New York City has devised a new way to pilot emerging technologies. On Wednesday, the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation launched the “NYC Smart City Testbed Program,” an initiative allowing city agencies to collaborate with companies and academic institutions on pilots that will primarily operate in public spaces.
“New York City has a new tool to keep up with major advances in urban technology,” said Paul Rothman, the OTI’s director of Smart Cities and IoT, in a statement. The program will help the city make more informed decisions about the best technologies and how to use them, Rothman said.
Here’s how it works: Applications for the test program will be accepted on a rolling basis, with two projects selected per quarter, according to the OTI. Each pilot will run for six to nine months. While the pilots will be self-funded by applicants, they will have access to the city’s assets, technical support, partnership and administrative guidance through the procurement, legal and other regulatory processes. The pilots will also receive feedback from the public and the city about the practical benefit of their technology on government and residents.
“Real-world opportunities to test new technology are invaluable for founders, but they also ensure that new technology meets the diverse needs of New Yorkers and solves real world problems in measurable ways,” said Johan Schwind, managing director of technology startup platform URBAN-X, in a statement. Schwind called the program critical to the continued success of New York’s startup ecosystem.
Here are the first three pilot projects announced by the OTI:
Droning on about energy efficiency
This project will use drones, robotics and other tech to scan buildings for structural flaws that reduce energy efficiency, thus increasing a building’s greenhouse gas emissions. Building managers can then retrofit their building to address the leaky envelope “and help move New York City closer toward meeting its climate goals,” the OTI said.
The project is a collaboration between OTI, New York University researchers, Building Diagnostics Robotics and the NYC Department of Citywide Administration Services.
Taking sensors to the streets
“Computer vision” sensors are collecting data about how New Yorkers use streets at 12 locations around the city. By measuring how and when people use different modes of transportation — and generating detailed reports — this pilot aims to inform safety measures and future street redesigns. Sensors often elicit privacy concerns from residents, but video frames from these sensors are deleted almost immediately, storing only anonymous features.
Although the city’s Department of Transportation began this pilot in July, before the Testbed program launched on Wednesday, it will be supported by the initiative.
A vacuum for air pollution?
A Netherlands-based company will install three systems across the city that pull pollution out of the air. Specifically, Static Air’s pole-mounted systems attract PM 2.5 and PM 10, types of particulate matter that can cause serious health problems if inhaled. This summer brought New York City’s air quality concerns into sharp focus, with wildfire smoke drifting down from Canada and shrouding the city in an orange haze.
The city’s OTI did not say exactly where the systems will be located but noted that fitting locations include schools, playgrounds or other places where vulnerable populations congregate. Real-time air quality monitoring devices will track how well the systems work.
The OTI acknowledged that these systems do not replace long-term strategies to reduce air pollution, including building and transportation electrification and tree planting.