This week, in preparation for Thanksgiving, we're spending time reflecting on a few of the things we're most grateful for at Heat Seek.
Today we're grateful for the people and organizations whose funding keeps us going. We're highlighting two foundations whose support has meant the world to us recently.
First, Google. In addition to being our tech overlords, they also have a pretty great foundation, Google.org. And it was a grant from that foundation that made it possible for us to build our new sensors. What makes this so special is that not a lot of human services foundations fund technology R&D (at least that I know of -- I would LOVE to be wrong on this). So when we needed a new sensor design in order to continue running our program, we were so grateful to receive a grant from Google.org. Here's a taste of why their grant means so much to us:
Our new sensors are:
- Redundant. Internet goes out? No problem - we'll write all the data to an SD card on the device. Once the internet comes back, we'll seamlessly send all your data to your account.
- Reliable. They're based on the Adafruit Feather, a commercial grade, tested board with tons of documentation online. If you don't know Adafruit, check them out! The company is female founded and based in NYC.
- So much easier to install. No more 'will it or wont it connect'. No more hacky USB modem. A real IoT device designed for consistency and reliability. Plug it in, attach it to the wall, and you're good to go.
Our old sensors were:
- Fragile. They were always going offline for unknown reasons, meaning we'd have to send someone to fix or replace them. This took up so much staff time.
- Custom. Which sounds cool, until they stop working and no one knows how to fix them, and there's no documentation online to help you figure it out.
- Complicated to install. The two devices (the hub and cell) had to connect to each other and to the internet, meaning there were multiple points of failure. Devices in different apartments had to connect to each other for the whole system to work.
Don't get us wrong, our old sensors got the job done. And they were absolutely critical in helping us demonstrate the potential of technology to document insufficient heat. But these new sensors are going to take our work to a whole new level, and we can't wait to get them all installed this season.
Next is The New York Community Trust. This foundation is especially dear to us because they were the first foundation to write us a grant after we graduated from our incubator in August.
Toward the end of the summer, it wasn't actually clear that we were going to be able to sustain another winter season. We had amazing new sensors and three years of strong partnerships with the housing justice community in NYC under our belts, but not a lot of funding to keep the lights on. People like to talk a big game about innovation, but when it comes down to it, its a lot of trial and error, learning from the community, and testing new things that have never been done before. It can be hard to fundraise for that. And while innovation is exciting and new and has the potential to move the ball forward on really sticky, hard to solve problems, it can be riskier than a tried and true solution. Knowing that we had a vote of confidence from the Trust let us to redouble our own commitment to the work.
At Heat Seek, we are committed to ensuring that all New Yorkers, regardless of income, have the tools they need to obtain the safe, healthy housing they are entitled to. And we're so grateful that NYCT shares our vision.