Innovation

URBAN-X launches in Brooklyn and introduces 8 startups focusing on smart city tech

There's a new home for URBAN-X, and a new round of entrepreneurs will be working with BMW's MINI engineers on technology and design for urban environments.

urban-x4.jpg

Entrepreneurs work with mentors from MINI and SOSV at URBAN-X.

Image: URBAN-X

URBAN-X, the venture accelerator that BMW's MINI founded last year with SOSV, found a new home in the Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, opening on Thursday within design space A/D/O.

"We are finally in our new home which is here in A/D/O and A/D/O is a homage to the Amalgamated Drawing Office. It's a throwback to MINI's first design headquarters and it's the location that MINI is now calling home for explorations around the future of the brand in New York City," said Micah Kotch, managing director of URBAN-X.

There are eight startups that are part of Cohort 02, which is what URBAN-X calls the second round of participants chosen to work with MINI's engineers to create human-focused technology for urban environments. The first round of startups was introduced in 2016 and company representatives presented their ideas at a special BMW event in Santa Monica in October 2016.

Each company in Cohort 02 will receive $60,000 in seed capital investment and will work with engineers from MINI and SOSV for 14 weeks to hone their ideas for urban living. Each startup will receive working trips to Germany and China to work directly with mentors.

SEE: BMW's vision for the smart city of the future includes autonomous driving and AI (TechRepublic)

"As New York's Chief Digital Officer, part of my role is to recognize opportunities to bring more startups to the city, and URBAN-X is exactly the kind of organization that helps us accomplish that goal," said Sree Sreenivasan, New York City's chief digital officer, in a press release. "We strive to build a culture that values innovation, entrepreneurship, and solutions-driven action that benefits city residents and includes them in the process. I look forward to working with the URBAN-X team to scale change in an impactful way and work toward our shared goal of a better New York."

There are three core principles for URBAN-X: technology geared towards human need, design that drives adoption, and city-scale ambition.

"We're really at the outset. the companies get a number of resources from URBAN-X. They get help with industrial design and engineering and user experience and user interface and mentorship and the cash. We help them through this process of both product development and customers as well as business development, and then in May we'll host a demo day for them," Kotch said. The demo day is set for May 4 at A/D/O.

Kotch shared details on the eight startups that are part of Cohort 02:

  1. O2-O2 is a New Zealand company working to enable those in polluted megacities such as Beijing to London to be able to commute and exercise without fear of pollution. O2-O2 has a unique mask technology solution which uses clean, filtered air to protect its customer. "They've completely rethought what the face mask can be for people who live in really polluted cities," Kotch said.
  2. buildsense.io offers machine learning software that analyzes data from a building's existing HVAC automation system to determine room occupancy in real-time with no need to install new sensors. The platform adjusts ventilation systems to fit the needs of people inside, saving buildings 10-20% on the total energy bill while making rooms more comfortable. "That's really huge in a place like New York City which has more commercial real estate than anywhere else in the world," Kotch said.
  3. Citiesense is focused on open governance. It creates data-driven maps and dashboards with layers of information to track property changes in urban areas, guiding real estate investors and other stakeholders to better understand neighborhood dynamics and what local markets are doing.
  4. Contextere is an industrial IoT software company from Canada that enables the connected workforce. The team is developing an intelligent personal agent that is a wearable IoT device that delivers actionable insights at the point of service, to make workers more skilled while reducing human error and saving lives.
  5. Revmax develops fleet management and routing software for ride-hail vehicles. The technology maximizes vehicle utilization by forecasting rider demand based on historical data and future events. The idea is that fleet revenue will increase while at the same time decreasing pollution and traffic congestion.
  6. Sencity is reimagining connected urban street furniture, starting with waste. The company's TetraBIN product is an interactive receptacle that rewards anyone who puts in trash with an entertaining surprise to leverage interaction and encourage people to dispose of trash. "They're really looking at how to make the urban environment more responsive and interactive," Kotch said.
  7. Upcycles is from Greenpoint and the company develops human-electric cargo tricycles for moving goods around urban environments, up to and including the last mile. The company's zero-emissions fleet encourages a socially responsible, transitional step to make deliveries more reliable, efficient and cleaner.
  8. WearWorks is a New York-based haptics design company using sensory feedback systems to communicate information entirely via touch. It's for blind and visually impaired users. Using vibration-based language, the product augments the senses of users through a non-visual interface, helping them to easily and effectively navigate the world.

"We're trying to support interesting, deep tech entrepreneurs who share our creative vision and begin to explore fields that are crucial to our goal of creating amazing urban experiences. I think the diversity of these companies is a testament to not only how complex the question of smart cities is, but is leading us to better understand how to ask the right questions as we work to discover our path forward as a design company," Kotch said.

Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

  1. URBAN-X is now located within design space A/D/O in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
  2. There are eight startups that are part of Cohort 02, with each focused on different types of tech for urban areas.
  3. Each participating startup will receive $60,000 in seed capital investment and will work with engineers from MINI and SOSV for 14 weeks to hone their ideas for urban living.

Also see

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

Editor's Picks