11 Smart City Solutions Creating Smarter Cities
Our previous article on connected cars was quite popular so we decided to take a look at the smart cities these connected cars will inhabit in the future. As the Internet-of-Things (IoT) revolution continues to connect everything around us, cities and urban areas present an excellent space for tech startups to play in. The bright minds at CB Insights put together this market map with about 80 startups helping to build smarter cities:
Let’s take a look at some of the types of startups looking to create the smart cities of tomorrow.
Tracking Water Usage with Big Data
Water is the next big thing and we recently wrote about “7 Water Tech Startups Helping Keep You Alive“. One startup using big data to help us use water more efficiently is WaterSmart Software, a company that is working to provide advanced intelligence to water utility managers. This San Francisco company has taken in $13.35 million through six rounds of equity funding to help increase customer engagement through the use of big data. If water is such a vital resource, we should be tracking how it’s used. WaterSmart’s system provides access to visual analytics, reporting, and customer relationship tools.
The customer-facing portions of their platform give customers access to information that helps them to save money on their water bill, protect their property, and conserve water.
Artificial Intelligence in Emergency Management
After surviving a flood in India, Stanford engineering student Ahmad Wani wanted to build a technology solution that would save every possible life in a disaster. Founded in 2015, Silicon Valley startup 1Concern has raised an undisclosed amount of funding so far to invest in a team of data scientists and engineers who plan to make cities safer by using machine intelligence to provide insights into disaster preparedness and mitigation. Their system allows cities to prepare for hazards like earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes with real-time disaster coordination, training simulations to prepare, and analysis that helps allow for a quick recovery.
Solutions are being built for monitoring transportation, hospitals, schools, humanitarian assistance, supply chains, and search and rescue, so that all these entities can work together more effectively in times of disaster. While we were initially skeptical about their references to “state of the art AI” and the shotgun approach used to describe what they do, it looks like they are making things happen.
Big Data for Traffic Analysis
Founded in 2004, Kirkland, Washington startup INRIX specializes in real-time traffic analytics that uses traffic data to offer actionable insights for freeways, highways, and arterials. The Company has raised $143.1 million through seven rounds of equity funding to date from investors that include Intel and Porsche and was recently chosen by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration as their travel-time data source for highways. INRIX’s system uses big data (like weather forecasts, school schedules, anonymous mobile phones, road construction, etc.) to help cities in a variety of ways including optimizing parking management, preparing for large events, improving driver safety, and improving emergency response inefficiencies.
Roads that Talk to You
Missouri startup Integrated Roadways has a big vision for the future of roads. Their goal is to create modular pavement that acts as a digital network to connect drivers, support driverless technology, and generate recurring revenue from private party app development. The startup has taken in an undisclosed amount of funding to develop their patented Smart Pavement platform which provides a better, faster (95% less costly to install), less expensive (80% less total cost), and more durable (lasts 4X longer) way to create roads and highways. Here’s what it looks like:
The system could also communicate with emergency services during an accident, providing added safety and facilitating quicker emergency response times. Currently, they’re working with the State of Missouri on a pilot to determine its suitability to reconstruct I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis, a $4 billion project. They see themselves as a technology integrator and said they’ve had interest from companies like Cisco, Sprint, Amazon, Google, and others who all want to participate. It’s probably about time to partner up then.
Windows Enabled by Nanotechnology
We first covered View in 2014, and to date the company has taken in a whopping $645 million through 9 rounds of funding including a $200 million round just this month. View’s technology uses a nanoscale metal oxide transparent film and layers this on top of a normal window. By applying a small electric charge, the ions move between the layers tinting the glass. The dynamic glass can tint building windows based on weather conditions outside or to fit personal preferences of the inhabitants inside who no longer have to deal with blinds, but can now control the windows digitally. HR will tell you that it’s because “we care about employees, our greatest asset” but don’t listen to that drivel. It’s about cost savings:
They’ve completed 350 commercial installations with 150 in the works. Their website has gone through a major overhaul and now contains a wealth of info. Is View Glass prepping for an IPO perhaps? If you’re interested in learning more about the smart glass market, check out our recent article titled “Is Smart Glass a Smart Investment Yet?“.
Optimized Bus Routes
Remix is a San Francisco-based company that provides a public transportation planning platform. They have raised $12 million through 2 rounds of funding to date with Sequoia Capital leading their last round of $10 million which closed in May 2017. Remix is already used by transit agencies in more than 200 cities across the globe. Once installed, the platform will pull data about the area’s existing transit networks, evaluate alternatives, and make suggestions for changes and improvements. Staff can use the system to create and test new routes and transportation scenarios, allowing them to see the effects of a change before implementing it as seen below:
We can see some interesting demographics in the above example which show just how granular information is getting these days.
Update 03/06/2019: Remix has taken in a $15 million Series B funding round to continue solving the complicated problem of transit infrastructure in urban environments. This brings total funding to $27 million so far.
Civic Management in the Cloud
San Ramon, California startup Accela provides a cloud-based platform for managing civic engagement and governmental duties, helping cities to take quicker, more effective action. The company has raised $235.62 million through six rounds of equity funding to date and have used that money to acquire 10 different companies since opening their doors in 1999. Accela’s platform is comprehensive, covering a range of areas including asset management, environment, finance, land management, licensing, utilities, and citizen relationship management. 35 of the biggest cities in the US use them and an IPO may be imminent. If you feel a yawn coming on when the topic of civic management comes up, we know how you feel. Let’s move on to our next startup.
The Internet of Garbage (IoG)
Founded in 2010, Finnish startup Enevo has raised $26.75 million to provide analytics for waste management companies by collecting and analyzing data from wireless sensors they put inside of refuse containers. The startup claims to improve cost efficiency for cities, saving as much as 50% on their waste costs by only emptying bins when they are predicted to be full, and generating smart collection routes for garbage truck drivers.
This allows waste management companies to deploy resources to more pressing collection routes. Their platform also provides cities with a detailed reporting system that allows them to track changes and observe improvements.
Smart City Connectivity
SIGFOX provides a cellular network that is dedicated to low-throughput communication between internet-connected objects. In short, they provide a platform for communication between Internet-of-Things devices. The company has raised $309.7 million through six rounds of funding to date from investors that include Intel and Air Liquide. In order for smart cities to be more connected, a platform is necessary to bridge the gap. SIGFOX uses a low-power wide-area network that is compatible with Bluetooth, GPS, and Wifi. Their lightweight protocol is designed to handle small incoming and outgoing messages, leading to less energy consumption and longer battery life. SIGFOX already has a presence in more than 30 countries, amounting to more than 2 million square kilometers of coverage. Their stated goal is covering 100% of the globe within the next few years. The company is already regarded as a leader in the IoT industry with a lot of potential for growth moving forward.
Real-time Air Quality Maps
Israeli startup Breezometer’s mission is to help cities and businesses by providing accurate air quality data in order to help make environmental decisions. The company has raised $4.8 million through 2 rounds of equity funding to date. Breezometer provides customers with hyper-local air quality data, updated in real-time. The system collects data from sensors, including current conditions and dispersion patterns, comparing current data against historical data.
The system then provides health recommendations, real-time notifications, and additional information about pollution sources from their cloud-based platform. Seems like the more important problem to solve here is how to clean up that air but at least now we have a way of accurately measuring if the changes we’re proposing are having an effect on air quality. We don’t need a fancy tool to tell us that Beijing’s perma-haze means the city is polluted.
Energy & Grid Management
Spun out of Stanford in 2011, AutoGrid aims to help energy companies by improving grids through the usage of big energy data and analytics. So far the Company has raised $41.75 million through 4 rounds of equity funding with many large energy companies participating. AutoGrid works directly with utility companies, energy service providers, and new energy developers to offer a platform that optimizes the generation and storage of energy. You can only imagine how fragmented the energy industry is with all kinds of legacy hardware and software systems that don’t talk to each other. With AutoGrid’s platform, you can actually create “virtual power plants” that stand to transform the $2.4 trillion utility sector.
Soon, all cities and urban areas in developed markets will be smarter and more connected. The main driver of IoT is the falling cost of sensors which now are half the cost they were ten years ago and now cost about 60 cents a unit. While retail investors can’t just go and invest in any of these interesting startups we’ve just covered, they may be able to invest in the companies that are building all these sensors. Retail investors should be sure to check out our article on investing in IoT sensors next.
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