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Winners Of Verizon's Powerful Answers Contest Share Goals, Milestones Ahead

Winners were selected for innovation in emergency response, IoT and transportation.

Edward Gately

December 14, 2015

6 Min Read
Winners Of Verizon's Powerful Answers Contest Share Goals, Milestones Ahead

Edward GatelyThe creators of throwable, omnidirectional cameras; seismic early warning sensors; and a carpooling/paid ridesharing app have been named $1 million winners in Verizon’s 2015 Powerful Answers Award contest.

Verizon awarded a total of $6 million to 12 winners. A top prize of $1 million was up for grabs in each category of the contest, with $500,000 and $250,000 awarded to one first runner-up and two second runners-up in each category. The contest concludes a year-long global challenge to discover and help bring to market technologies that “show promise for addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges in the emergency response, transportation and Internet of Things (IoT) categories.”

Bounce Imaging was the $1 million winner for emergency response, while Zizmos Technology was the top IoT winner and Pogo was the top winner for transportation.

“The last 10 months have been an incredible journey for all 12 of these companies and it has been truly inspiring for our team to learn so much about their technologies and potential for solving real-world issues,” said John Doherty, Verizon Ventures’ senior vice president of corporate development. “There’s a lot of excitement around these ideas and we are looking forward to working with each of the winners to help make their ideas a reality.”

Bounce Imaging’s throwable cameras allow first responders to see what lies ahead in dangerous environments, while Zizmos provides earthquake early warning and high-resolution hazard maps for urban areas. Pogo’s app helps users streamline existing carpools and discover new carpool connections with paid rides as a backup.

In a Q&A with Channel Partners, Francisco Aguilar, Bounce Imaging’s CEO; Greg Lowitz, Zizmos executive board member; and John Glover, Pogo’s co-founder and chief marketing officer, talked about what lies ahead for their companies.

Channel Partners: What are your company’s overall goals?

Aguilar: We aim to make the world safer for first-responders and civilians by providing tools to assess dangerous situations. The 360/virtual reality video from the hazardous environments (such as hostage situations or collapsed structures) into which our Explorer units are thrown lets first responders make better, safer decisions.

Lowitz: The real-time network, coupled with post-quake data analytics, helps to save lives, and provide engineers and insurance companies with data to improve structures and manage …

… risk. Zizmos is on track to becoming the most reliable and complete provider of cost-effective seismic early-warning technology and high-resolution shake maps for businesses, property owners and insurers.

Glover: Our vision for Pogo encompasses these positive changes: more kids involved in after-school, weekend and summer activities; parents having a little extra time to do/make/work/create/cook/breathe; fewer cars on the road (and) lower emissions.

Channel Partners: How much progress have you made since you first organized?

Aguilar: We’re now in the market with rugged and low-cost throwable omnidirectional cameras. We’ve also developed what we believe to be the fastest panoramic stitching algorithms in the world.

Lowitz: Zizmos was founded in 2014 and received an initial $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Zizmos used these funds to deploy a limited trial network in California, and to test and evaluate algorithms for seismic early warning. Using the Zizmos network of sensors and real-time analytics, 5 to 30 seconds of warning is provided in advance of an incoming quake. The warning allows consumers to take cover in safety and for businesses to shut down sensitive operations that could be adversely impacted by a strong tremor.

Glover: We’ve been working on Pogo for about a year. We spent a lot of time talking with busy parents to find out about the challenges they face with transporting their kids and where a service like Pogo could be most valuable to them. We’ve progressed to the point where we now have a beta version of the iPhone Pogo app that is in closed beta usage right now by [fewer] than 100 users in the Seattle area, with the expectation that we’ll have both an iPhone and an Android version of the app in the app stores sometime in early 2016.

Channel Partners: How do you plan to use the award money?

Aguilar: The generous support of Verizon will allow us to get more units in more first-responders’ hands and to keep advancing the tech.

Lowitz: Zizmos will apply the funds toward: continued research and development efforts on seismic early warning and high-resolution shake maps; commercialization, production and deployment of a proprietary wireless and networked seismic sensor coupled with cloud services for business and consumers; and developing our go-to-market strategy and channel-partner alliances, including service providers calling on industrial, utilities, municipal, educational, retail, medical and other mission-critical customers who would benefit from a seismic early warning system and resulting risk-assessment data.

Glover: The Verizon award will enable us to do several essential things: hire more technical resources; solidify the necessary …

… operational infrastructure to provide a great app and service at scale; (and) test and learn from not only a technical standpoint but also from a marketing standpoint so that we have a playbook from our initial test bed in Seattle that can quickly be taken to other metro areas. We should also point out that Verizon’s support goes beyond the monetary award. They pay for access to a three-month accelerator program in Silicon Valley and connect us with a wide range of internal Verizon resources to help us on our journey.

Channel Partners: What do you want people to know about your company and its innovation?

Aguilar: A global engineering team out of the Harvard Innovation Lab, MassChallenge, and the Costa Rican Institute of Technology have developed cutting-edge image processing and electronic technologies to keep first responders safer. That same tech may soon make it easy for consumers to take and share their own 360 videos.

Lowitz: Zizmos is a collaborative, passionate team built from industry veterans with deep expertise in geophysics, hardware and software development, and cloud-connected networks – curated over many years from the Bay Area’s best universities and high-technology companies. The genesis of our technology began with the Stanford University Quake Catcher Network (QCN) under the leadership of Assistant Professor Jesse Lawrence. Zizmos is commercializing the principles learned using proprietary algorithms and purpose-built sensors. Innovation comes in many forms, including not only the physical hardware and seismic correlation algorithms, but also with new business models and alert mechanisms designed to save lives while making the cost of insurance more affordable through better data and analytics.

Glover: We’re passionate about this because we’re working parents. We know the negotiating, juggling and tradeoffs required to keep up with increasingly busy kids. We’ve left work early only to show up at the same soccer field as our neighbor. Or hesitated to sign up for a cool summer camp because we couldn’t get our daughter there every day. We are excited about the power of technology to foster community and make the lives of busy parents a little bit easier. We are combining two existing ideas – carpooling and paid ride-sharing – in such a way that they work together, enable people to tap into more of their trusted groups and do so in a way that ensures the safety of everyone’s kids. The technical magic comes from creating an elegant user experience that encourages trust and thus discovery, and also enables users to filter through a lot of information to get to a transportation option that will work for them and their kids.

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About the Author(s)

Edward Gately

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

As news editor, Edward Gately covers cybersecurity, new channel programs and program changes, M&A and other IT channel trends. Prior to Informa, he spent 26 years as a newspaper journalist in Texas, Louisiana and Arizona.

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