How will the world look like in the upcoming months, or even years? What are the implications on our community life in the era of social distancing? What will operators of public transportation or shared mobility need to do in order to make it safe again for people to ride? How will we avoid the continued spread of the virus in playgrounds? Are people at risk by going to the shopping mall or any public building? What does all this mean for the travel and tourism industry? Or office real estate? How will small local businesses survive in the long term?
As far as CityZone startups are concerned, there are several use cases, some old but with a higher relevance these days, and others around completely newly identified needs, all requiring special attention.
Monitoring for crowding – sticks, as well as carrots
With the effort to limit the spread of the virus, cities around the world have practiced different forms of social distancing, ranging from limited home confinement of specific populations, all the way to total lock downs.
Clearly, law enforcement and other means of dealing with regulation compliance issues, might be the most common and obvious use case of different surveillance technologies. However, when considering how we wish to live in cities in months to come, we might want to consider sharing crowding information with the public, and let them choose “safe spots” around the city, based on real time heat maps of where people concentrate. No problem going to the beach or the park, if you keep your distance from other people.
The most common technology for this purpose is video surveillance cameras. However, there are several challenges there, one of them being that the necessary infrastructure isn’t always available exactly where we’d like to monitor.
Two of CityZone’s portfolio companies offer solutions for this problem exactly. Telicomm can help you deploy cameras regardless of the existence of any physical communications infrastructure, such as fiber optics. Delivery of HD quality video from multiple cameras in the same area is done over the existing cellular network.
ParaZero and its partner companies are all about drones, which could also be a useful solution to cover large areas where fixed cameras aren’t available. Drones can also carry speakers, to communicate with people from afar.
Such new tasks from new cameras put more stress on the city’s control room. Edgecase’s automatically generated alerts for different scenarios detected by its video analytics platform, can help define new scenarios, such as crowding, easily, quickly and at a fraction of the cost of alternatives.
Naturally, privacy issues come to mind, with all this discussion around cameras. This is why two of our portfolio companies are working on solutions to enable crowding monitoring without compromising people’s privacy.
RoadSense has developed a radar-based sensor, able to detect people and generate automatic alerts based on the distance between them. AD Knight have demonstrated similar capabilities by detecting the wifi and bluetooth signals emitted by the smart devices people carry with them.
Making places safer
Cities are gradually reopening for business. This includes office buildings, public institutions, shopping malls, etc. In order to avoid more cycles of lock downs in the future, local governments need to consider regular disinfection practices against the virus, both indoors and outdoors.
The aforementioned ParaZero and its drones can apply know-how gained in the world of agriculture, and help cities spray outdoor facilities such as playgrounds, from the air.
For indoors disinfection, it seems that UV is a better solution, and here SoftRide rose to the challenge. The company that has developed an “autonomy kit”, enabling the transformation of any existing vehicle or platform to an autonomous one, is now building a disinfection robot, to roam hospitals and other buildings every night.
As the shared micromobility industry is suffering a hit due to quarantine in major cities, it is still unclear whether users will still prefer them over mass public transportation, or will opt for privately micromobility solutions, deterred by the handlebar of the shared vehicles. PowerMobility came up with a fast disinfection solution for shared kick scooters, bicycles and mopads.
Research also shows that there is a combination of environmental factors (humidity and temperature), that are favourable for the extension of the Coronavirus incubation period. RadGreen‘s sensors and know how will alert you when such conditions are identified, and will recommend the right course of action to reach optimal conditions and reduce the spread of the virus.
Supporting the most vulnerable communities
While no age group is at zero risk from COVID-19, it seems that the effect on the elderly population is probably the most severe. This is why lock down policies were justified as a means to protect our senior citizens.
Waves of social solidarity were seen globally, and citizens are happy to support their senior neighbours, confined to their homes, helping them with grocery or drugstore shopping, technical support to join video conferencing with the grandkids, or just for the sake of simple conversation to relieve some of the loneliness, now more present than ever before. LightApp helps put some order in this chaos, connecting young volunteers with seniors in need in their vicinity, also enabling direct contact with the municipal welfare department, in cases their involvement is required.
Connecting with the outside world is also a challenge for people with disabilities, impeding them from using devices such as tablets, phones or computers. 6Degrees‘ wearable wireless band enables everyone to use smart devices easily, ever more relevant these days. The technology also enables physical therapist to keep on following their patients’ progress even when they can’t physically come to the clinic.
Empty streets can be scary
Some might be quite happy with the new reality, with much less traffic on the roads. However, when you need to go out to an empty street, or use an empty bus or subway car, this situation could become stressful at times. As social distancing will probably become some sort of norm for the near future, we need to make sure that our residents’ sense of security and safety in the public domain is kept. SafeUp comes to the rescue with its community-based security app, allowing residents to quickly get in touch with pre-defined trusted people from their community, as well as with the nearest law enforcement officer, should help be required.
Should your city be in need of any of the solutions described here, don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll make the introductions to the relevant companies.
An if you are an entrepreneur, with more solutions to help manage cities under this new reality, please apply to our program here.