NextChallenge: Smart Cities 2017 Pitch Day

Watch our finalists compete for up to $100K!

12 – 5:00 p.m.*
NextEnergy | Detroit

Join us to experience live pitches from smart cities innovators as they present their connected, interactive and data-driven solutions to address common challenges facing urban areas across the globe.

NextChallenge: Smart Cities aims to proactively address these challenges and identify opportunities for new business models through innovation. We’ve received applications from around the world proposing solutions to create safer, more efficient places for people to live and work, with a lower impact on the environment. Be there to see what our 2017 finalists have to offer!


  • Demonstration Grant Award
  • Grant Award
  • NEW! People’s Choice Award

*Complimentary registration (R.S.V.P. using the link below) includes boxed lunch and ends with a networking reception, both featuring a fun selection of Michigan/Detroit-made treats! 

NEW THIS YEAR: Update your professional image!

Need a new headshot? We’ll have a professional photographer on hand during the networking breaks to take one for you! Just give him your info and your digital files will be emailed to you — on us!

Join us!


NextChallenge: Smart Cities 2017 Built Environment Finalists

End-to-end Smart Building IOT Monitoring
Nisha Sarveswaran | Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Ambience Data is focused on big data for smarter cities. Its End-to-End Smart Building Monitoring utilizes an IoT hardware and software package to monitor indoor air quality in real-time using a strategically deployed network of sensors. The data enables them to optimize HVAC systems, reduce energy costs, and increase the health and well-being of building occupants.
Building Energy Visualizations for Busy Engineers: Driving and Demonstrating Sustainability at Museums
Sergio Castillo | Woodbury, Minnesota, USA/Panama  
Eco BCG offers turnkey services for energy efficiency, water treatment, power generation, waste management, and smart agricultural solutions. Their Energy Optimization Dashboards help museums capture critical data needed to attain energy efficiency targets while enabling the museum to teach the general public about energy efficiency.
Pocket Beacon
Paul Savage | Detroit, Michigan, USA
Nextek Power Systems provides DC power networking solutions to enhance the flexibility, reliability, and efficiency of energy systems in buildings. Nextek is expanding the functionality of its platform to provide a secure beacon function, allowing authenticated users to move throughout a building, without repeated scanning. As a result, the building can become aware of the presence of the user’s profile and react accordingly.
$40K Grant Award Winner!
The Tie Controller
Charles Murray | East Lansing, Michigan, USA 
Switched Source LLC is a next generation startup providing power flow control technology solutions for distribution companies. Their patented Distribution Tie Controller device helps increase the efficiency and reliability of the last mile of electricity delivery of the electric grid for urban and suburban users – giving electric distribution companies a new level of control for managing power flows.
AMoD-TDS: Advance Monitoring of Dry-type Transformers towards Digital Substation
Dimitris Barkas | Greece

Trafisense is presenting a hardware/software solution for continuous real-time monitoring of dry-type power transformers based on proprietary machine-learning technology, offering accurate maintenance planning and early warning of high-risk situations. By processing data feeds from more than 10 electrical and environmental properties to identify the risk status of the hardware, Trafisense is able to notify the customer of exceptional conditions several days or weeks before they manifest.

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NextChallenge: Smart Cities 2017 Mobility Finalists

$20K People’s Choice Award Winner!
Making Detroit’s Roads Safer using Artificial Intelligence and Connected Vehicles Technologies
Georges Aoude | Detroit, Michigan, USA/United Arab Emirates

Derq, an MIT spin-off with a mission to eliminate road accidents by using artificial intelligence, is showcasing the benefits of Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) connected technologies on road safety and mobility in Detroit and beyond. Artificial Intelligence algorithms within their patented system can detect and predict dangerous or congested traffic scenarios and alert connected vehicles nearby through short-range communication.

Customized Electric Vehicle (EV) Fast Charging Experience
Manuel Heckmann | Detroit, Michigan, USA/Germany

EcoG is a cloud-based platform providing a customized electric vehicle (EV) fast charging experience. Its IoT operating system adds an API-Layer on top of electric vehicle chargers, enabling the monetization and integration of business-driven applications and services with the charging infrastructure.

SKY Network
Michelle Meyer | Los Angeles, California, USA

GreenLots offers a comprehensive network management platform for both site hosts and electric vehicle drivers. It combines smart grid technology with energy management systems based on its SKY platform. Additionally, the Maven and GreenLots mobile app are integrated to enable drivers to sign up, share, and charge an electric car sharing fleet with supporting direct current (DC) fast charging infrastructure.

$60K Demonstration Grant Award Winner!
Bike Lane Signal Safety System
Jason Lee |  Stittsville, Ontario, Canada

SmartCone’s Bicycle-Pedestrian Safety Solution makes intersections safer through an innovative platform that uses a combination of heat detection cameras and invisible trip wires to detect non-motorized transport. The software triggers flashing lights on eye-level bollards to notify drivers when it’s safe to proceed and is capable of recording video, capturing license plates of dangerous drivers, and providing pedestrian and cyclist counts.

Bike-to-Vehicle (B2V) Safety System
Jake Sigal | Royal Oak, Michigan, USA

Tome, a leader in the design, development, validation and launch of mobility products, is developing a Bicycle to Vehicle (B2V) safety system in partnership with Trek Bikes and the University of Michigan to map the most dangerous areas on road, and provide alerts for vehicles and cyclists.

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Supporting Partners


Jim Saber
Vice President, Business & Technology Development

Patricia Glaza
Vice President
Invest Detroit

Tony Cannestra
Director, Corporate Ventures
DENSO International America, Inc.

Richard Mueller
Manager of Engineering Technology
DTE Energy

Daryl Pierson
Director, Office of Campus Sustainability
Co-director, SEED Wayne
Wayne State University


NextEnergy, founded in 2002 as 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is one of the nation’s leading accelerators of advanced energy and transportation technologies, businesses and industries. Since its inception, NextEnergy has helped attract more than $1.5 billion of new investment. NextEnergy provides project management and oversight for Detroit Smart City, an industry-led consortium dedicated to the development and advancement of smart city technologies in Detroit.

Wells Fargo & Company is a nationwide, diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.7 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance services through more than 8,700 locations, 12,500 ATMs, the internet, and mobile banking, and has offices in 36 countries to support customers who conduct business in the global economy.

DENSO is one of the largest global automotive suppliers of advanced technology, systems and components. As a mega supplier, DENSO has the technologies and global capabilities to address some of society’s greatest challenges. DENSO plans to take its core automotive technologies and apply them to different fields and industries to help create the future Smart City.

DTE Energy is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. DTE partners with technology companies to identify ways to manage resources most effectively and create smarter and more resilient cities of the future.

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Challenge & Pitch Day Basics

What: NextChallenge: Smart Cities focuses on accelerating connected, interactive and data driven solutions in advanced energy and mobility that address needs in urban areas. Through this global challenge, innovations will be demonstrated that create safer and more efficient places for people to live and work with a lower impact on the environment. The Challenge culminates in a Pitch Day event, held on December 13, 2017 at NextEnergy in Detroit, where finalists will compete for up to $100K in prizes.

Website: |

Administrator: NextEnergy

Sponsors: DENSO, DTE Energy, Wells Fargo

Supporting Partners: Bodman Law, Rosh Media, Sift

PRESS RELEASE: NextChallenge: Smart Cities Pitch Day 

Social media

Social Media Hashtag: #NextChallenge17

NextEnergy Twitter Handle: @nextenergymi
 Wells Fargo Twitter Handle: @WellsFargo
 DTE Energy Twitter Handle: @DTE_Energy DENSO: #DENSO

NextEnergy on Instagram: @nextenergy

Sample Tweets:

  • Watch #smartcities finalists compete for $100K in prizes at #NextChallenge17 Pitch Day at NextEnergy in #Detroit!
  • Watch #mobility + #builtenvironment #startups pitch live at #NextChallenge17 Pitch Day in #Detroit on 12/13!
  • Safe streets to bike and ride. Reliable, sustainable energy. Easy, value-added EV charging. See the #NextChallenge17 #SmartCities finalists pitch for the chance to demo these ideas and more on 12/13!

Sample Facebook/Linkedin post:

Watch smart cities technology start-ups pitch their solutions live on December 13 at NextEnergy in Detroit as they compete for up to $100K and a chance to demonstrate their tech! For details and registration visit

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About NextChallenge: Smart Cities 2017

NextEnergy, one of the nation’s leading accelerators of advanced energy and transportation technologies, in partnership with Wells Fargo, DENSO and DTE Energy are seeking to accelerate the development of hardware and/or software solutions that will address real-world challenges facing urban areas.

Successful proposals will result in one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Improved access and user experience
  • Improved safety and security
  • Reduced impact on the environment and public health caused by emissions, land use, and/or congestion

The challenge will create a pipeline of smart city technological and entrepreneurial innovation concepts with the end goal of demonstrating these innovations at the NextEnergy Center in Detroit, or other applicable site. The demonstration will provide the solution provider the following:

  • Relationship-building opportunities with industry and urban leaders – increases visibility of innovation through the review process, mentoring opportunities and a chance to pitch your technology to a live audience and panel of industry experts
  • Demonstration deployment – technologies vetted by experts in real-world settings
  • Accelerated commercialization timeline – provides proof-of-concept metrics to share that can help to fast-track technology commercialization

Finalists will compete for the top prizes at a live pitch event held December 13, 2017 at NextEnergy in Detroit.

NextChallenge: Smart Cities 2017 Video


NextEnergy Blog: “Connected technologies: enabling the intersections of smart cities
Guest Blog:What is a smart city and why now?” Ashley Grosh, Vice President & Environmental Affairs Business Initiatives Manager, Wells Fargo

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For media inquiries, questions on usage, or to request a customized banner or print quality logo please contact:

Melissa Smith
Director, Outreach & Branding Initiatives, NextEnergy
| 313.833.0100 ext. 122

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Supporting Partners

Partner with us and gain from our experience.

Challenges and competitions have become a key ingredient in the mix of advancing and commercializing new energy and mobility technologies. At NextEnergy, we have a proven track record of helping our clients by guiding them through the process from beginning to end, connecting them with the resources they need to accelerate their journey from start-up to success.

Our industry and philanthropic partners know they can rely on our expertise to help them identify emerging innovators and vet the groundbreaking technologies that will help them retain their competitive edge and achieve their mission.

Whether you are a seasoned competitor, a fledgling innovator, or an established organization looking for a dynamic industry partner, we can help.

Contact us to learn more about how we can work together to help advance your technology, business or sustainability goals.

NextChallenge-Smart Cities 2016

Launched in May of 2016, our first NextChallenge: Smart Cities received 220 inquiries, 57 concept papers and 23 full proposals submitted by innovators from around the world. Vetted by our expert reviewers to a group of 10 finalists from the United States who pitched their ideas live to a panel of judges – representatives from NextEnergy, DTE Energy, DENSO and Invest Detroit – who collaboratively determined the winners.

Meet our Mobility and Built Environment Finalists!

NextChallenge-Smart Cities 2016 Winners

Callida Energy Logo$80,000 Demonstration Grant Award Winner
Raphael Carty | Callida Energy | Callida Occupant App

Callida Energy’s Occupant App software uses real-time data collected from occupants via a comfort survey to empower building operators to more efficiently heat and cool buildings based on occupants’ presence and comfort.  Rather than running HVAC systems based on a pre-determined occupancy schedule, the software gathers data to learn zone occupancy patterns and recommend more efficient zone operating schedules that turn-down heating/cooling when offices are unoccupied or lightly occupied. It also visualizes occupant comfort problems to facility managers in real-time and leans what occupants perceive to be actual comfort to improve temperature settings. Based on prior results, Callida estimates the software will achieve 30+% HVAC energy savings annually – as well as costs and carbon emissions reductions — with no decrease in occupant comfort.

$20,000 Grant Award Winner
Travis Knepper | RideHop | OnDemand for fixed routes

RideHop On-Demand for Fixed Routes reduces the total number of buses or shuttles needed by adapting the transportation system to respond to ridership demand in real time opposed to standard circling for rider coverage. Urban campuses, such as hospitals, universities or large companies often provide buses or shuttles on a fixed route to transport employees, guests and patrons to and from buildings and parking lots. During decreased demand, circling mostly-empty buses results in unnecessary engine hours, greenhouse gases and operational overhead. As a solution, RideHop On-Demand allows riders to indicate when they are waiting at a stop, drivers are automatically dispatched, and riders receive an ETA for their ride. Early projections indicate the solution could reduce fleet coverage by 29 percent, while reducing wait time for passengers during off-peak times.


NextChallenge: Lighting focused on the development of advanced lighting technology ideas, concepts and intellectual properties for Ford Motor Company and RecoveryPark, a Detroit-based urban farming operation.

Launched in 2014, NextChallenge: Lighting aimed at inspiring the development of lighting innovation in the automotive and urban farming industries. In partnership with sponsors Ford Motor Company and RecoveryPark, this effort invited lighting innovators from around the world to address specific industry needs through their technology solutions, with the end goal of building relationships and business opportunities between industry leaders and technology providers.

In collaboration with Ford, NextEnergy crowd-sourced innovative interior and exterior automotive lighting concepts to add value and product differentiation in Ford’s vehicles. Entrepreneurs submitted their novel ideas for consideration, and selected innovators pitched their solutions to Ford’s lighting team. As a result, three companies moved forward in discussions with Ford including Arborlight, MagWerks LED, LLC and Van Straten Heated Tail Light.

In partnership with RecoveryPark, an urban farming operation located in Detroit, NextEnergy sought solutions to optimize horticultural lighting systems that produce year round yields for greenhouses and hydroponic operations. The winning team—led by Light-Speed USA—was awarded $80,000 in cash and in-kind services to support the development and demonstration of a next generation greenhouse lighting technology system for RecoveryPark. The solution combined specialties of three Michigan companies – LumenFlow’s advanced photonic LED and optical engineering technologies, AMF Nano’s specialty control sensor system, and Nextek Power Systems’ direct current (DC) distribution system. The team is working with Michigan State University to demonstrate a very energy efficient LED lighting system for greenhouse operations that is expected to take advantage of LED color tuning to improve produce growth, yield and cultivation cycles.

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12:00 – 12:30 p.m.
Lunch & Registration
12:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Live Finalist Pitches
3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Networking Reception & Announcement of Winners

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For more information, contact Gina Schrader at 313-833-0100 ext. 170 or