Callida Energy, RideHop Win NextEnergy’s Smart Cities Challenge

As autonomous technologies, the Internet of Things, and big data begin to shape the way we interact with the world around us, we’ll have more technological tools to tackle challenges related to safety, mobility, emissions, accessibility, and congestion.

Last week, those tools were on display as part of Detroit nonprofit NextEnergy‘s 2016 Smart Cities competition for companies building hardware and software to address unmet needs in urban areas.

The competition’s $80,000 grand prize winner was New York-based Callida Energy. If you’ve ever worked in one of those huge, excessively air-conditioned buildings requiring a sweater in the summertime, Callida’s Occupant app is for you. It harnesses real-time data collected from building occupants through a “comfort survey” to enable facility managers to more efficiently heat and cool buildings.

Callida’s software learns occupancy patterns for each part of the building and recommends more efficient HVAC operating schedules that raise or lower heating and cooling depending upon how many people are working there. It also alerts facility managers to comfort problems in real time and improves temperature settings based on what occupants report in the survey. Callida estimates its software can reduce its customers’ energy spending by more than 30 percent annually with no decrease in occupant comfort.

Detroit-based RideHop snagged the competition’s second-place prize of $20,000. Developed at Quicken Loans as an in-house tracking app for the company’s employee shuttle, RideHop allows large urban entities like hospitals, universities, and corporations to respond to ridership demand in real time, as opposed to the traditional method of having drivers circle the campus in search of riders.

RideHop On-Demand enables riders to indicate when they’re waiting at a shuttle stop. From there, drivers are dispatched and riders get an ETA for their ride. RideHop says its app can reduce the need for fleet coverage by 29 percent in addition to cutting wait times for riders, especially during peak hours.

The Smart Cities challenge drew 57 online applicants from around the world that were eventually narrowed down to 10 finalists based on validity of innovation, qualifications, competitive advantage, and scalibility. Representatives from NextEnergy, DTE Energy, Denso, and Invest Detroit served as the judges.

Callida Energy and RideHop will now use their prize money to further demonstrate and refine their technology; NextEnergy invited Callida to run a demo at its headquarters. The competition’s other finalists were GoKid, Locational Emissions Estimation Methodology, LumenCache, Movatic, Nextek Power Systems, ParkIT, Solartonic, and SPLT.

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