Winning Solutions for Urban Workplaces

January 18, 2019

The Urban Works Innovation Challenge 2018, a joint project of the Columbia Global Centers | Mumbai and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, was designed for passionate individuals and teams to create environmentally sustainable solutions for 21st-century workspaces in India. Funded by the RMZ Foundation and supported by the CoWrks Foundry, applications were invited from India as well as from all departments of Columbia University. The winners included five startups from India, and three from Columbia whose innovations aim to solve problems associated with waste management, energy efficiency, air quality, water pollution, and green infrastructure.    

Three winning student teams from Columbia University were selected to visit India under the guidance of Professors Patricia Culligan, Ioannis Kymissis, Vijay Modi, and Faye McNeill, and Director of Entrepreneurship, Ivy Schulz. They include:

BinIt, for designing a recycling station that uses elements of machine learning as well as mechanical sorting to sort out waste by using sensors. This innovation enables accurate waste segregation and reduces human handling. Corporate workspaces can install these bins for effective waste-management. Furthermore, the segregated waste produced can be outsourced to organizations that are committed to recycling and reuse to help address the problem of dumping in landfills.

Mossy, for their Modular Moss Tower, a sensor based mobile air cleaning device that uses a combination of the Internet of Things and natural plant filtration. This device can be installed in workspaces to help absorb harmful gases and regulate humidity for improving internal air quality and managing workplace health hazards.

Modular Workspaces, for a modular system that can re-purpose outdoor terrace spaces on commercial buildings as workspaces that are fitted out with solar panels, greenery, and water harvesting features. This ready to assemble pop-up workspace solution can be installed on buildings, especially in dense urban areas, where employees work in small, enclosed office spaces.

The winning startups from India are:

Hexpressions Megatech, for a new construction material and process involving composite-paper honeycomb panels. By applying this to wall spaces, furniture systems, and other workspace infrastructure, the company aims to promote green buildings that are not only sustainable but also durable, affordable, fast, flexible, and modular. The use of honeycomb panels can help reduce the world’s carbon footprint by reducing the dependency on damaging construction materials.

Inphlox Water Systems, for their ‘Indra’ solution that focuses on the treatment of waste-water and the purification of industrial and chemical effluents by using advanced automation and analytics. The treated waste water is then recycled and reused, making it affordable and measurable. Indra aims to work with residential, commercial and industrial consumers to address the environmental problems of water scarcity and high energy consumption.

ValetEZ Services, for their smart parking platform that is currently operating in more than 130 locations and helping these workplaces manage their parking lots in ways that are more efficient and effectively utilize available parking infrastructure.  It aims to address the problems of over-building and vehicular emissions as well as save fuel.  The adoption of this technology enables employees and visitors to make payments and find parking in a reliable and efficient way.

Innovation Experience, for their bio-waste processing technology called ‘Suchita’ that offers a decentralized waste management solution that converts wet waste into organic manure in just a few hours. The solution aims to address the problem of waste that is produced on a daily basis, thus reducing the need for disposal and transport of waste. Furthermore, the organic manure produced from the recycled waste will create a source of income and help foster organic farming.

Synapptra Technologies, for a hybrid edge computing device that provides predictive intelligence for improving the performance of workplace assets. It aims to reduce energy costs and wastage by almost 30% as well as improve air quality through efficient control and management of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and lighting in buildings.