Uncharted, a New York-based, Minority- and Woman-owned Business Enterprise company focused on bringing efficiency to infrastructure, launched a national Infrastructure Innovation Initiative (III) to help cities overcome infrastructure obstacles and further smart city development earlier this month.
The III builds upon the Biden Administration’s $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) and recommends how to use the resources provided by the framework to support smart and equitable cities equipped with public infrastructure.
“I refuse to live in a world where we have solutions to everyday problems but they’re not getting to everyone because they’re too expensive,” Jessica O. Matthews, founder and CEO of Uncharted, told The Plug.
As a dual citizen of Nigeria and the U.S., Matthews has a keen awareness of how impactful infrastructure can be on communities, as she has experienced what she calls the “broken” infrastructure in Nigeria.
She believes implementing smart-city infrastructure is the most effective way to level the playing field and bridge racial equity gaps across the U.S. and the world.
Piloted in Poughkeepsie, New York, the III proved to reduce the cost of deploying sustainable infrastructure and the complexity of managing it by creating a platform for technological collaboration.
The pilot program was successful by every metric and accomplished the goal of bringing last-mile infrastructure to Poughkeepsie. Matthews defines last-mile infrastructure as “everything from the city-edge to the citizen,” or the critical infrastructure services for citizens.
Now, the program is entering phase two in Poughkeepsie and seeking other cities and developers to preview the Uncharted Platform.
Typically, when cities implement smarter and more sustainable technologies, the more expensive those technologies become, the cost of managing them rises, and cities without a large tax base struggle to afford them.
By using the funds granted to cities by Biden’s BIF, Uncharted’s Platform can stretch the money further than it would typically go by reducing infrastructure project costs.
“Sustainable infrastructure assets are a human right that everyone should have access to,” Matthews said, “A lot of the systems that we’ve taken for granted actually don’t work, they don’t scale.”
While in her senior year of high school, Matthews lost three of her loved ones, all due to a lack of supportive infrastructure. She identified each of the causes of their deaths as “solvable, infrastructure problems,” because the same problems were not present in the U.S.
“When you know there’s a solution but it’s just not being deployed, it’s just not being scaled, and that people are dying because of it, that’s the frustrating point.”
When Matthews began working to solve this infrastructure problem, she realized that the problem was not going to be solved by one technology, it was going to be solved by creating an interconnected space for technological solutions.
By using a cloud-based system, the Uncharted Platform reduces the cost of upgrading and scaling smart and sustainable infrastructure technologies by creating a platform that allows for technologies to collaborate more effectively and efficiently.
Current infrastructure systems in the U.S. are not designed to efficiently “communicate” with each other. For example, a power system could use WiFi while the water system that needs power uses Bluetooth; collaboration among the two is vital but they speak different “languages.”
This is what makes implementing smart-city infrastructure is so expensive. According to Matthews, the lack of interoperability causes cities to spend 50 percent of their infrastructure project budgets trying to force-fit technologies into collaborating.
“Building sustainable infrastructure goes beyond investing in the technology, it requires an investment in the people too,” Matthews said.
According to Matthews, the company aims to use technology to allow for every child in every community to feel they first have roots in the community they are born in so they may have the wings to fly.
By providing clean water, internet access and other infrastructure benefits to every community, children, and the community overall will have security to flourish without being weighed down by the problems caused by the absence of supportive infrastructure.
That is step one of the III, investing in a city’s community to address the problems unique to that city to uplift the people from the bottom-up. After already proving to be successful in Poughkeepsie, Uncharted is inviting other cities across the U.S. to engage with them and their III.
Matthews notes that cities across the U.S. are invited to participate in the III.
Sponsored Series: This reporting is made possible by the The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation based in Kansas City, Mo., that seeks to build inclusive prosperity through a prepared workforce and entrepreneur-focused economic development. The Foundation uses its $3 billion in assets to change conditions, address root causes, and break down systemic barriers so that all people – regardless of race, gender, or geography – have the opportunity to achieve economic stability, mobility, and prosperity. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with us at www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.