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Smart City Air Challenge

About the Challenge
Communities, show us how you manage lots of air quality data.

Posted By: Environmental Protection Agency
Category: Designs
Skill: Plans/Strategies Interest: Local Government Submission Dates: 11 a.m. ET, Aug 30, 2016 - 4 p.m. ET, Oct 28, 2016

EPA has selected two awardees of the Smart City Air Challenge: the City of Baltimore and the Lafayette, La. Consolidated Government. For more information about the challenge and webinars about data management of community air quality projects, visit the challenge website at https://developer.epa.gov/smart-city-air-challenge/. The agency also has recognized four projects for honorable mention: New York City; Mesa County, Colo.; Raleigh, N.C. and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

The following two projects were selected as awardee recipients:

  • An Air Quality Sensor Network for Greater Baltimore: This Baltimore project incorporates plans to engage several partners and neighborhoods to deploy a network of sensors in a phased approach, leveraging a scalable cloud platform for data management. They plan to assemble commercially-available components to build their sensor system and distribute the data on a City of Baltimore website.
  • Lafayette Engagement and Research Network (LEaRN): This Lafayette, La., project proposes a partnership between collegiate, local government and non-governmental organizations to deploy a network of sensors. The project has a strong data management plan that will use a scalable cloud platform. They plan to use commercially-available sensors for the project and share the data with the public in a variety of ways.

EPA is recognizing these four projects for honorable mention because of their innovation and potential to help other communities:

  • Healthy Mesa County & Mesa County Health Department: Smart City Air Challenge Solution: Mesa, Colo.
  • Air Quality Crowdsourcing Data in Minneapolis/St. Paul: Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • New York City Air Casting Project: EPA Smart City Air Challenge Solution: New York
  • Citizen science with Ground-Level Ozone Wearables Sensors (GLOWS) for real-time pollution maps across the Research Triangle: Research Triangle, N.C.

Although the challenge is closed, EPA will be available as a resource to the winners and honorable mention project teams to share knowledge about how they collect, store and manage large amounts of data. EPA encourages these communities and others to share their findings so other communities can learn from their successes, challenges and lessons.


Here’s a chance for communities to demonstrate their leadership in managing hundreds of air quality sensors at the local level.

EPA is challenging communities across the country to collect data using hundreds of air quality sensors as part of the Smart City Air Challenge. The agency is offering up to $40,000 apiece to two communities to help them develop and implement plans for collecting and sharing data from air quality sensors.

To qualify for the challenge, communities will need to submit plans for deploying hundreds of air quality sensors and managing the data they collect. EPA will award up to $40,000 apiece to up to two communities that have the best data collection strategies, including their plans to share their data management methods with other communities. The award money only covers part of the program costs, so communities will need to partner with sensor manufacturers, data management companies or others to get resources and expertise to implement their plans.

See EPA’s challenge resource pages about air quality sensors, data management and more.

Attend webinars about the challenge.

After a year, EPA will evaluate the two projects and award up to an additional $10,000 to the winning communities based on their accomplishments and collaboration.

The challenge is open from August 30, 2016 to October 28, 2016. Through the challenge, communities have the opportunity to adopt the paradigm of big data, citizen science, and the Internet of Things as they address air quality problems that are relevant to them.

The challenge is designed to inspire communities to discover new approaches to managing data for air topics they care about, then develop solutions and share them. It is experimental in nature and EPA expects to learn how communities handle data from many sensors. The challenge prize funds are meant to be seed money, not the full amount for procuring sensors and data management services. EPA is ready to provide background information through Resource Pages that list EPA’s research and similar experiences in other communities, webinars about the challenge and a Frequently Asked Questions page.

EPA prefers that the sensors and the resulting data are of good quality. Although standards exist for measuring criteria pollutants (see Designated EPA Reference and Equivalent Methods at https://www3.epa.gov/ttn/amtic/criteria.html), there are no standards for measuring air quality for non-regulatory or non-enforcement purposes. For the challenge, communities will need to describe the level of accuracy, precision and reliability of the sensors and how they will ensure these attributes. The data from these projects will belong to the projects and will be available for others to use. EPA recommends that communities carefully evaluate the quality of sensors and the associated data. Please refer to the sensor resource page to learn more about independent sensor testing by EPA and others.

The challenge encourages communities to create solutions and identify best practices that other communities can adopt and benefit from. In doing so, they will advance the theme of Information Technology Infrastructure and New Data Streams, as mentioned in EPA’s Draft Roadmap for Next Generation of Air Monitoring. Through their projects, communities will help each other and EPA “face challenges presented by the ever increasing amounts of sensor-generated data, the analytics needed to translate data into knowledge, and how to make sensor data available for discovery and integration with data from other allied disciplines.”

EPA expects the challenge to yield several benefits, such as identifying best practices for managing big data at the community level, how to engage citizens in collecting data about their community, and how to use data from many sensors to understand environmental condition and its relationship to human health.

Constraints
Submissions will be judged based on the constraints and performance criteria outlined below. Before being scored against weighted performance criteria, entries must meet the four constraints listed below. Submissions that do not meet the constraints must describe their justification for doing so and will receive lower judging scores accordingly.

  1. Deploy 250 to 500 sensors in a community
    Submissions must describe how they will procure and deploy 250 to 500 air quality sensors.
  2. Community involvement in purchasing and using the sensors
    The community and its residents will provide funds for the sensors in order to ensure citizen engagement and better data quality.
  3. Identification of partners and project sustainability
    EPA will provide prizes to the winning communities. The community and its residents will provide funds and establish partnerships to implement the strategy.
  4. Be transparent in terms of making the data open and describing the data management plans
    The data from the sensors will be available for free and in machine-readable form. The data management plan describes how data will be managed in all parts of the information life cycle.
Constraints Score Range
Deploy 250 to 500 sensors in a community Yes or No
Community involvement in purchasing and using the sensors Yes or No
Identification of partners and project sustainability Yes or No
Be transparent in terms of making the data open and describing the data management plans Yes or No

See the Judging Criteria for more details.

Email recipients
Send comments to the Discussion section of this challenge or to smartcityairchallenge@epa.gov.  ALL DECISIONS BY THE EPA ARE FINAL AND BINDING IN ALL MATTERS RELATED TO THE COMPETITION.

EPA will also screen submissions for contestant eligibility and compliance with Challenge.gov’s standards of conduct. Submissions appearing to satisfy these criteria will be posted on the Challenge website on a rolling basis.

Entries meeting the criteria will then be scored based on the weighted (% of total score) Performance criteria provided in the table below. Each performance criterion will be scored on a scale of 0-5 with 0 being the lowest and 5 being the highest.

Judging Criteria

Data management - 25%

1. How will you manage the data so it can be used?
2. What metadata will you collect?
3. What data transmission protocols will you follow?
4. What data storage methods will you use?
5. How will you make the data public, free of charge and machine-readable?
6. How will you reduce the risk of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to individuals and the community?

Data Use - 25%

1. What pollutant(s) will you collect data about?
2. How will you use the data?
3. How will the community save money or reduce costs by the use of the air quality data?
4. What problems do you plan to address with the data?
5. How will you analyze and visualize the data?
6. Who will use the data?

Sensor Procurement and Deployment - 25%

1. What sensors will you procure and how will you select them?
2. How will you procure the sensors?
3. On what basis will you deploy the sensors?
4. How will you track the sensors in order to know if they are operational?
5. How will you ensure the physical security, accuracy and precision of the sensors both initially and over time?
6. How quickly can you get the project into operation (faster is better)?

Project Sustainability - 25%

1. How will you invest resources (e.g., funds, staff time) by the community and by individuals who will use the sensors?
2. What partnerships will you establish to implement the project, e.g., with sensor manufacturers, data management organizations, environmental groups, etc.?
3. Is the proposed approach economically viable and replicable?
4. What are the possible barriers to success and how will you overcome them?
5. Do team members have the relevant expertise and resources available to carry out proposed work?
6. How is the project eco-friendly?

How to Enter

Using Challenge.gov, submit your strategy for deploying 250 to 500 air quality sensors and using and managing the resulting data. Provide detailed descriptions, specifications and requirements necessary to show that your strategy can be implemented. Submissions for the Challenge should include the following:

  • Written strategy using the submission template on Challenge.gov (click on Submit Solution to see what to submit)
  • Background information that shows evidence to support the strategy
  • A description of the methods and technologies needed to implement the project
  • Commitments from parties that will partner with communities, including contact information for the partners

In order for submissions to be eligible to win this Challenge, they must meet the following requirements:

  1. Deadline – The submission must be available for evaluation by October 28, 2016 for judging purposes.
  2. No EPA logo – The submission must not use EPA’s logo or official seal in the Submission or in the project itself, and must not claim EPA endorsement.
  3. Applications must be submitted in English.
  4. Submissions must be no longer than eight (8) pages (Times New Roman, size 12, single-spaced) and must address the constraints and performance criteria.
  5. Applications submitted via regular mail, facsimile, or email will not be accepted.
  6. Complete Submissions must be submitted by the deadline of the Smart City Air Challenge (October 28, 2016) using the online platform. No additions or modifications to the Submissions will be accepted after the submission deadline
Winners
Awardee $40,000.00 Won by: Baltimore, Md. Partners include Johns Hopkins University, BmoreCool and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability.
Solution: An Air Quality Sensor Network for Greater Baltimore
Description:
Awardee $40,000.00 Won by: Lafayette, La. Partners include the Lafayette Consolidated Government, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and CGI Technology and Solutions.
Solution: Lafayette Engagement and Research Network (LEaRN)
Description:
Honorable Mention Won by: Mesa, Colo.
Solution: Healthy Mesa County & Mesa County Health Department: Smart City Air Challenge Solution
Description:
Honorable Mention Won by: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Solution: Air Quality Crowdsourcing Data in Minneapolis/St. Paul
Description:
Honorable Mention Won by: New York City
Solution: New York City Air Casting Project: EPA Smart City Air Challenge Solution
Description:
Honorable Mention Won by: Research Triangle, NC
Solution: Citizen science with Ground-Level Ozone Wearables Sensors (GLOWS) for real-time pollution maps across the Research Triangle
Description:
Implementation Winner $20,000.00 After a year, EPA will evaluate the two Winners’ projects and award up to an additional $10,000 to the Winners based on their accomplishments and collaboration for a total potential value of $20,000. Won by:
Solution:
Description:

47 Discussions for "Smart City Air Challenge"

    • Reply
      emcmahon
      We’re beginning the judging process and hope to announce the winning submissions in mid-December. However we’re entering the holiday and election season which could slow us down by a month.

    • Reply
      emcmahon
      Yes. Per the challenge rules, submissions "Must include a governmental party (state, local or Tribal) as part of the application team. The geographical extent can range from neighborhoods to counties and Tribes in the U.S. Governmental, non-profit and for profit organizations are eligible." The challenge deadline was October 30, 2016.

  • Show Replies [+]
    Will L.
    Is it permissible for figures and tables included in the submission to have a font size that is smaller than Times New Roman 12? And can you confirm that the Title Page and Table of Contents do not count against the 8 page limit? Thanks!

    • Reply
      emcmahon
      Please follow the guidance in the rules about page length, fonts, etc. for the entire submission.: Submissions must be no longer than eight (8) pages (Times New Roman, size 12, single-spaced) and must address the constraints and performance criteria. The submissions are relatively short, so there's no need for a separate cover page and table of contents.

    • Reply
      emcmahon
      In your 8 page submission, remember to describe your partnerships, what they will do and points of contact. EPA plans to contact them during the evaluation period. In an appendix you can include details about each partner's capabilities, up to one page per partner.

    • Reply
      emcmahon
      You can include the appendix as part of the 8-page submission file. Any appendix pages do not count as part of the 8 pages. You can include a maximum of one page about each partner’s role and/ or support in the appendix.

    • Reply
      emcmahon
      The webinar about data management on October 13 is at 2 PM Eastern Time. You can register at this URL: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/epa-smart-city-air-challenge-data-management-tickets-28430858463 .

    • Reply
      emcmahon
      I'm sorry about the delay. We're trying to post the webinar recordings but we're having technical difficulties. We'll send out a message once they are posted.

  • Woody
    Is there anyone out there who's planning on a submitting a proposal, but is having trouble with the instrumentation side of things? Please email me if you'd like to consider teaming up.

    • Reply
      emcmahon
      This is a challenge, not a grant, and it has its own requirements. EPA wants the winners to share their data management approaches so other communities can learn from them. The relevant rules are shown here, but additional meetings and collaboration is highly encouraged. - The winners must share results with EPA and each other at a minimum through teleconferences at every quarter during the year. - One year after the winners have been announced, they can submit a revised submission that describes how they have implemented the project and shared the resulting lessons. - EPA will evaluate the revised submissions and determine if it will award the winners the remaining prize money based on the constraints and performance criteria, as well as on factors such as explaining lessons learned. EPA will provide more details in the next few months about how to evaluate the implemented projects, the length of the Revised Submissions and how to submit them.

        • Reply
          emcmahon
          The rules for this challenge are included on this challenge.gov site. Grants have their own set of rules that you can access from this URL: https://www.epa.gov/grants .

  • emcmahon
    Note that only communities in the U.S. are eligible for the prizes. EPA refined the Rules to make them clearer: Must include a governmental party (state, local or Tribal) as part of the application team. The geographical extent can range from neighborhoods to counties and Tribes in the U.S. Governmental, non-profit and for profit organizations are eligible.

  • emcmahon
    Learn the basics of the challenge at a webinar on Monday, September 12 at 2 PM ET. The webinar is called Smart City Air Challenge: The Basics and it will cover the vision for the challenge and how to get involved in it. Participants can post questions and the presenters will answer them. Register now at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/epa-smart-city-air-challenge-the-basics-tickets-27471657467.

    • Reply
      emcmahon
      You can get to the "submission template" by clicking on the "Submit Solution" link on this challenge. You can upload your official submission and add a description, logo and URL if appropriate.

      • Reply
        Anna
        I'm also confused about this- all I see is a page where you enter the title and can upload a file. Is this what is meant by 'submission template'? If so, are there any additional guidelines?

        • Reply
          emcmahon
          Yes, that's what we mean by "submission template." Upload your official submission and add a description, logo and URL if appropriate. In your submission, remember to describe your partnerships, what they will do and points of contact. EPA plans to contact them during the evaluation period. In an appendix you can include details about each partner's capabilities, up to one page per partner.

    • Reply
      emcmahon
      The challenge prizes are meant to be seed funds and they not may not cover the full cost of sensors. Communities may use their own funds to purchase sensors and communities may ask residents to pay some amount for sensors they use. In addition, communities can partner with other parties to obtain sensors, additional funds, expertise, etc. There are many air quality sensors on the market. You can see resources about sensors, including EPA's test reports, at this resource page: https://developer.epa.gov/air-quality-sensors/.

      • Reply
        Aaron
        Do you mean that challenge prizes cannot cover the full project cost or the full cost of the sensors specifically? If, for example, we detail in-kind contributions of project management, roof rights, data analytics, research time, community engagement work, can we pay for the sensors out of the challenge prize? What if we negotiate a lower price with a provider, or assemble with donated work to lower the cost? Put another way, is there a requirement that community dollars go directly to purchasing hardware, and if so, is there a recommendation or expectation of how much? Thanks.

        • Reply
          emcmahon
          The prizes are meant to be seed funds that will help communities implement the projects. EPA is not requiring that you use the prizes for any specific product or service. You are welcome to find resources from other parties. In your application it would be helpful to describe what products and services you need and how you will obtain them.

    • Reply
      Gavin Fisher
      There are many....go to a web site called alibaba.com. Search for PM2.5 sensors. Lots under $150. Mostly Chinese made.. Order and they can arrive in 10 days. I have bought several and found them very useful. Eg got a Nova for $25. Added a Wifi cards for $14. Put in a box with power supply for another $20. Now can see/log PM2.5 on my iphone.

    • Reply
      Adam Jenkins
      There's a great start up company call Valarm (http://www.valarm.net/) doing interesting things with sensors and visualizations. They procure the sensors from various vendors and package them into a multi sensor module, they have insight into setting up sensors and the data management/visualization of those sensors.

    • Reply
      Are their constraints regarding the placement of monitors? The ROCIS (Reducing Outdoor Contaminants in Indoor Spaces) initiative is focused on the intersection of outdoor sources and the built environment. Would you consider funding our initiative with sensors co-located indoors and out of doors?

      • Reply
        emcmahon
        No, there are not constraints on the placement of monitors. Yes, we would consider projects that measure pollutants indoors and outdoors.

    • Reply
      Liam
      Check out the Laser Egg - www.originstech.com. They're like $90-150 and are being used in several countries across Asia for community monitoring. They're not available in the US yet on the website yet, but you can e-mail Origins to purchase directly...

      • Reply
        Michael Heimbinder
        I'm having the same problem. Steps to reproduce: 1) Register for an account 2) Navigate to your email program, open the email with the subject line "Welcome to Challenge.gov . . .", and click on the verify link. Result: The link is an invalid URL. Registration fails.

    • Reply
      Terry Lansdell
      I received the Challenge.gov confirmation email but the link is invalid. Here is the link: https:///registration/?key=34e002c0f1ef7817 only valid for 48 hours and not sure what to do.

      • Reply
        emcmahon
        The challenge.gov administrators believe they have fixed this and we have tested that it works. Please try again and tell us what you find out.

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Rules

The following rules, terms and conditions must be carefully followed and agreed to by all Applicants.

The Smart City Air Challenge will award prizes for community strategies that meet the constraints and best address the performance criteria. Approximately half of the prize money will be awarded after judging and half will be awarded upon execution of the strategy. Prize amounts are subject to change. The government reserves the right to cancel the Challenge or award smaller prizes for partial solutions.

RULES FOR ELIGIBILITY

To be eligible to win the Challenge, an individual or entity:

  • Must have entered a submission on Challenge.gov under the rules promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Must include a governmental party (state, local or Tribal) as part of the application team. The geographical extent can range from neighborhoods to counties and Tribes in the U.S. Governmental, non-profit and for profit organizations are eligible.
  • Must be an individual or team comprised of members each of whom are 15 years of age or over (parental permission will be required).
  • Must not be on the excluded parties list on the System for Award Management located at SAM.gov.
  • May not be a federal entity or Federal employee acting within the scope of their employment.
  • The applicant shall not be deemed ineligible because the applicant used federal facilities or consulted with federal employees during a competition if the facilities and employees are made equitably available to all applicants participating in the competition.
  • Federal grantees may not use federal funds to develop challenge submissions unless consistent with the purpose of their grant award. Federal contractors may not use federal funds from a contract to develop challenge submissions or to fund efforts in support of a challenge submission.
  • Employees of EPA, and/or any other individual or entity associated with the development, evaluation, or administration of the challenge as well as members of such persons’ immediate families (spouses, children, siblings, parents), and persons living in the same household as such persons, whether or not related, are not eligible to participate in the challenge.
  • Applicants are not required to obtain liability insurance or demonstrate financial responsibility in order to participate in the challenge.
  • By participating in the challenge, each applicant agrees to comply with and abide by these Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and the decisions of the federal agency sponsors and/or the individual judges, which shall be final and binding in all respects.

APPLICATION SUBMISSION AND PARTICIPANT RULES

  • Applications must be submitted in English.
  • Submissions must be no longer than eight (8) pages (Times New Roman, size 12, single-spaced) and must address the constraints and performance criteria.
  • Applications submitted via regular mail, facsimile, or email will not be accepted.
  • Complete submissions must be submitted by the deadline of the Smart City Air challenge (October 28, 2016) using the Challenge.gov online platform. No additions or modifications to the submissions will be accepted after the submission deadline.
  • EPA bears no responsibility for submission errors resulting from transmission or conversion processes associated with electronic submissions.
  • If no qualifying submission can be verified at the completion of the challenge, the Smart City Air Challenge may reopen, at the sole discretion of EPA.
  • The winners must share results with EPA and each other at a minimum through teleconferences at every quarter during the year.
  • One year after the winners have been announced, they can submit a revised submission that describes how they have implemented the project and shared the resulting lessons.
  • EPA will evaluate the revised submissions and determine if it will award the winners the remaining prize money based on the constraints and performance criteria, as well as on factors such as explaining lessons learned. EPA will provide more details in the next few months about how to evaluate the implemented projects, the length of the Revised Submissions and how to submit them.
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