Let’s start with companies that work on waste management as nowadays every city has this issue on its priority list.
Bigbelly is a smart waste and recycling system that has been implemented in the main cities of the US and in more than 50 countries around the globe. Bigbelly provides a solar-powered compacting waste bin that allows for up to five times the amount of waste as a traditional bin. What is also good about it, and I would say the best and the most demanded feature of it is that it alerts the appropriate city department when it needs to be emptied. This means that the number of trash bins in a city can be reduced by 70-80%, which makes the streets more aesthetically appealing. Also, it reduces traffic jams and ensures that the cars take full rubbish bins instead of coming twice for half-full bins.
Another interesting company that also works on waste management is Zerocycle, which collects and analyzes garbage and recycling data to determine recycling rates for each neighborhood in a city. The company shares those insights in customized Neighborhood Waste Reports, which are sent to every household in the service area. Personally, I think this is a great initiative because it motivates others to pay more attention to recycling.
ShotSpotter is a company that works on reducing the crime rate in cities. Gunfire is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous aspects of urban life. When a gunshot is heard, it’s not always reported because people get scared or are not sure if this is a gunshot or something else. But sound sensors, whether standalone, from a company such as ShotSpotter, or added to a smart streetlight, can detect gunshots and automatically report it to a police department without depending on citizen involvement. The software can also determine how many shots were fired, and how many shooters are present, which can really help police officers who respond to the call.
Now we live in a world where almost everything can be controlled by phone and we don’t want to waste our time standing in a queue to get tourism information. We can just use our phones and Google it or find some info on Tripadvisor, Foursquare, etc. But sometimes, we have problems with the battery or we don’t want to spend too much time on research or sometimes we just have unexpected trips and digital kiosks on the streets with information about the city are always a good idea.
Digital kiosks give information about restaurants, retail stores, and events in the immediate area. It also provides mapping for visitors and can sync with a mobile phone to give additional data as needed. For example, Citymapper pulls in public transport information and provides multi-modal transport options to get users to their chosen destinations. It really saves time and makes it easy for travelers to find information without actually reading many articles and visiting many sites.
LED streetlights have numerous benefits. One of the main benefits is reduced crime, because the lights automatically brighten when there are multiple people in the area, and dim when no one is around. ROI and savings is another important point, with LED lights just in a few years you get ROI and then notice monthly savings on street lighting. Just to give you an example, In Los Angeles, the city saves nearly $9 million annually on utility costs as a result of its decision to spend $57 million to convert nearly 80% of its 215,000 old sodium-vapor streetlights to LED versions.
There are other benefits of LED streetlights, for example, Danish company DOLL – a new platform for developing future LED-lighting solutions aims to create energy efficiency and intelligent indoor and outdoor lighting solutions and to generate jobs.
DOLL supports municipalities, regions, and private companies, in cooperation with scientists, with the development of new and improved lighting solutions. It is a promising technology that leads to cost reductions; focusing on quality, the end-user, and energy efficiency.
If you live in a city, you probably experience problems with parking. Now, a lot of companies actually work on solutions that would simplify our process of parking a car. Nowadays, mobile apps became very popular in this question. They tell you when a parking spot is available, using parking sensors.
European cities were early adopters of this technology. For example, in Paris, France, the average resident spends four years of their life looking for a parking spot, according to Cisco. With the widespread use of parking sensors, traffic in Paris has dropped dramatically.
This technology really simplifies our lives by indicating the nearest available parking spot. It saves time, gas, emissions, and money while also easing the flow of traffic and the overall satisfaction of living in a city where it is actually convenient to live.
If we talk about companies that work on these solutions, the first company that comes to my mind is ParkWhiz, which aims to help anyone find a parking spot from a web browser or mobile phone. Public and private parking garages list available spaces and pricing on ParkWhiz. This app also allows people to instantly reserve a spot with a credit card. Very convenient!
Open Data Initiatives
Every city should support open data initiatives and hackathons. In New York City, they organize BigApps competition, which produces useful and resource-saving apps to improve cities and keep citizens informed. Things like air quality, restaurant sanitation scores, building inspection scores, and impending legislation should be readily available for all citizens.
Air Quality Sensor
Unfortunately now living in a city has some side effects like for example problems with health, etc. Living in a city means having a lot of stress and rarely breathing fresh air. TZOA uses internal sensors to measure your air quality, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, ambient light, and UV – all in one wearable device. In other words, TZOA is a wearable enviro-tracker that helps you stay healthy and explore your environment. It takes data from your environment in real time and turns it into actionable recommendations to keep you healthy. Having data and a smartphone app, you can know if you need to open a window in your home, take a bike and choose a different route to work, or get more or less sun. These recommendations help to change behaviors and improve your quality of life.
EverImpact discovers the origins of greenhouse gas emissions in your city. It is the climate monitoring app for cities, which measures and monetizes Cities’ CO2 emissions by combining Satellites and Ground Sensors’ data. Cities get a real-time map of their emissions at the street and building levels. It really helps to control the environmental situation in the cities.
A success story of digital services developed from open data in Helsinki is the mobile GPS app BlindSquare which helps blind and visually impaired people navigate through the city by describing the environment, announcing points of interest and street intersections to users, and telling them where to go.