As the big demographic shift from rural to urban areas happens at a rapid pace and cities look for smarter ways of optimising strained urban resources and services, the start-ups at the incubator here, The Hub, are gearing up to offer innovative technology-driven solutions.
One of them, BlocPower, is an energy retrofit start-up, a platform created by a group of young engineers that works with community leaders, institutions and apartment owners of residential multi-storeyed complexes in financially underserved urban areas and assembles four or more into non-profit “bloc” (group) of potential retrofits.
After a comprehensive energy audit of each property in the block a correct mix of high efficiency technology other modifications that will reduce each consumer’s energy consumption is suggested. The platform provides an opportunity to those concerned about climate change and job creation to invest on BlocPower online while those investors who provide upfront project financing are repaid out of energy savings. The retrofit in a block ranges from switching over to LED bulbs to modification of ventilation provisions in the buildings.
“Communities now understand the importance of energy efficiency and the switch over is easy as it means a substantial reduction in power bills”, says Thomas George, Chief Operating Officer of BlocPower. “It is sort of data crunching. Making use of city level and satellite data we have come up with a platform that means a lot for the communities paying huge power bills, for those concerned about impact of climate change on cities and for those seeking jobs. We are training educated youth from these communities to take up the retrofitting jobs”. The retrofit company has completed energy audit of about 200 buildings in New York city that includes places of worship, schools and residential complexes.
BlocPower is one of the several start-ups hosted at The Hub, created by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Grand Central Tech (GCT) for developing cutting- edge urban technologies in the bustling midtown Manhattan. “We offer space at affordable cost in city centre, equipment, pilot opportunities and shared resources to companies addressing urban technological challenges”, says Robinson Hernandez, Executive Director, The Hub.
“As they graduate, start-ups face challenges finding suitable partners who share their technology and support financially. Our accelerated incubator programme addresses these challenges and ensures that they don’t face valley of death. Our focus is on urban technology and create ecosystem that generates buzz, bounces ideas and new opportunities. We identify corporate partners like Microsoft, GE, Lowe, Accenture and others scouting for such start-ups. The Hub will also be international address for tech companies from other countries looking for affordable space in New York ”.
Simone Sylvester Chaudhuri, Managing Director of Smart Cities NYC and Global Futures Group, says such incubators go a long way in attracting engineering talent required for finding solutions to urban challenges. “From tackling transportation problems to achieving the target of zero wastage in cities, we need technological innovations. The budget in New York city for various urban services is 85 billion dollars every year. Then we have aggressive policy goals like reducing carbon emissions by 2050 and zero percent waste by 2030 that leaves just 14 years from now to achieve. So there is enormous potential for urban technological innovations. This will happen if we attract engineering talent and provide friendly business climate”.
What one sees at The Hub is the way the city civic corporation and the private entities work in tandem to address the city’s pressing problems using technology. No surprise, New York has been announced as the Best Smart City of 2016 at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona recently. New York was recognised for its “Building a Smart + Equitable City” initiative, led by the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation.
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