New York City

The challenge of harnessing urban tech

Brooklyn startup Numina is taking on pedestrian congestion in a hyperlocal way – using sensors to map how traffic flows are impacted by external factors like scaffolding and construction sites.

Numina is taking on pedestrian congestion using sensors to map how traffic flows and is impacted by external factors like construction sites.

Numina is taking on pedestrian congestion using sensors to map how traffic flows and is impacted by external factors like construction sites. Shutterstock

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gear up to battle vehicle congestion in Manhattan’s central business district, downtown Brooklyn startup Numina is taking on pedestrian congestion in a hyperlocal way – using sensors to map how traffic flows are impacted by external factors like scaffolding and construction sites.

On Thursday night, New Lab – a tech hub situated in the Brooklyn Navy Yard – hosted a showcase of its Circular City initiative. The initiative’s purpose is to explore how data can play an instrumental role in city solutions, and to foster partnerships between startups, local businesses, city agencies, and other stakeholders to that end. Numina was one of the three urban tech-focused companies chosen to participate in the program, along with Carmera and Citiesense.

Numina’s data on traffic flow found that pedestrians are 53.5 percent more likely to walk into the street to avoid scaffolding or construction sites. That’s an insight that could be a real asset to policymakers, including de Blasio, in his efforts to eliminate all traffic deaths through Vision Zero. But urban tech is rarely harnessed by cities, whether because of politics or red tape.

Circular City is trying to change that by getting government agencies, like NYCEDC, to partner in pilot stages early on. “We really think that for urban technologies to work for a city, and for them to scale, they have to be proven,” said Shaina Horowitz, New Lab’s urban tech hub director. The three companies showcased on Thursday proved they can offer some practical solutions. The challenge is getting the city to adopt those technologies beyond a single outer borough neighborhood.

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

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