. The technology has the potential to provide stable and constant power, eliminating the biggest disadvantage of renewable energy.

  • How it works: the kites will fly in pairs hundreds of feet above the ground, such that while one is generating power the other is being retracted. The motion powers a generator on the ground and the energy production is constant.

Screenshot 2017-11-08 23.22.30

  • Not only it can access winds at high altitude that traditional turbines cannot, the technology is also cheaper and easier to build and set up. In addition, the system is more durable and require less maintenance compare with traditional wind turbines.
  • Currently the system is capable of generating around 500 kilowatts of energy, enough to supply electricity for 430 home. The company is on the course to commercialize the technology with a backing from Shell Technology Ventures.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology:

  • Utility companies
  • Energy companies
  • Department of Energy

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology:

  1. Conduct more trial tests and fine tune the technology with fundings from government energy agencies and VCs.
  2. Partner with existing power companies to scale the technology.
  3. Identify markets/countries that are prime to first deploy the technology.


Kites Could Be the Future of Wind Power

Kite Power Systems

Kite Power: No Longer a Flight of Fancy

Comments on other blogpost: “Timber Towers – Future of Construction”

Screenshot 2017-11-01 16.24.14Sustainability Problem: sustainable and affordable urban home construction

As the world is becoming more urbanized, there is a growing need for more affordable and environmentally responsible housing. Constructing homes on urban infills is often costly, time consuming and brings unwanted disturbance to the surrounding communities.

Sustainable Technology: prefabricated houses 

Plant Prefab manufactures custom and single/multifamily homes that are high-quality, healthy, customized and durable. With faster built time, less cost, more reliability, less disruptions and wastes, it provides great potentials to address the challenges of urban home construction.

  • The company provides low cost homes in half the time and with less waste than traditional site-based contractors. Modules are built in assembly lines just like those in an ship or plane building factory, which can be more efficient than building on-site. It is also cost effective as the factories are not located in an expensive labor market and the company uses full-time staff rather than sub contractors.
  • The company is the first prefabricated home factory in the nation dedicated to sustainable construction, materials, processes, and operations. It also uses materials that minimize or eliminate off-gassing and to avoid toxics.
  • The technology and processes are commercially ready as the company’s first home is the first certified LEED Platinum in the nation and they built the first multi-family project certified LEED Platinum in northern California.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology:

  • Developers and architects
  • Individual home owners
  • City planners

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology:

  1. Target marketing to developers in the urban in-fill market in constrained areas for cities like New York and San Fransisco.
  2. Showcase company’s certified LEED homes on homebuilder’s magazines.
  3. Build awareness and knowledge of the company among architect communities through workshops of the software and design process.


Plant Prefab

Plant Prefab raises $3 million from Obvious Ventures for durable, sustainable homes 

High-end, Sustainable, Prefab Homes are Becoming a Big Business

Comment on other blogpost: Ocean Cleanup

Early Earthquake Warning System

Screenshot 2017-10-25 20.36.39Sustainability Problem: how to reduce the catastrophic damage and deaths caused by earthquakes

It is only a matter of time when the next major earthquake will hit the west coast U.S.. The USGS estimates that within the next 30 years, California has a 99.7% chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake, while the Pacific Northwest has a 10% chance of a catastrophic 8 to 9 magnitude earthquake.

Sustainable Technology: 

  • Earthquake early warning (EEW) system uses earthquake science and the technology of monitoring systems to alert devices and people when shaking waves generated by an earthquake are expected to arrive at their location. The seconds to minutes of advance warning can allow people to avert catastrophic damage and deaths: trains and planes can come to a stop, cars can be blocked from bridges and tunnels, dangerous industrial systems can be automatically shut down while people can seek cover.
  • Several earthquake-prone countries, such as Mexico, Japan, Italy and China, have built functional EEW systems. During the most recent magnitude-7.1 quake on Sept. 19 in Mexico City, the EEW system successfully sent out early warnings and reduced tragedies. The SASMEX alert system collecting data from sensors along Mexico’s western coast gave residents more than a minute’s warning from sirens and even news reports on radio and TV. There is also a free smartphone app used by millions of Mexicans.
  • The U.S. is behind the curve with a partially built system for California. A pilot EEW system called ShakeAlert has began sending test notifications to selected users in California since 2012. Despite the success of trail runs, the system is still not available to the wide public. The program costs $16 million to build and operate per year, but the USGS has only been given $10 million each year. Worse yet, it is being eliminated in the proposed budget by the new administration.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology:

  • USGS (United States Geological Survey)
  • City governments, schools, transit systems, utility companies
  • General public

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology:

  • Secure financing for the technology from various sources, including private fundings, grants and public crowdsourcing
  • Finish installing all the sensors and build effective communication channels, e.g. cellphone Apps
  • Introduce ShakeAlert to the general public with test runs


Earthquake Early Warning

Quake Warning System: The Tech Is Effective, but Lacks Needed Funding

The United States Needs an Earthquake Warning System Already


“BOSSNETT” – The Automatic Underground Waste System

Addressing the World with Three-word Phrases

Screenshot 2017-10-17 21.58.27

Sustainability Problem: Mobility, Public Administration and Service

An estimated 4 billion people, close to 75% of the earth’s population, have no address for mailing purposes, making it difficult to open a bank account, get a delivery, or be reached in an emergency. In addition, global addressing in different languages can be inconsistent and ambiguous, which often leads to errors. While GPS coordinates are more accurate, they are also too complicated and cumbersome.

Sustainable Technology: what3words assigns every 10-square-foot block of space in the world a new name

what3words is a simple way to talk about location. The idea is that a series of words is easier to remember than street addresses and the strings of number that make up GPS coordinates.

  • It divides the world into a grid of 3m x 3m squares and assigns each one a unique 3 word address. It means anyone can accurately find any location and share it more quickly, easily and with less ambiguity than any other system. For example, the White House, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, becomes sulk.held.raves. The service can be used via the free mobile app or online map.
  • Mongolia is changing all its addresses to three-word phrases instead of house numbers and street names. The country is switching to the What3Words system because there are too few named streets and it’s sparsely populated.
  • NGOs including the United Nations have used the app for disaster recovery.
  • Pollinate Energy, an Indian solar lighting company, has used the service to delivery solar lights to people in remote areas who don’t have street addresses.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology

  • Government postal agency
  • Emergency service organizations
  • General businesses
  • Individuals

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology

  • Building on the success story of Mongolia, offer the technology to developing countries with incipient address systems.
  • Encourage adoption of the free mobile Apps to individuals by social media campaigns to make it the standard for social mapping.
  • Continue to expand its functions in serving populations without formal address/settlements by partnerships with more NGOs.


Mongolia is changing all its addresses to three-word phrases

This Startup Is Renaming Every Place On Earth


“Turning Climate Pollution Into Fish Feed”

Internet of Trees – When You Give a Tree an Email Address

Screenshot 2017-09-29 21.24.50

Sustainability Problem: Public Safety and Comfort, Civic Engagement, City Maintenance 

Urban forest has been identified as one of the most cost efficient and effective strategies for mitigating the urban heat island effect and adapting to climate change. However, maintaining good tree canopy cover can be expensive and dangerous tree branches sometimes present public safety concerns.

Sustainable Technology: Assign trees with ID numbers and email addresses

  • Ranked by the EIU as the world’s most liveable city for seven years in a row since 2011, Melbourne suffers from extreme weather conditions like strong heat and flashfloods. Urban forest can help to reduce urban head island effect and improve stormwater retention.
  • To help to improve the city’s canopy cover, every tree in the city is catalogued with an individual ID email address, and can be seen in an open dataset with details such as life expectancy.
  • Citizen can also report problems like dangerous branches by the email-a-tree service. People ended up doing more than just reporting problems, but sending messages such as greetings and love letters to the trees via the emails.
  • “Internet of Trees” not only helps with city maintenance, but also encourages civic engagement.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology

  • City officials who oversee maintaining and improving the city’s tree population
  • City officials who oversee public engagement and safety
  • Citizens

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology

  1. Identify large metropolitans that lacks tree cover and can benefit from it, such as New York and Beijing. Work with city officials to get approval and funding for the project.
  2. Conduct pilots in selected parts of the city: tag trees and educate public about the new service.
  3. Roll out the project to rest of the city; build a database and map of the trees, and share them with the public.


City of Melbourne –  Urban Forest Visual

Internet of Trees: Melbourne Uses Smart City Tech To Stay World’s Most Liveable Place

When You Give a Tree an Email Address


“IoT powered by wireless signals” – This is a great technology that once commercialized, the application could be limitless! Not only it will conserve energy, it also provides convenience – imagine you will never have to change the batteries for smoke alarms and security cameras. According to the article, “The researchers believe that tiny passive Wi-Fi devices could be extremely cheap to make, perhaps less than a dollar”. One version of the passive Wi-Fi technology is already being commercialized through a spin-off company called Jeeva Wireless.


Google Street View Cars Are Mapping Methane Leaks and Other Air Pollutants

Screenshot 2017-09-27 19.53.26

Sustainability Problem: Greenhouse Gas, Air Pollution 

In the vast web of natural gas pipes beneath our cities’ streets, leaks are a persistent challenge. It can be time-consuming to identify and measure using existing technologies, and methane is a potent greenhouse gas with significant implications for our climate.

Sustainable Technology: Google Street View Cars Equipped with Air Sample Collector

In partnership with Google, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has used Street View cars to measure methane levels by equipping cars with an intake tube and methane analyzer. It has built methane maps for 11 cities and found more than 5,500 leaks.

  • Street View cars make at least 2 trips around a given area to capture good air quality data. An intake tube on the front bumper collects air samples, which are then processed by a methane analyzer in the trunk. Finally, the data is sent to the Google Cloud for analysis and integration into a map showing the size and location of methane leaks.
  • EDF and Google have helped PSE&G, one of the largest utilities in New Jersey to replace up to 510 miles of aging pipes in a cost effective manner.
  • Equipped with high-precision GPS, Google Street View cars are already driving around pretty much everywhere, capturing 360-degree photos for Google Maps. It can also create a street-level air quality map of the city by adding sensors that can measure particulate matter.
  • From the success of methane mapping, Google equipped more Street View cars with its ‘Environmental Intelligence’ mobile platform to measure other pollutants, including particulate matter, NO2, CO2 black carbon, and more.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology

  • Gas utility companies: utilities are required by law to quickly fix any leaks that are deemed a safety threat
  • City planners and policymakers in city governments
  • Federal governments and regulators (e.g. EDF and EPA)

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology

  1. Leveraging on the success story of PSE&G, market the technology to gas utilities in cities with extensive and aging pipelines.
  2. Replicate and scale up in other cities to help local officials and residents pinpoint their air pollution problems.
  3. In addition to city governments, explore potential users/buyers of the air pollution map, such as real estate companies and restaurant chains.


Google Street View Cars Are Mapping Methane Leaks in US Cities

Mapping the invisible: Street View cars add air pollution sensors

How Cities Are Using the Internet of Things to Map Air Quality


Crowdfunding local government – “Very interesting and great idea! In addition to helping cash-strapped government offices make up for budget shortfalls, crowdfunding sites can democratize public engagement. Sometimes the publicity and awareness are just as important as the money.”

‘Sensor Suitcase’ to Reduce Energy Use in Small Commercial Buildings

Screenshot 2017-09-18 16.05.00

Sustainability Problem: Energy Efficiency 

It is often difficult to identify and implement energy efficiency practice for small commercial buildings due to the lack of technical expertise and financial capitals. Although it is a fairly segmented market, small commercial building accounts for about 44 percent of commercial building energy consumption. It represents a large opportunity in improving energy efficiency and cost savings.

Sustainable Technology: Retro-Commissioning “Sensor Suitcase”

The “Sensor Suitcase” is a portable case that contains easy-to-use sensors and other equipment that make it possible for anyone to identify energy-saving opportunities in small commercial buildings. It is developed by two U.S. Department of Energy labs, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. It provides the hard-to-reach small commercial buildings sector with a streamlined technology solution with very little cost and time:

  • “It’s kind of like the ‘for dummies’ version of how to identify improvements in your building. Instead of hiring a professional engineer to conduct a full energy evaluation, you could get just about anyone to do it.” said Jessica Granderson, deputy director of Berkeley Lab’s Building Technology and Urban Systems Division.
  • It can do much of the same work as a traditional retro-commissioning assessment in four to six weeks, compared to six months or longer, and at one-third the cost.
  • It is expected to provide 10 percent saving on the building’s energy bills. If used by every small commercial building nationwide, U.S. energy costs would be reduced by $5.1 billion every year.
  • It has successfully completed the journey from lab to market and is licensed by GreenPath Energy Solutions, a Florida-based energy-efficiency solutions company.

Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology

  • Owners and facility managers of small commercial buildings
  • ESCO energy services companies
  • Utilities that lend the technology to commercial building customers or otherwise encourage its use

First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology

  1. Market the technology to federal, state and local governments through GSA Schedule contract, as many small businesses lease or occupy local government-owned buildings.
  2. Select couple cities with large concentration of small commercial buildings to conduct pilot testings.
  3. Partner with local utilities to broaden customer outreach.



New water purification system could help slake the world’s thirst – “Interesting technology. Although it is not likely to replace current large scale industrial filtration techniques, which require massive inputs of energy and upfront financial capital, it could offer a more cost-effective solution for individuals to purify water for their own needs.”