Today, Verizon announced 36 finalists from a pool of over 1,400 candidates from around the world for the 2015 Powerful Answers Award program -- a competition that challenges innovators, developers and entrepreneurs to provide innovative solutions that deliver social good.
Now in its third year, Verizon's Powerful Answers Award offers a total of $6 million in cash prizes, plus the opportunity for winners to participate in an Accelerator program designed to help develop their ideas and bring solutions to market faster.
The program finalists -- who come from diverse backgrounds and represent 10 different countries -- are set to present their ideas before judges next week, competing for a prize of $1 million in three categories: Transportation, Emergency Response and the Internet of Things. The winners will be announced Dec. 9.
Photos of the 2015 Powerful Answers Award finalists:
See below to learn about the cutting-edge solutions proposed by each finalist.
Emergency Response - Category Finalists
A Lifeguard Drone – Search and Rescue (Plano, TX - http://www.safeatlas.com/) To combat the difficulties of finding people at sea and in the ocean (e.g. falling off a cruise ship or being carried out to sea via undercurrents), the company deploys a drone to search for lost individuals using a combination of pattern recognition and sound analysis along with the in-water person wearing a device that emits a location signal. The drone locates the lost individual and drops a flotation device. Future versions of the drone would also include a below-water search capability similar to a submarine.
Bounce Imaging – First Responder ( Boston, MA - www.bounceimaging.com) To help first responders achieve situation awareness, the company has developed a softball-sized robot that can be tossed into rooms, tunnels, and other spaces to quickly scan and provide omnidirectional panoramas/images, sensor data, and audio back to the first responders' tablets and smartphones.
Chromation – First Responder (NY, NY - www.chromationspec.com) To help first responders work in areas with potentially dangerous substances, the company's solution is a low-cost mobile-connected analyzer system that can perform on-site measurements for medical diagnostics, hazardous material detection, and chemical sensing. Chromation's spectral sensor is a low-cost component that brings spectrometer capabilities to handheld and wearable devices.
Disaster Mesh – First Responder (SF, CA – www.disastermesh.com ) To help establish communications capabilities at a disaster site, the company deploys a wireless mesh network comprised of small devices (i.e. "seeds"). The "seed" is shaped such that it can be deployed from the air via plane, helicopter, or drone, and they will gently float down to the ground. Disaster victims will then be able to connect to the established network, and for those that are buried in rubble, be identified based on location for priority rescue.
Emergency/Relief Response Broadband Access – Long Term Relief (Baton Rouge, LA) To help establish communications capabilities at a disaster site, the company uses "white space" spectrum and combines it with existing and working sources of communications including cellular, WiFi, wired, etc. Leveraging software defined transceivers, they are able to bond multiple channels and provide that bandwidth to first responders and other users.
EmergenSee – First Responder (Malvern, PA - www.EmergenSee.com) To augment existing 911 infrastructure and support individuals in distress, the company leverages a user's smartphone or tablet into a personal security device by mass streaming audio, video, and location to first responders at the touch of a button. Similar to RedBox (see below).
Gempalocate – Search and Rescue (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) To assist victims trapped in collapsed structures after an earthquake or other disaster, the company's app converts the user's smartphone into a beacon that search and rescuer personnel can locate and identify.
Lassie – Search and Rescue (Denver, CO) To assist hikers that travel through remote areas with varying topology and within cellular network range, the company has developed a smart flare containing GPS and cellular components that allow users trapped within network dark spots due to topology. By launching the flare above a certain height, the user is able to send out a distress call along with location information.
RadioHound – Search and Rescue (Denver CO - www.emergencyresponseinnovations.com) To assist the search and rescue of lost individuals in remote areas, the company has developed an unmanned aerial system (UAS) that can be deployed to search. If the lost individuals are wearing clothing that has integrated a small and inexpensive diode, the UAS can identify lost individuals from a greater distance.
RedBox – First Responder (Champagne, IL) To augment existing 911 infrastructure and support individuals in distress, the company leverages a user's smartphone or tablet into a personal security device by mass streaming audio, video, and location to first responders at the touch of a button. Similar to EmergenSee (see above).
Triage Drone – Search and Rescue (Denver, CO) To assist search and rescue efforts following a disaster event, the company has developed a drone that is able to travel over areas of destruction, monitor cellular signals being emitted from cellular phones, and mark those locations. This process creates a map of potential victims that are buried under rubble.
Working Dog Activity Log – Search and Rescue (Logan, UT) To assist search and rescue efforts, the company has developed a wearable device collar for dogs, which are able to cover ground up to 50 times faster than a human due to heightened senses. The collar allows the handler to monitor the dogs locations and health from a distance, and communicate with the dog directly.
Internet of Things - Category Finalists
Aegle Arc – Connected Health (Baltimore, MD) To help monitor the senior and elderly, the company has developed a wearable pendant device that is equipped with 4G LTE and sensors that monitor ECG, respiration rate, blood oxygen levels, and temperature. Additionally, the person's location and movement is also monitored. Should sensor data indicate that the person being monitored is experiencing a medical condition or has moved outside of a predefined geo-fence, the appropriate individuals can be contacted.
Aira.io – Connected Health (San Diego, CA - www.aira.io) To assist the blind with their daily lives, the company has developed a service that integrates smart glasses with the user's smart phone such that a virtual personal assistant can help them with tasks using the assistant's vision. Examples include navigating busy streets or reading a restaurant's menu. The service integrates and pulls relevant information from various online sources to support the assistant in aiding the blind customer.
Chipsafer – Smart Agriculture (Montevideo, Uruguay - http://ieetech.com/) To help farmers monitor their herds of animals such as cattle for higher yield, the company has developed a wearable device that monitors animals' behavior remotely, autonomously, and in real-time. Using analytics, the farmer can determine if an animal is sick, injured, or lost, and subsequently take remedial action.
CityTaps – Smart Cities (Ile de France - www.citytaps.org) To assist water utilities in collecting payment for water usage and consumers to pay for water, the company has developed a connected control metering device that connects to the water tap. This allows users to make micropayments for incremental usage of water and guarantees the utility will receive payment for the water used.
Flux – Smart Agriculture (NY, NY - www.fluxiot.com) To assist consumers in growing food at home, especially those that live in cities, the company has developed a connected device that monitors the growth of vegetables in a hydroponic environment and determines the optimal growing recipe. Future products will automate the process including lighting and nutrients such that the would-be farmer would not need to directly intervene.
FarmLink – Smart Agriculture (Kansas City, MO - www.farmlink.com) To assist farmers in improving their crop yields, the company leverage data gathered from farms nationwide and around the world to provide actionable insights on what farmers should do with their specific farming environment. Their data is gathered using a fleet of 200 connected combines taking 150 square-foot snapshots every second.
FarmX – Smart Agriculature (Irvine, CA - www.farm-x.com/ )To assist farmers in improving their crop yields and lowering their water costs, the company combines low cost sensors and high altitude aerial imagery to collect real-time crop data. This data is then used to drive decisions on watering in specific locations.
Owlet – Connected Health (Provo, UT - https://www.owletcare.com/)To assist parents with newborns, the company has developed a connected smart sock that can monitor a newborn's vital signs, including heart rate, breathing quality, and skin temperature. In line with the trend for the quantified self, the Owlet sock helps parents understand whether their newborns are experiencing any issues.
Smart Barn – Smart Agriculture (Kettering, OH - www.smart-barn.net) To assist farmers with the operation of their farms and monitoring of livestock, the company has developed a series of wirelessly connected equipment to monitor and control the environment condition of their facilities.
Smart Glasses – Connected Health (London, UK - www.givevision.net) To assist the blind in their homes, the company has developed smart glasses that allow the user to be able to live comfortably within their own home. The user can connect to and operate other smart devices in their home using hand and head gestures. And the user can navigate their home, and potentially other public buildings (e.g. airports, train stations).
Wound Assessment and Remote Evaluation – Connected Health (Baltimore, MD - https://www.tissue-analytics.com/) To assist individuals who have a wound, the company has developed a smart phone app that allows the injured individual to send photos and video of the wound to a central network of doctors. Combined with a cloud-based analytics platform, the doctors are able to assess the wound remotely and provide recommendations for treatment.
Zizmos Technology – Smart Cities (Palo Alto, CA - www.zizmos.com) To assist cities detect earthquakes or other seismic activity in advance of actually occurring, the company uses inexpensive MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical-Sensor) accelerometers attached to used or recycled smart phones that are connected to the Internet to create a low-cost seismic network that monitors earthquake hazards and provides real-time notifications of impending tremors to residents in high-risk areas for a fractional cost of the traditional seismic network.
Transportation - Category Finalists
Barachic First Mile – Distribution and Logistics (Abidjan, Ivory Coast - www.barachic.com/firstmile) To assist businesses and consumers in developing countries that require the transport of small cargo in short distances, the company has developed the "UberRUSH" of cargo motorbikes. Through the use of a smart phone app, owners of small cargo motorbikes can deliver cargo across short distances and be paid through micro-payments.
FOODIF – Distribution and Logistics (Santiago, Chile - www.foodif.com) To assist in the distribution of food, the company has developed a platform that allows farmers and neighborhoods to sell and buy produce, respectively, on an on-demand basis similar to Uber or Airbnb. By collecting data on supply and demand, the service is better able to allocate food distribution in an equitable manner.
iHelmet – Smarter Driving (Kadawatha, Sri Lanka - http://www.ganindu100.wix.com/ihelmet) To assist motorcycle operators as they travel roads, the company has developed a smart helmet that utilizes a combination of sensors, cameras, and connectivity. Whether it's providing navigation or warning about impending collisions, the motorcycle operator has a set of safety and convenience features that are normally found in sedans.
GoShare – Distribution and Logistics (San Diego, CA - www.goshare.co )To assist people in need of transporting cargo, the company has developed the "Uber" of cargo trucks. With a few taps on the smart phone app, a user can have a truck arrive at their door within minutes.
i4drive – Smarter Driving (Tel Aviv, Israel - www.i4drive.com) To assist car drivers, the company has developed a platform that turns any car into a connected car through the use of a smart phone. Using a combination of hardware, software, deep learning algorithms, and cloud services, the platform delivers advanced computer vision to provide features for driver safety, assistance, and convenience.
Last Mile Delivery by Robot – Distribution and Logistics (Mtn View, CA - www.telepresencerobotics.com) To assist the delivery of goods over the "last mile", the company has developed a "robot-as-a-service" model that combines a physical robot, cameras, cellular connectivity, and programmable intelligence in the cloud. The robot is designed for sidewalk travel and can self-navigate based on a pre-determined route.
Orbita Line – Public Transport and Sharing (Vostra Gotaland, Sweden - http://www.orbitaline.com ) To improve the efficiency of public bus transportation, the company has developed a platform that optimizes the flow of buses along a route based on demand. By monitoring the number of passengers waiting at each bus stop, the transportation company can dispatch buses on an un-scheduled basis and even route buses in different paths in order to optimize the flow of passengers.
Pogo – Public Transport and Sharing (Seattle, WA - www.pogorides.com) To assist parents in the transport of their children to school, the company has developed a ride-sharing platform that allows users to create private carpool networks in partnership with schools. Parents can request rides, offer rides, and communicate with other riders and parents to coordinate transportation needs.
Road Rules – Smarter Driving (SF, CA - http://roadrules.co/) To assist drivers and prevent distracted driving, the company has developed a platform that automates tasks while the vehicle is in operation. Leveraging context and rules along with data from the user's smartphone and optionally OBDII dongle APIs, car manufacturer APIs, etc., the platform is able to make timely actions such as automatically responding to a text message from one's spouse enquiring on when they will arrive by providing location and estimated time to arrival.
Swiftmile – Public Transport and Sharing (San Mateo, CA - www.swiftmile.com) To reduce urban congestion, the company has developed smart charging racks for use with light electric vehicles (LEVs). Similar to a number of cities' public bike programs, users are able to borrow a LEV and travel faster and further than they could with a bike.
Visible Logistics – Distribution and Logistics (Sanford, NC - www.fireflyrfid.com) To help shippers track assets and shipments around the world, the company has developed a small cellular M2M module that includes GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth and can be deployed in shipping containers and other cargo holds. Combined with an integrated platform that manages and analyzes the integrity, security, and movement of the cargo, the shipper is able to monitor their shipments in real-time.
Voyage Control – Distribution and Logistics (NY, NY - https://voyagecontrol.com) To address the growing costs of congestion, the company provides an enterprise resource planning solution to minimize time queuing and reduce freight-delivery vehicles on the road. Combining sophisticated algorithms, a scheduling system for logistics hubs, and a transaction-based marketplace to buy and sell shipping capacity, customers are better able to optimize their shipments and drive efficiencies in cost and output.
To learn more about the Verizon Powerful Answers Award program please visit: www.powerfulanswersaward.com.