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Michigan Schools to Benefit from Latest PlanetM Grants

Several companies were given an infusion of funding by the mobility arm of the Michigan Department of Economic Development, PlanetM. The grants include a range of efforts, including streamlining school dismissals.

by / February 26, 2020
Shutterstock/David Prahl

A new round of grants in Michigan could help improve mobility, including the traffic-laden pickup areas at several schools throughout the state. 

PikMyKid, a software company that has partnered with some 600 schools nationwide, is coming to a handful of schools in Michigan to improve the dismissal process. The company was selected by PlanetM, a mobility arm of the Michigan Department of Economic Development, for a $60,000 grant to deploy the traffic and child safety software with several mid-Michigan communities.

The grant is part of a larger effort by PlanetM to explore and deploy transportation innovations. Four companies were awarded more than $300,000 in this round of grant funding.

The Michigan product will be the “PikMyKid dismissal automation system,” explained Pat Bhava, founder of PikMyKid. “Which will have not just the dismissal of schools, but will also have a parental app through which parents can engage with us, manage their dismissal changes, and also, our system will tell them, in real time, how much time it will take to pick up their child from school on that day.”

The system has been described as a holistic parent engagement platform where numerous elements of school safety, related to transportation, are handled in a single, software-based approach.

The system will also offer information about position in the car queue as the parent is headed to the school. Parents and others interact with the system via a smartphone app. School officials get more of a dashboard display giving them an overall view of students and parents, with information like school bus movements and other auto circulation across the campus.

“All of those data points are presented to them in a dashboard format, and it makes a more efficient, more accountable, less liability [system] and really makes sure the kids are safer,” said Bhava.

The tool works by establishing a geo-fence around the school, which identifies PikMyKid users and others coming within the perimeter. For bus-riding students, parents get an alert when their child enters the school bus, or a car with another caregiver.

School pickups isn’t the only transportation issue addressed by the grants. Toronto-based Zown was awarded $95,000 to introduce its system to help eliminate confusion in the ridehailing pickup process in areas of high pedestrian and traffic concentrations in Detroit. The three-month pilot will begin March 1.

“The purpose of this pilot project is to deploy a digital ridehailing pickup location optimization service,” said Saleem Ahmad, CEO of Zown.

“As ride-hailing drivers rely on in-app digital navigation to direct them to property where the trip request originated, Zown aims to seamlessly integrate smarter pin locations into this existing communication channel by designating an optimal pickup location for every trip,” Ahmad explained in an email. “The solution will be tested at a variety of different property types to determine which factors lead to the greatest improvement in metrics for Lyft and the city of Detroit.” 

Parkofon will deploy parking-on-demand technology at University of Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering and Science. The geo-positioning system will pair with the Continental Parkpocket mobile app and assign the nearest open spot, once drivers reach campus. The project was awarded $77,000.

Another company, e-Mobility Analytics, will partner with the city of Ann Arbor to introduce solar electric vehicle charging.

“Our company’s vision is to lead in the deployment of clean, affordable and sustainable energy to power our emerging zero carbon transportation future for everyone and everywhere, from urban areas to state parks,” said Jonathan Dreyfuss, CEO of e-Mobility Analytics, in a statement.

Twelve companies were considered for this fourth round of grant funding by PlanetM. The scoring criteria focused on technology and business model uniqueness, budget, partners, location, sustainability and feasibility of deployment, said PlanetM officials.

So far, PlanetM has awarded more than $1.5 million to 20 mobility-related companies since 2018.

Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.

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