Blockchain technology for the public interest

Sustainability Problem: Citizen Engagement

  • Brazil’s most recent constitution, from 1988, created a form of “direct democracy,” that works as follows: If 1% of the voters sign a petition in support of a new law, the Brazilian Congress must recognize it as an official draft bill and vote it as such. Nowadays, you would need 1.5 million paper signatures for that.
  • Since 1988, this “direct democracy” mechanism has been used only four times, with limited success. Paper signatures do not work well for that process.
  • But what if we could remove the challenge of collecting 1.5 million paper signatures by collecting them digitally and then registering them with blockchain?

Technology: Mudamos, a blockchain-based application


  • The Institute for Technology & Society (ITS Rio) recently launched “Mudamos “, a blockchain-based application that establishes the identity of voters (based on a unique identification number each voter and taxpayer receives from the government in Brazil), and allows them to formally express their support for social-driven draft bills.
  • The blockchain creates an immutable record of signatures, attached directly to the identity of the voter. Because of the blockchain and other certification mechanisms that ITS Rio is adopting, the possibility of fraud is much lower than when paper signatures are used.
  • These bills are not approved automatically. They must be voted on, just like any other bill of law. However, the simple possibility of introducing a new bill of law in Congress (or other State and City legislative houses) can lead to a new and promising relationship between social agendas and governments.


  • Congress
  • Residents
  • Groups of interest


  • The app has already been launched and it was downloaded by 600 thousand people in the first two months after its launch
  • Next steps are to monitor social-driven draft bills with necessary amount of votes that are introduced in the Congress
  • Develop a program evaluation of the app










Smart Street Lights

Sustainability Problem: Energy, Health, Safety

The City of New York is currently replacing 250,000 Street Lights with LEDs. Mayor Bloomberg announced the project in 2013, which is supposed to save the city $6 million in energy costs and $8 million in maintenance every year. Currently, the project is 81% completed and it is expected to end in December 2017.

In addition to replacing the existing street light with LED-based lamps, the City could invest in a platform for multiple smart city services, which not only would result in additional energy and operational savings, but it would also have a positive community impact in terms of safety and environment.

Technology: Networked LEDs


  • SilverSpring Networks provides networked LEDs that give operator remote access and advanced functionality, including the ability to dim street lights and control their runtime by scheduling them to switch on/off as condition warrant, such as shorter/longer days.
  • According to the company, this networked-based control yields an additional 10 to 20 percent energy savings beyond just LED replacement, along with greater operations and management savings.
  • Networked street lights provide continuous, accurate status information to operators, enabling them to identify outages immediately.


  • NYC Department of Transportation
  • Utility
  • Residents


  • Department of Transportation should consider deploying smart street lights as part of its long-term perspective and detailed planning
  • Develop a cost-benefit analysis of the technology and estimated ROI.
  • Promote a participatory channel to include residents in the decision making process.



The Car as an Ambient Sensing Platform


Sustainability Problem: Safety, Health

The idea of using the car as a data collection device is not new: we have used GPS data to understand problems like traffic congestion and vehicle energy consumption. However, today’s vehicles present sophisticated systems with sensors, digital communications between cars with a vehicle-to-vehicle network, and with the roadside infrastructure with a vehicle-to-infrastructure communication system, as well as embedded computational resources for images and graphics processing. An average car today is equipped with over 4,000 sensors that collect internal and external data. What if we could use this data to improve overall safety on the roads, and better understand driver behavior and the urban environment?

Technology: Car sensing technology

  • For the first time, researchers at MIT in collaboration with Volkswagen are accessing the entire wealth of data exchanged on the controller area network (CAN) bus in near real time at high frequency, and analyzing these data.
  • This was made possible by the connected car paradigm, which allows vehicle CAN bus data to be recorded and wirelessly transmitted to central servers for analysis. Thus, the car sensing dimension, which can be understood as the number of different signals that a vehicle record and make available for data analysis, is increasing from 1 (or a few) to 1000 or above.
  • These data allow fast and accurate sensing of road conditions, which are partly the root cause of accidents.


  • Car industry
  • Drivers
  • Governments/Government Agencies


  • Raise awareness and discuss the security and privacy aspects of the connected car paradigm.
  • Promote transparency about usage of data
  • Analyze research question of which sensor signals to discard, store onboard, or send to a remote server


Suellen Aguiar – ss5195


Comment on another postSmartscooter & Smart Energy Network

Gogoro’s Smartscooter is powered by a removable battery that gives it a range of 60 miles per charge, which is an impressive number for an all-electric bike. It can also pair the electric vehicle with your smartphone to control certain features.



Pulling clean water from dry air

Sustainability Problem: Water

Almost one third of the world population lives in arid regions where water is scarce. As population grows and climate heats up,  water scarcity has the capacity to create or amplify poverty, migration and conflict problems. Although the ability to extract clean water from air is not new, existing techniques require high moisture levels and a lot of electricity. There is a need for technologies that pull water from air in areas where the percent of humidity is low and potable water is a pressing need.

Technology: New system for extracting water from very low humidity locations


  • Scientists at MIT and the University of California at Berkeley developed a new device that looks like a box. They used materials called metal-organic frameworks or MOFs, made of combinations of metal irons and organic units that act like a sponge to capture as much water as possible when the box is open. The structure of the MOF encompasses space, allowing the liquid to enter the interior of the porous. Once water is captured, the box is manually closed and exposed to some source of heat, which will heat up the material so it releases water from its surface in the vapor phase. The vapor is then converted to the liquid phase with a condenser.
  • Tests showed that one kilogram (just over two pounds) of the material could collect about three quarts of fresh water per day, about enough to supply drinking water for one person, from very dry air with a humidity of just 20 percent.
  • This is the first device that has potential for widespread use in dry locations that have a lot of sun.  Scalability is one of the main advantages of this technology in comparison to technologies that only extract water from very moist air, such as “fog harvesting” systems.


  • Governments
  • Academia
  • Industries


  • This technology is currently in the proof of concept phase. Initial experiments have proved that the concept work, but additional research is needed to refine the design of more effective varieties of the MOF.
  • After additional experiments are conducted, the next phase will be scaling up the prototype so that the final product can produce enough water for a family of four.
  • Later on, it will be necessary to develop a cost estimate and a business plan.


Comment on another post

  • Post: Nano Ganesh: Controlling your irrigation pump through your mobile device
  • Comment: This device seems to offer an attractive and convenient option for farmers that would like to use their phones to switch irrigation pumps in remote areas, saving time that otherwise they would be spending commuting. In the website of the company, some farmers also claimed that the device saved overflowing of water. In 2015, the company announced the expansion of the device to urban settings to help residents plug wastage of water in the city.

Suellen Aguiar – ss195


Reducing the electrical load in NYCHA buildings

Sustainability Problem: Energy

The New York City Housing Authority pays resident’s utility bills in 27 developments, a total of 166,952 units and 1,979 buildings, which add up to $180 million yearly. Demand has been the main driver of the utility cost increase witnessed by NYCHA in the past year, with consumption remaining stable. The authority faces many deep challenges, including increasing maintenance demands, declining funding, and aging housing stock, which make extensive energy retrofits difficult to fund. In this context, NYCHA would like solutions to manage electricity demand and in turn reduce electricity costs without having to replace building systems entirely.

 Technology: Smart sensors on window-mounted air-conditioning units

  • To cut down on usage, H.T. Lyons and Consolidated Energy Design proposed installing sensors that regulate the air-conditioning compressor during peak energy usage, when watts are more expensive, while keeping the unit on and residents comfortable.
  • The companies estimate that this technology can reduce energy demand of air conditioners by 40 to 60 percent when demand is highest.


  • NYCHA and its residents
  • Utility company
  • Local government
  • T. Lyons and Consolidated Energy Design


  • NYCHA is currently working with H.T. Lyons and Consolidated Energy Design to implement their solution as a small-scale pilot projects that will range from 3 months to 1 year
  • The companies will install the solution at their own expense to demonstrate the benefits of the solution
  • At the end of the pilot, the Authority will evaluate the impact of the technology and, if successful, it may be applied NYCHA-wide


Read More »

Miniature robotic submarines to explore the bottom of our ocean

Sustainability Problem: Water Resources/Also relates to energy and health

Only 5% of the ocean has been explored yet it feeds over 2 billion and provides more than 50% of our oxygen. The shape of the ocean floor helps determine weather patterns, when and where tsunamis will strike and management of fisheries that feed millions. Ocean exploration can also help us evaluate the potential environmental impacts of ocean mining and whether to authorize mining to proceed. Ocean exploration technologies today, from human divers to satellites and autonomous underwater vehicles, cannot scale to gather information necessary to increase our understanding of the ocean’s potential. Therefore, there is an enormous need for new technologies for ocean exploration that can be scalable, cheaper and survive the extraordinary physical challenges – water’s weight and pressure, unknown risks, lack of visibility – of the ocean.

Technology: Marine Bees


  • Eua’ligo is one of 21 semi-finalists of the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE Competition. The team is working to launch a horde of miniature robotic submarines, called Marine Bees, that mimic the coordinated operations of a hive of bees to efficiently explore and image the ocean floor up to 4000m deep in less than 24 hours.
  • Once the Marine Bees dive under the water, Eua’ligo has no control over them. They are totally autonomous and independent even though they gain their strength in numbers, like bees. They bring back data and images.
  • They have many features of full sized Autonomous Underwater Vehicles but are smaller and cheaper. The advantage comes from putting hundreds of these small and simple robotic submarines together, providing low cost exploration and scalability.
  • The submarines were designed to be ultra-small to withstand the sea floor’s immense pressures, and self-learning to guide themselves in an environment no one has visited.


  • Universities and research centers
  • Oceans, fisheries and coastal economies and industries
  • Ocean mining companies


  1. Conduct deep-sea tests to ensure that the technology survives physical challenges of the ocean and meets the criteria of good resolution, bathymetric map accuracy, etc.
  2. If deep-sea tests are successful, develop a business plan and potentially partner with governments.
  3. It is important to discuss responsibilities that come from mapping the ocean. Mining industries, for example, will seek profit in the previously unattainable depths of the ocean.


Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE Website

Eua’ligo Website

Suellen Aguiar – ss5195