Pittsburgh picks partners for civic innovation lab

Pittsburgh picks partners for civic innovation lab

Pittsburgh‘s PGH Lab program, which  connects local startups with the city government, has named the first three startups that will test their technology in a  public-sector setting.

Announced earlier this month, the first cohort features three businesses from the steel city: HiberSense, TransitSource and Renergé Inc.

The firms will work with city departments for three months, according to Annia Aleman, an innovation and performance fellow for the city. This cohort will end at the beginning of October and a period of feedback will follow. The city does not guarantee that is will procure a startup’s services after the cohort ends, Aleman added.

HiberSense will be working with the Urban Redevelopment Authority. It provides a data-heavy thermostat service that uses a distributed network of sensors and smart vents to  track temperature, humidity and other environmental aspects and create individual climates for different rooms. Aleman said the technology could improve heating and cooling operations in public buildings and possibly generate savings.

TransitSource will be working with Pittsburgh’s Department of City Planning to look at ways of improving and expanding bike infrastructure in the city. The company‘s prototype Sentinel Box technology works in tandem with a bike rider’s cellphone to detect and report close calls for cyclists by measuring a number of different traffic variables, include the near-miss vehicle’s distance from a rider and its speed , GPS location, time of day and a picture of the event. Besides helping prevent accidents, Sentinel Box seeks to give the city data to make informed decisions on infrastructure improvements to improve the bicycling experience.

Renergé Inc. will be working with the Department of Sustainability and the mayor’s office on green initiatives. Its Water Horse hydropower technology harnesses the kinetic energy of rivers and converts it to electricity.

Aleman said the city hopes to do a second cohort at the beginning of next year, but nothing has been finalized.

Tom Link, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority, said in a statement that the cohorts were a way of working with the private sector to solve public sector problems.

“We look forward to testing new technologies that place Pittsburgh at the forefront of innovation,” Link said.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.

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