How Startups from the 2018 Smart City Expo World Congress are Using Business Solutions & Technology to Promote Smarter Cities

By Janelle M. Lewis, Principal Attorney, The Law Office of Janelle M. Lewis

 

It is estimated that over 70% of the global population will live in cities by 2050.

What does this mean for urban residents? How will resources be allocated? How can you maintain urban livability when over two-thirds of the people on this planet will reside in metropolitan areas, limited in size and scope? Create more cities or better the ones we have? The answer is the latter –  make the cities we currently have better, not only for its current residents, but for those in the future. 

How? How do we make cities better around the world without sacrificing the needs of some if not all of its residents. How will governments work to ensure that cities maintain their livability? The answer – make cities smarter.

What is a Smart City?

According to Techopedia, a smart city is “is a designation given to a city that incorporates information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities in order to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs. The overarching aim of a smart city is to enhance the quality of living for its citizens through smart technology.”

Simply put, a Smart City uses the resources it has (information & technology) to raise the quality of life for its residents. While the definition can be boiled down, can the endeavor? How do governments make a city smarter when at the same time, they have to serve the needs of their current residents? One answer – look to the startup community.

Smart City Startups That Are Making Cities Smarter

Startups play a vital role in making cities smarter by creating innovative technologies to meet the challenges governments face in the midst of population explosion. Startups are agile, and its founders, passionate. Startups that engage in developing smart city solutions inherently want to make cities better places to live. They see solutions when others see problems, and have a natural propensity to want to make their environments better by taking the necessary actions (as well as the risk) to pursue their objectives.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to meet a number these “smart city startups” during the 2018 Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) in Barcelona.  As a former civil servant for the City of New York, I remember well the challenges municipal governments face on a daily basis to identify and address the challenges they face in serving their citizens. This is one of the reasons why I look forward to the SCEWC – because it provides me with the opportunity to meet some exceptional entrepreneurs who have taken it upon themselves to help governments address these problems – and make cities better. 

I would like to introduce three startups who are “making cities smarter.” I connected with Mart Suurkask, (co-founder) and Hans Leis, (Marketing Manager) of Bercman Technologies; Andrew Watkins, President & COO of Marketplace.city; and Philipp Struss, Co-Founder & Business Developer of Cedalo AG.

Bercman Technologies, Smart Pedestrian Crosswalk 

Stay safe and informed in any situation!

Bercman Technologies is a startup dedicated to developing the Smart City, Smart Road & Smart Mobility related products that increase the safety of urban residents. With it first product, the Smart Pedestrian Crosswalk, Bercman seeks to address the issue of traffic fatalities in urban settings. The Smart Pedestrian Crosswalk uses AI, V2X, sensor fusion, and more than 30 different features to adapt to a myriad of different traffic situations and weather conditions.

LOJML: How does your startup contribute to making cities better places to live?

Mart Suurkask & Hans Leis: Our Smart Pedestrian Crosswalk (SPC) is a good example of how modern technology can make old-school solutions smarter. In our case, we replace regular plain metal pedestrian crosswalk signage with hi-tech devices that can provide extra safety for pedestrians. Sensors inside the device are providing data for many great features, for example, collision avoidance system.

Our company’s philosophy is that our products must make cities better places to live. Our mission is to save lives by using the latest technology. When citizen thinks of their hometown, whether it is a good place to live or not, he/she quickly lands on the [topic of ]safety. One big part of the safety…in cities is traffic safety. Bercman Technologies’ goal with Smart Pedestrian Crosswalk is to increase traffic safety in terms of pedestrian crosswalks. Additionally to the active collision avoidance system, it provides all kinds of climate and air quality data along with mobility and statistical data.

LOJML: What is your hope for urban citizens who use or are impacted by your startup’s technology – both now and in the next few years?

Mart Suurkask & Hans Leis: Our hope is that citizens accept that […]technology enters their everyday lives […] even in the transportation sector. Technology is here to help and simplify our lives and we are dedicated to be part of the long-term trend towards transportation digitalization and automatization.

Marketplace.city 

Cities are unique, City problems are not

Marketplace.city is a startup that provides a platform for government innovators to connect with new technologies and solutions that meet the needs of their cities in one place. Its mission is to enable urban governments to use smart solutions for their cities by simplifying the finding, validating and implementation of new technology. Marketplace.city partners with cities to break down the information and barriers to procurement so that cities can find the smart solutions that work best for them and implement them more efficiently. To date, they have partnered with city governments of New York City, Atlanta, Barcelona and Dublin.

LOJML: How does your startup contribute to making cities better places to live?

Andrew Watkins: Marketplace.city makes it easier for governments to find and implement technology, which has both a direct impact on both cities and citizens.  At the city level, governments are finding solutions that [ease] traffic congestion or help residents find the best mode of transportation.  They are also finding solutions to streamline and simplify processes where you interact with government such as paying a bill or applying for a permit.  Our solution helps cities find solutions that fit their city size and make up, and then procure them faster.

LOJML: What is your hope for urban citizens who use or are impacted by your startup’s technology – both now and in the next few years?

Andrew Watkins: The thing I am most excited is the equality technology can create.  Technology can level the playing field but the first wave of adoption has probably created more.  Everyday […] we see new solution[s] on Marketplace.city that helps provide access for [the] underserved or aid public safety in saving [lives]….[t]hat alone doesn’t solve the equality issue but does have a direct benefit to people.

Cedalo AG 

 STREAM SHEETS Spreadsheets that talk about machines, apps and services

Cedalo AG is a startup whose mission is to democratize technology by providing its users with the ability to quickly and easily implement smart business and manufacturing processes related to IoT. With the increased use of IoT by urban governments and their partners, having the ability to implement smart technology efficiently can be problematic when they do not have the coding skills to build the systems they need. Using the familiar spreadsheet interface, Cedalo empowers non-programmers to actively drive digitalization projects without using code. Its mission is that everyone – programmers and non-programmers alike – should be able to create and orchestrate applications and micro services for IoT.

LOJML: How does your startup contribute to making cities better places to live?

Philipp Struss: Cedalo has developed a technology which democratizes the creation of IoT apps and services. Thanks to Streamsheets, people with technical, organizational or business expertise are empowered to build digital solutions without a single line of programming code but by leveraging their existing spreadsheet skills. This way effectively everyone can drive and implement digital projects him- or herself without having to depend on software developers.

LOJML: What is your hope for urban citizens who use or are impacted by your startup’s technology – both now and in the next few years?

Philipp Struss: The goal of our Streamsheet technology is to enable as many people as possible to build apps and services and thus giving them the opportunity to participate actively in the digitalization of cities, communities and businesses. This way those who understand a problem or particular scenario best, such as process owners, urban developers and engineers, are also the ones who build and maintain the solution. As a consequence, the implementation speed as wells as quality increases drastically.

Concluding thoughts…

The development of the smart city brings with it innovative ways of addressing current and future challenges governments will face as more than two-thirds of the global population will reside in cities. Startups are playing a key, leading role in helping governments meet these challenges and making cities better places to live. With their agility and the innovation they bring, startups are one of the key stakeholders in making cities smarter.

I would like to give a special thanks to Bercman Technologies, Marketplace.city, Cedalo AG and all the startups who I met during the 2018 SCEWC in Barcelona for taking the time to explain, demonstrate and spread their passion for making cities better places to live.

The views expressed in this article do not constitute legal advice and legal information provided in this post should not be relied upon as legal advice. Please contact an Attorney for advice on your specific matter.