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Smart-city export
To:Brew Readers
Emerging Tech Brew // Morning Brew // Update
The lifecycle of a smart-city project
Morning Brew May 20, 2022

Emerging Tech Brew


Happy Friday. Earlier this week, Mastercard began piloting a new biometric payment system that allows people to pay with the scan of their palm or…face.

So, if you’re stuck in line behind someone who keeps waving a hand or grimacing at the cashier, there’s nothing to see there. Just a person trying to make a payment.

In today’s edition:
Pittsburgh’s smart-city export
🦺 Expediting climate tech permits
AI and disability bias

Jordan McDonald, Dan McCarthy, Susanna Vogel


One city’s smart-city project is another’s vendor

One city’s smart-city project is another’s vendor Francis Scialabba

Long before rolling out its “Smart Spines,” Pittsburgh officials were trying to think of ways to reduce traffic delays in the city.

They landed on a solution called Scalable Urban Traffic Control (Surtrac), a traffic management system designed to slash time spent sitting at red lights in a bid to simultaneously reduce congestion and emissions. Surtrac, a platform that uses software to analyze data from cameras, signal controllers, and sensors, was first imagined and tested in 2010, before being deployed in 2012 in Pittsburgh, at a rate of about 10 intersections per year over the first five years.

  • As of 2022, Surtrac has been implemented in 50 out of 610 traffic intersections around Pittsburgh, and city officials have previously said they want it to cover at least 200 intersections in the city.

Changing cities: Surtrac was originally created in partnership with the city through $2.5 million in funding given to Carnegie Mellon University by local philanthropies like the Hillman Foundation, the R.K. Mellon Foundation, and the Heinz Endowments, according to Griffin Schultz, CEO of RapidFlow Technologies, the for-profit venture that was created in 2016 to commercialize Surtrac beyond the Steel City.

  • Today, RapidFlow operates “hundreds of intersections” in over 20 cities across North America, including Pittsburgh, Harmar Township, and Quakertown, Pennsylvania; Quincy and Needham, Massachusetts; and Portland, Maine.

Bottom line: According to RapidFlow, Surtrac’s implementation got people to their destination 25% faster, with 40% less wait time at intersections and with 30%–40% fewer stops, which contributed to a 20% overall reduction in emissions due to idling at red lights.

Read more on how a Pittsburg-focused smart-city project spilled over to other cities.JM



Permit me a question

An illustration of the White House in front of a teal background. A large, rolled up receipt that unfurls to the edge of the picture sits at the base of the building's entrance.  Francis Scialabba

What do ambitious climate tech projects and teenagers in driving school have in common? They’re both just trying to get their permits.

Zoom in: The energy transition will require a lot of earth to be moved, and to move earth, you need to have your papers in order. The Biden administration released a plan last week to expedite the permitting process for energy transition projects, which can take years, and in some cases, more than a decade, to obtain permits.

Time permitting

In addition to energy-focused projects, like battery-mineral mining, energy generation, and carbon sequestration, the plan calls out other infrastructure, like broadband, water resources, and pipelines.

All of these projects require extensive evaluation before they can be green-lit. That evaluation takes place in the form of permitting, which exists to protect the communities and ecosystems surrounding such projects. And the process can take a very long time. One example…

  • In the US, the average time it took for a new hard-rock mine to receive permits was ~two years, per a 2016 GAO report. But as E&E News notes, approval times vary widely, from one month to…11 years.

Big picture: Faster permitting would be a boon for climate tech projects in the US, but some experts told E&E News that it’s unclear how much of a difference the administration’s plan will really make. Others emphasized that attempts to speed up permitting must meet the urgency of the climate crisis without trading off environmental and social responsibility—something the administration itself has vowed to do in releasing the plan.

Read the full story here.DM



Big di$ruptor energy


Not much has changed inside your local pharmacy in the last … decade? Century? We’re not exactly sure, but we do know it’s been a looooong time. And some things need serious updates, like:

  • long lines
  • inconvenient pickup times
  • outdated tech

NowRx is making those upgrades possible by disrupting the $480B pharmacy industry. Their proprietary pharmacy software and robotics combine to provide free, same-day medication delivery.

Convenient?   Affordable?   Hassle-free?

If you act fast, you can be part of a better future in pharmacies—today is the final day to invest in NowRx. JSYK, the company saw 90% year-over-year revenue growth in 2020 and, as of March, has reported $32.3M in annualized revenue for 2022.

Ready to join the 7,200+ investors who have helped raise over $22M? Invest here before the campaign closes today.


EEOC, DOJ warn against disability bias in AI

An illustration of a computer rejecting a resume. Francis Scialabba

Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division each put employers on notice: When using AI in employment processes, employers are responsible for inspecting tools for disability bias, and they better have a plan to provide reasonable accommodations, because federal agencies say they have their eyes on how using artificial intelligence could lead to discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Why now? Though the use of AI in employment processes has been an EEOC priority since 2021, EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows told reporters last week that data motivated the agency to focus more specifically on protecting individuals with disabilities.

  • “According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with disabilities are facing unemployment rates almost twice as high as other workers who do not have disabilities, and so…we thought it was really important to focus on disability issues first,” Burrows said.

What does it say? The EEOC’s new technical assistance document warns employers that AI could unlawfully screen out candidates with disabilities who are qualified to perform the job with “reasonable accommodations” and reminds employers they must provide these reasonable accommodations for all employment processes.

Kristen Clarke, the DOJ’s assistant attorney general for civil rights, told reporters, “that includes when an employer chooses to use artificial intelligence tools or tests as part of its hiring process.”

Read the full story from HR Brew here.SV


Eden Health

Is mental health separate from physical health? 70% of primary care visits are driven by patients’ psychological health, such as depression and stress. Eden Health developed a new kind of primary care for employers, virtually through their app and in person. One that recognizes and treats all aspects of health for employees through a Collaborative Care model—leading to better, more efficient care. Employers, learn more here.


aerial view of a lithium mine Michael Duva/Getty Images

Stat: The lithium mining industry needs at least $42 billion in investment to meet projected 2030 demand for the key battery-making material, per Benchmark Mineral Intelligence.

Quote: “Without the proper infrastructure, investment in eVTOLs is at risk.”—Ricky Sandhu, founder and executive chairman of Urban-Air Port, to the WSJ

Read: Speaking of mining, can it be made any cleaner?

What does it take to thrive? For organizations in this new era of work, thriving looks like personalized support, finding clarity in chaos, and knowing which tools best fight burnout. Learn more in Asana’s U.S. Anatomy of Work Report 2022.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.



Three of the following news stories are true, and one...we made up. Can you spot the odd one out?

  • President Biden released his vision for eVTOLs to become the primary mode of transit in the US by 2030.
  • Cat litter could help mitigate methane emissions.
  • Rivian’s production is being held up by a dispute over…seats
  • Digitization has now come for… business cards.


For EV charging policy: A smart argument that counters some conventional wisdom around EV charging.

For the quantification of privacy safeguards: Real-time bidding, the dominant way to auction off digital ad space and fuel the free web, on average discloses a person in the US’s online activity and location 747 times per day. In the EU, that figure is 376 times per day. Full report here.


We have not seen a flying-car plan from President Biden…yet.


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Written by Jordan McDonald, Dan McCarthy, and Susanna Vogel

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