Frequently Asked Questions

Startup: HiberSense
Partner: Urban Redevelopment Authority
Pilot Project:
HiberSense acts as a network of smart thermostats adjusting the climate in every room. Before entering the program, the company had only piloted their product in residential facilities. While participating in the program, the company was able to test its new technology at a larger scale on the 11th floor of the Ross Street Building where the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is located. By learning about the URA’s HVAC system, HiberSense was able to discover that the local authority could potentially save 20% in energy savings.

Startup: Renerge
Partner: Mayors Office
Pilot Project:
Renerge was able to test its, Water Horse solution during the first cycle of PGH Lab. The Water Horse by Renergé is a readily transportable hydro-energy solution that is minimally disruptive to other river resources. Renerge’s modular systems can be assembled into arrays to meet power requirements ranging from 10 to 100's of kW, and function in flows previously described as "technically unrecoverable.” The Water Horse was deployed at a river site near the Mon Wharf. The startup company quickly discovered that due to slow river flow, the Water Horse could not reach its optimal functionality. One alternative way to address this challenge was to attach the Water Horse to a speed boat to get a sense of its functionality at various speed rates. As a result, Renergé was able to collect valuable data confirming the Water Horse’s capability to generate energy.

Startup: TransitSource
Partner: Department of Planning, City of Pittsburgh
Pilot Project:
TransitSource was one of the three startups on the first cohort of PGH Lab. The startup piloted its Sentinel Boxes, a bike-mounted piece of hardware that detects and reports close calls for cyclists, or events where a motor-vehicle narrowly passes a bicycle. The device interfaces with the cyclist's smartphone to record GPS location, time of day, passing distance, moving speed of the passing vehicle and a picture of the event.  The startup tested its Sentinel Box on one of Pittsburgh’s busiest streets, Negley Avenue. With the help of four dedicated volunteers, the seven-week pilot program yielded to a total of 239 trips equal to 65 miles on the road. This was the first time the Sentinel Boxes were tested on a larger scale. TransitSource reported that of the 7,604 passing events, 2,500 of those were within four feet of the bicyclist which in the state of Pennsylvania that is considered to be an ‘unsafe pass’. Results from the pilot period concluded that 1 in 3 passing events were not only unsafe, but unlawful.

Startup: CleanRobotics
Partner: Department of Public Works, City of Pittsburgh
Pilot Project:
The startup company tested its flagship product, the Trashbot. The TrashBot, uses advanced robotics and artificial intelligence to sort recyclables from waste at the point of disposal. This process drastically increases the recycling yield and improves its quality through reduced contamination. In coordination with the Office of Environmental services, the Trashbot was placed on the first floor of the City-County Building. The first floor of the City-County Building provided for an ideal location to test the Trashbot and its use as it is a highly transited area. The Trashbot was tested for one week. In addition, the startup was able to run surveys that tested the look and feel of the Trashbot.

Startup: Cognowear Inc.
Partner: Urban Redevelopment Authority
Pilot Project:
The startup company tested its smart heated garment - with individualized adaptive temperature control - that can be worn professionally.  The garment is an environmentally friendly solution because it has the potential to reduce the amount of energy used inside office buildings. Since indoor environments are not optimal for individuals, especially women, many people resort to using space heaters or using blankets and outer garments to warm themselves. The Cognowear team engaged 12 employees from the Urban Redevelopment Authority as volunteers to test the smart garment. The startup tested individual’s preferences in comfort, look, and feel of the garment. In addition, the team organized a series of structured feedback sessions to learn about price sensitivity and product demand.

Startup: Kaarta
Partner: Department of Public Works, City of Pittsburgh
Pilot Project:
Kaarta tested its 3D scanning technology that blends multiple advanced sensors — a 360° lidar laser scanner, a motion sensor, and a feature tracker — to survey its environment and accurately determine where it is and what’s around it. The startup tested its 3D scanner technology in two different settings with the help of the Department of Public Works at the City of Pittsburgh. Their case studies included an abandoned building where the company used its technology to show the extent of the interior damage and site components and a department of public works warehouse to map the location of inventory in the building. Read more about this pilot here.

Startup: Flywheel
Partner: Department of Public Works, City of Pittsburgh
Pilot Project:
Flywheel is an organizational design studio that helps human-driven companies develop better ways to work. The startup worked closely with the Human Resource Director at the URA and was tasked with analyzing the operations within the URA and identifying issues challenging employee productivity and collaboration. Flywheel was able to personally engage with the organization’s employees to create solutions with them, rather than for them. Through these collaborative efforts, they were able to develop a set of recommendations that fostered a community of employee contribution while promoting effectiveness, alignment, and connection. After the pilot period the company was able to continue working with the URA in a paid engagement.

Startup: MellonHead Lab
Partner: Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA)
Pilot Project:
The startup company tested its CATTfish water sensor with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA). The sensor is used by both citizens and industry to track water quality changes over long periods of time and large geographic areas. Cloud based visualization of large data sets allows easy interpretation of results. The company gained access to a water plant owned by PWSA to test its larger size water quality sensor called Flamingo. The startup company was able to gain and report data to PWSA regarding the water quality of one of its plants.

Startup: NetBeez
Partner: Department of Innovation & Performance, City of Pittsburgh
Pilot Project:
Netbeez’s technology allows for early off-site detection — therefore reducing location visits and time required by network engineers to check on network performance. In partnership with the Department of Innovation & Performance, the startup company wanted to help the City of Pittsburgh monitor its network performance on a day-to-day basis to identify problems before they occur. The company deployed eight sensors since February 2018, which have been providing information to City of Pittsburgh network engineers. Some sensors were placed in the Department of Innovation & Performance and Council Chambers where there is access to public Wi-Fi.  After the pilot project the startup was able to continue its engagement with the Department of Innovation & Performance with a paid contract.

Startup: Steel City Soils
Partner: Department of Public Works, City of Pittsburgh
Pilot Project:
Steel City Soils is a cooperatively-managed group that works together to recycle food and yard waste. The group focuses on making the highest-quality end product possible for urban food growing. Steel City Soils proposed to test its composting treatment using the Forestry Division wood chips in a City-owned site. Using one pile of recycled wood chips from the forestry division, the startup was able compost two tons of food waste for the duration of the pilot period. In addition, the startup held three community engagement events encouraging residents to drop-off their food compost on site and learn about zero-waste home strategies.

Startup: Global Wordsmiths
Partner: Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP)
Pilot Project:
Global Wordsmiths is a social enterprise dedicated to improving language access for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals. The startup helps organizations to incorporate, learn, and implement language access services through a customized strategic Language Access plan. Global Wordsmiths tested its language access consulting stack with the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP). The startup implemented a series of interviews and training for HACP's customer facing employees in the Occupancy Department, the first point of contact for Low-income Housing Program and the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Startup: Zensors
Partner: Pittsburgh Parking Authority
Pilot Project:
Zensors uses artificial intelligence via a camera software system to provide human-centered and actionable sensor output with minimal hardware installation. The product allows the user to make data-driven decisions. The startup worked with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority on a dynamic pricing study of a busy commercial street in the city. The startup deployed 13 cameras equipped with the AI software to gain real data for the study.

Startup: Cropolis
Partner: Department of Public Works, City of Pittsburgh
Pilot Project:
Cropolis solves some of the biggest challenges faced by small and medium-sized farms by automating the best practices in farm marketing, sales, and administration. The startup aims to increase the availability, accessibility, and ease of purchase for healthy, local foods. The startup worked with the department of planning to engage three City of Pittsburgh farms to test its e-commerce software for the summer farmer’s markets season.

Startup: Meta Mesh Wireless Communities
Partner: Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh
Pilot Project:
Meta Mesh is a non-profit organization that bridges the digital divide in Western Pennsylvania by using mesh networking technology to provide communities with a low-cost public WiFi option. Meta Mesh builds these networks and teaches others about networking and WiFi. The startup company worked with the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) to gain access to high buildings to test its mesh networking capabilities with the goal of providing outside free wireless access to residents living in three HACP buildings.

Startup: Qlicket
Partner: Urban Redevelopment Authority
Pilot Project:
Qlicket provides an office communication solution that offers organizations a simple, natural way to solicit feedback. Qlicket’s software drives engagement and helps companies address workplace issues more effectively by providing the most direct and scalable way to hear and respond to the voice of their employees. The startup tested its desktop communications platform in a organization wide pilot project at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). The startup engaged URA employees with daily questions about their workplace environment and fun engaging questions customized by the URA’s Human Resource Director. The average employee response rate during the pilot period was was 73 % . After the pilot period, the company introduced its new product, an interactive kiosk that encourages greater employee communications and engagement.