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Smart city start-ups transform Brooklyn into a living lab

Technology developed by three start-ups in the Circular City programme have provided new insight and solutions to address congestion and safety issues in the booming neighbourhood

The start-ups are tackling pressing urban problems in Brooklyn
The start-ups are tackling pressing urban problems in Brooklyn

New research and findings from a year-long deployment of technology from three start-ups has revealed new insights and solutions to tackle pressing urban challenges in Downtown Brooklyn, New York City.


The results are incorporated in a new data dashboard introduced by the tech hub New Lab.


View of Downtown Brooklyn


The dashboard is intended to let researchers, the public, and government map and see pedestrian activity across downtown Brooklyn, and how different modes of transit flow down the Fulton Street Mall at different times of day.


Since announcing the signature programme in May 2018, New Lab said it has served as a neutral platform to “catalyse partnerships” that explore the role of data in the future of cities, beginning with NYC’s third largest central business district.


Conceived by New Lab, the Circular City initiative deployed technology from three of its member start-ups, Carmera, Citiesense, and Numina in Downtown Brooklyn. Other partners are the New York City Economic Development Corporation, Citi Ventures, the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, and academics from Columbia University, NYU’s GovLab, and Cornell Tech.


Since May, the partners have collected and shared data designed to help solve challenges facing Downtown Brooklyn, a booming neighbourhood that has seen one third growth in residents (31 per cent) and job grows by one quarter (26 per cent) since 2010.

“The ways that data is produced, protected, and exchanged will have tremendous impact on the policy, planning and development of cities”

According to New Lab, this makes it the perfect proving ground for new technologies designed to address the needs of a growing city.


Highlights from that work include:

  • Numina’s IoT sensors have mapped how pedestrian flows in Downtown Brooklyn are impacted by construction sites and scaffolding, and how the behaviour of unloading trucks can cause unsafe proximities between bicycles, pedestrians, and vehicles. They also detected that four fifths (84 per cent) of car traffic entering the bus-only Fulton Street corridor came from Flatbush Avenue, rather than from suspected side streets.
  • Carmera’s machine-vision software generated block-by-block pedestrian density scores; making a year’s worth of historical pedestrian density data about Downtown Brooklyn available for research and analysis.
  • Citiesense’s platform is bringing together public and private data sets for the first time in order to provide new neighbourhood insights related to mobility, development and resiliency. In doing so they’re changing how Downtown Brooklyn Partnership manages its 1,600 streetscape assets and creating a destination to visualise and analyse the traffic patterns captured by Carmera and Numina’s data.

“Downtown Brooklyn has been transformed into a thriving living lab by the smart city tech start-ups that are part of the Circular City programme. Thanks to this unique partnership convened by New Lab, we now have access to information that enables us to deliver smart, data-driven solutions to operational and quality of life issues facing a booming downtown,” said Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.


“We look forward to the expansion of the programme and refinement of data sets to continually improve our understanding of how Downtown Brooklyn functions, and how we can develop innovative solutions to enhance life for residents, businesses and visitors.”


“The ways that data is produced, protected, and exchanged will have tremendous impact on the policy, planning and development of cities,” added André Corrêa d’Almeida, adjunct associate professor, Columbia University and founder of Applied Research for Change (ARCx), who served as research director for the Circular City.


“The data and learnings generated here point to the ways emerging technologies like IoT, AI and blockchain can play a pivotal role in yielding new innovations and solutions for real urban problems.”


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