Housing Authority looks to tech startups to improve public housing conditions

The winning companies will pilot new health and safety programs at select NYCHA buildings

(New York, NY) — Three tech startups are testing ways to improve the living conditions of various public housing units across New York City.

The non-profit Fund for Public Housing announced that three winners of the inaugural New York City Housing Authority Tech Pilots competition, Pansofik, Enertiv, and BlocPower will start piloting new health and safety programs at select NYCHA buildings.

“By engaging local startup tech firms to demonstrate that innovative solutions can improve the way NYCHA delivers services to its residents, the NYCHA Tech Pilots represent a creative new approach for capitalizing on New York’s vibrant and ever-growing startup culture,” said a May 15 press release. “NYCHA, the Fund for Public Housing, and local technology partners such as MetaProp NYC and the Urban Tech Hub at Grand Central Tech have been working together to proactively address specific maintenance and operational issues faced by NYCHA residents by leveraging the talents of tech firms like Pansofik, Enertiv, and BlocPower.”

According to the press release, Pansofik recently installed environmental sensors that detect high humidity and temperature conditions in apartment bathroom areas to assess ventilation effectiveness at a NYCHA building in Washington Heights; Enertiv’s technology continuously monitors critical building equipment (in this case, every ventilation fan at a NYCHA building in East Harlem) to predict malfunctions and alert the building operator in real time; and BlocPower recently installed sensors to integrate heating equipment and air quality monitoring services, as well as a free community WiFi network, at a NYCHA building in East Brooklyn.

Rasmia Frye. Image Credit: nyc.gov

“The Fund was created to spark and support innovation that transforms NYCHA communities, and this is exactly the type of early result we were hoping for,” said Rasmia Kirmani-Frye, president of the Fund for Public Housing, in the statement. “Enertiv, Pansofik, and BlocPower have put their assets to work in NYCHA buildings, and we hope that their eagerness to show how they can make improvements for the residents of the largest residential portfolio in North America will serve as an example to other great companies.”

Tony Bowden, Pansofik’s CTO and co-founder, said in the statement that he believes Pansofik’s wireless sensor network can meaningfully reduce NYCHA’s operational costs while improving the health and safety of NYCHA residents.

“In addition, we are very proud to showcase the benefits of NYC-based tech company partnerships with local city agencies to solve the toughest problems facing our communities,” Bowden said.
Donnel Baird, BlocPower CEO, said in the statement that he was thrilled by the potential of BlocPower’s analytics package to identify ways to address heating and air pollution in NYCHA communities, as well as data connectivity through providing free WiFi to public housing residents.

“The data will help us understand where the asthma-causing air pollution and energy waste occurs in each building – so we can fix it. Low-cost technologies can dramatically improve quality of life for hundreds of thousands of NYCHA residents, while freeing up energy bill savings to finance mold and lead removal,” Baird said.

According to their statement, NYCHA is facing an unprecedented financial shortfall, with $17 billion in unmet capital needs, and “the Fund for Public Housing is dedicated to helping the Authority find creative and modern solutions to address some of its greatest challenges as well as to support its residents. The winners of the NYCHA Tech Pilots are seeking to use their innovative technologies to modernize the Authority and, in doing so, build a housing authority that is successful in the future.”

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