Smart City Startups’ Startup Festival kicked off last Thursday on a typically hot and rainy Miami morning. The conference, in its second year, was started by Shaun Abramson and Stonly Baptiste, co-founders of the local startup investment fund Urban.Us.
That evening, entrepreneurs, investors, government workers, and tech enthusiasts milled around the Miami Light Project in Wynwood awaiting the day’s final presentations. The event, titled Urbantech for Miami, featured five startups offering solutions to urban problems using technology and publicly-available data. The New Tropic was there to take a look at what these up-and-coming companies have to offer our Magic City.
Placemeter is a NYC-based startup that is working to build a data platform that quantifies how people live and move in their cities to make them more efficient.
The company is interested in measuring street data in real-time using smartphones and security cameras. The cameras collect live video of action on a street and transmit it to Placemeter’s proprietary software, which is able to recognize pedestrians, different types of vehicles, and various common “urban elements” like food carts.
The information is analyzed and paired with behavioral data such as near-misses at an intersection or the amount of people frequenting a store.
The results are not just valuable to businesses looking to open new locations or conduct market research. Municipal governments and agencies can use the software to evaluate projects and perform studies on street use in a much faster way than was previously possible.
Privacy advocates, worry not. The software analyzes the video without storing it. Only the aggregate data remains to help businesses and urban planners make their next moves.
RallyBus is a service that bills itself as “pop-up mass transit” – a concept that allows users to go online and organize chartered buses and shuttles for special events like sports games, concerts, and festivals.
The process is simple – users search for their event on the website and reserve a place on the bus. Once the bus receives a minimum number of reservations, users receive confirmation that they will definitely have bus service. RallyBus even offers price matching if users find a lower-priced shuttle elsewhere, and its vehicles include luxury motor-coaches, school buses, and limo-buses.
TransitMix, the fan favorite after a close vote by the attending audience, is an online tool that allows transit planners to quickly analyze transit routes, calculate costs, and review the demographics of affected areas using publicly available data and data created or obtained by the startup. This functionality allows transit planners across the world to completely review their existing systems and easily model improvements. The tool offers live updates, meaning you can drag and drop the current lines to create new routes (like planning a trip on Google Maps) and immediately know how costs and rider demographics change.
Impressively, TransitMix has also delved into mapping what they call informal systems of transit, such as the jitneys and “Jeepneys” used around many parts of the world. In places like the Philippines and Vietnam, these are being mapped for the very first time.
Compared to the current costly and work-intensive method of drawing on paper and making calculations on unruly spreadsheets, TransitMix dramatically lowers the barriers for local governments everywhere to better plan their local transit systems.
HandUp is an online platform that enables generous donors to give directly to people in need, much like DonorsChoose (http://www.donorschoose.org/) serves teacher-specific projects. The startup partners with established human services organizations to sign up homeless and at-risk individuals who can then request donations for basic needs, including anything from dentures, to work clothes, to apartment deposits for moving off the street.
Rest assured, your donations will serve their intended purpose. HandUp pledges that 100% of contributions are transferred to their partner organizations, who work with their clients to ensure the money goes toward their stated goal. Donors are offered the option to contribute to HandUp’s overhead costs, and most do support the platform.
Last year, Miami’s poverty rate stood at 17 percent, three points higher than the national average, and homelessness continues to be an issue, particularly in the neighborhoods around Miami’s urban core. A tool like this in Miami would have unique potential to help thousands of homeless and at-risk Miamians from slipping further, and could help many rise up as the city continues its economic recovery.
Coastal Risk Consulting
Local environmentalist and entrepreneur Albert Slap made the drive down from Fort Lauderdale to introduce Coastal Risk Consulting, a service that offers a FICO-type “flood score” that assesses flooding risk on a property over the next 30 years. The idea is to give consumers, businesses, and governments the ability to better anticipate the effects of sea level rise in a way that’s cheap and efficient – a running theme of the night.
Casual users thinking of purchasing a home can get a report on a property for $49.95, while the company works with businesses, mortgage lenders, banks and governments to provide the information on a larger scale. The reports are produced using a cloud-based algorithm and terabytes of publicly-available data which can project, for the first time, non-storm flooding down to the parcel level. CRC claims that not only is the information accurate, but that it can save governments and businesses tens of thousands of dollars over the current cost of producing similar reports.
Abel Iraola is a communications professional with a passion for food, politics, the arts, and everything Miami. Follow him on Twitter, @abeliraola.