FutureStructure

Nonprofit Launches $100k Smart City Tech Competition

NextEnergy is calling for solutions to urban problems, just as urban governments are looking for them.

by / May 13, 2016

As a huge national competition from the U.S. Department of Transportation pits cities against each other to develop “smart” transportation concepts, a smaller organization is launching its own competition with a bent toward seed money for businesses.

NextEnergy, a nonprofit, is calling for submissions outlining ideas for smart city technology by July 28. The organization, which is partnering with Wells Fargo, DENSO and DTE Energy on the competition, plans to give the winner up to $80,000, and then split $20,000 among four more finalists.

Broadly, NextEnergy writes on its website that it wants to see solutions that improve user experience, beef up security, and reduce environmental and public health problems such as air pollution. But the organization also named some areas it wants participants to address — smart parking, infrastructure, transportation and buildings.

Granted, that could mean a lot of things. The competition might fund programs meant to show parking availability in real time, or software to help use electric vehicle batteries to support the power grid, or systems that integrate wearable technology with buildings.

The smart cities market, albeit young, is full of buzz right now. That’s due in no small part to the DOT’s Smart City Challenge, which is offering $50 million and a bundle of tech products as a prize to be awarded later this year.

And while only one city out of more than 70 applicants will win that competition, many of those who entered said they will continue trying to implement their plans even if they don’t win the grand prize. Many of the ideas city representatives proposed for that challenge — improved systems for controlling traffic flow when crashes happen, for example — fit into the technology that NextEnergy is asking for in its own competition.

NextEnergy is hosting an informational webinar on the contest on June 9. It will select its five finalists on Nov. 22 and pick a winner Dec. 15.