About this project
We hit our minimum funding level to start mass producing sensors! Thanks for your continued support, now let's get to $50,000 so we can hit our main goal of a thousand sensors in the field this winter!
Note: The above table is estimated net of Kickstarter fees and perks. We are pursuing ways to finance sensors outside of Kickstarter that will carry no fees or overhead, potentially allowing us to hit 1,000 sensors while raising less than $50,000.
See our Press Page for more media coverage, and links to what everyone's saying about Heat Seek NYC.
No one should have to spend the winter in a frigid apartment. Unfortunately, there are more than 200,000 complaints about lack of heat in New York City every year—creating unbearable living conditions, animosity between tenants and landlords, and a serious public health hazard.
At Heat Seek NYC, we’re working to put an end to New York City’s heating crisis using a simple system of affordable temperature sensors and easy-to-use web software. We’re creating transparency in heating data that empowers tenants, landlords, community organizations, and the justice system.
Heat Seek NYC is raising $50,000 to put 1,000 sensors into the hands of the New York tenants that need them most, and we need your help! We need at least $10,000 to start manufacturing. Back us to receive sensors of your own, Kickstarter-exclusive merchandise, or just to help us achieve our social mission of keeping the heat on this winter.
New York City law says the temperature indoors must be kept at a certain level between October and May. Unfortunately, this law is difficult to enforce. Right now, tenants have to keep temperature logs by hand—not the most convincing form of evidence—and bring them to housing court, or else dial 311 repeatedly to try to get an inspector to come out and verify that there is a heating violation. Both methods of enforcement are time-intensive and unreliable.
Heat Seek NYC has a new solution. Our sensors automatically take temperature readings every hour and record them online. Tenants, advocates, and lawyers can log in to check the temperature at any time and set alerts if it drops below a certain level.
The site also generates heat logs that look just like the ones the city currently requests, but are far more accurate and complete than if they had been done by hand.
Finally, Heat Seek NYC is partnering with responsible landlords to identify areas of heat loss in their buildings. Our data helps them make smart investments in weatherization to keep their tenants comfortable, stay in compliance, and save thousands in energy costs.
Heat Seek temperature sensors can be placed in any number of apartments per building—or rooms per house—to collect accurate temperature data and transmit it to our web app at heatseeknyc.com.
You can set up either of our two sensors yourself in minutes. If it's just one sensor you need, go for the Hub. To build your own in-home Heat Seek sensor network and track the temperature in multiple rooms, start with the Hub and add as many Cells as you want.
The Heat Seek Hub forms the heart of our sensor network. It can work alone to collect temperature readings in one room and send them to the Heat Seek NYC web app, or it can connect any number of Cells to collect and send their readings too.
In the case of an apartment building with Heat Seek sensors in several apartments, only one of these apartments needs to have the more expensive Hub. The other apartments can be equipped with our more affordable unit, the Cell, to securely submit temperature readings to the internet through the Hub. The Hub requires A/C power and an internet connection via Wi-Fi or ethernet.
One Hub, Many Cells. The Heat Seek Cell is our battery-powered, mesh networking satellite sensor. You can place it on a bookshelf or slap it on a wall and forget about it.
The Cell spends most of its time asleep to conserve power, but once every hour, the Cells that are connected to a single Hub awaken all at once to wirelessly mesh with one another and send their temperature readings to the Hub. Please note that the Cell does not connect to the internet on its own. It must connect to a Hub to function.
The free Heat Seek NYC web app gives our users everywhere (not just in New York) the power to manage their Heat Seek sensor network.
The web app also integrates Heat Seek sensor data anonymously with 311 heating complaint records to provide the most detailed picture of NYC’s heating crisis ever.
Heat Seek NYC was selected to present as “Hack of the Month” at the prestigious New York Tech Meetup in May. We then made our debut in July at NYC BigApps, a competition for civic technology projects, where we were chosen as one of 20 finalists out of over 120 other apps and received several honors.
Stay tuned for the results of the BigApps finals in mid September!
Our perks include Heat Seek sensors of your very own, as well as Kickstarter-exclusive T-shirts, and custom-designed sensor units. Sensor recipients in NYC will be able to opt into Heat Seek NYC's collaboration with community organizations who are working to tackle heating code violations throughout the city (certain restrictions on sensor placement will apply in order to ensure accuracy).
If you believe in our cause and just want to help, choose our $5+ “Eternal Gratitude” perk or one of our "Angel" perks. Every dollar we raise that isn't spent fulfilling Kickstarter perks will help us put more sensors into the hands of the tenants and advocacy groups--such as the Urban Justice Center and Community Action for Safe Apartments (CASA)--that we're trying to help.
Using the power of our Heat Seek mesh network, these tenants and groups will finally have the objective evidence they need to get the heat turned back on.
We’ve come a long way since our inception. Here’s what we’ve accomplished so far:
Here’s what we hope to accomplish over the coming months for our tenant users and for you, our Kickstarter backers:
Heat Seek NYC is a project by New Yorkers, for New Yorkers, hatched at the elite programming academy Flatiron School. Here’s the talented team that’s working to keep the heat on this winter:
The following organizations are helping us gear up for New York City’s next freezing winter:
If you're a New York City tenant whose apartment is frequently without heat in the winter, we'd love to hear from you. Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Risks and challenges
We're building Heat Seek sensors to revolutionize the way housing courts handle heating code violations in New York City. Our data has to be rock solid to be accepted into evidence, and so we’re spending a lot of time on testing for accuracy.
We're bootstrapping and avoiding the inclination to spend money that we don't have. That said, we need enough cash in the bank by the end of our Kickstarter campaign for a production run of 1,000+ sensors. To reduce that risk, we are going after more funding outside of Kickstarter, including the top prizes at the NYC BigApps competition and fiscal sponsorship by non-profit organizations.
We also want to have it all ready in time for winter. Developing hardware with a deadline always presents a significant challenge, which is why we started the prototyping process last winter. At this point, all that is left to do is transition to large scale manufacturing, which we are confident we can do once we have raised enough money.
Your backing is a vote of confidence in us, and we take that seriously. We'll keep you updated as we hit our milestones both during and after the campaign!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
If just one tenant in a building has an internet connection, we can provide that tenant with a Hub, connect it via ethernet, and proceed to add Cells to any number of non-internet equipped apartments in the building. The Hub and Cells create their own stable wireless network, so an existing WiFi network is not a requirement.
If no tenants in a building have an internet connection, we will sponsor a personal hotspot along with the Hub for one tenant in that building. We have only encountered a handful of cases where this will be necessary.
Absolutely. One of our initial test use cases involved providing sensors for nursing homes in the summer to help ensure residents’ well-being. Although our sensors are targeted at cold New Yorkers, anyone can use them, and you can set your own alerts for high temperatures as well as low temperatures. After a successful deployment this winter, we will be well situated to develop new sensors and web app functionality around other planned use cases.
Sorry, we do not have plans to ship Kickstarter perks, including sensors, outside of the United States. The cost of fulfilling overseas orders is prohibitively high, and we have to make our dollars count as we pursue our social mission. In the future, we hope to make our sensors available to everyone.
We need to raise $50,000. Our baseline $10,000 fundraising goal is the minimum we need to go to production. As long as we hit our baseline, we can distribute over one hundred sensors and finish the web app. Our real goal, however, is to deliver 1,000 sensors to New Yorkers who need them. We estimate that with for $50,000 in total funding from Kickstarter, we can cover the cost of perks and still hit that goal. We are also pursuing other potential sources, especially NYC BigApps.
It's impractical for us to administer the thousands of sensors that are already being requested by/on behalf of tenants. Managing all those relationships is too much for our small team.
Lucky for us, there are already a number of community organizations in NYC that are fighting to keep the heat on. The two that we're working with now are the Urban Justice Center and CASA (Community Action for Safe Apartments), and they have attorneys who are already working with thousands of New York City tenants to resolve heating issues. Our technology is a tremendous aid for them, and so they have offered to distribute Heat Seek sensors to the tenants that need them most. Their attorneys will be able to administer these accounts themselves on heatseeknyc.com, through a user account type that we've created for legal representatives.
How are you ensuring that tenants don't manipulate sensor readings (e.g. sticking it in the fridge)?
We're working with the attorneys at the Urban Justice Center to bulletproof our data collection process. Tenants that want to use this data in court will have to verify that the placement of the sensor within their apartment is in accordance with HPD guidelines, and our web app will allow attorneys to perform a follow-up verification to ensure that the sensor has not been moved.
Furthermore, we'll be providing multiple sensors per building in the areas where this data is intended for use in housing court, which makes it remarkably easy to determine when one or two tenants engage in foul play. We have a neat algorithm in the works that will help identify fraud patterns (e.g. sudden spikes or consistently higher or lower temperatures in one apartment versus the others in the same building) as they occur.
Housing courts find tenants' handwritten logs unreliable very often. Tenants must testify under oath that the log was taken properly, and the landlord's attorneys have the opportunity to cross-examine them. One common tactic is to try to get the tenant to say they don't know how reliable their thermometer is. Another is to try to get some of the recordings thrown out by arguing that they might not have been taken by the person testifying and are therefore inadmissible, for example by pointing out that a different pen was used on certain days. This works surprisingly often. And yes, on days where there are fewer or no recordings, they will often argue that the apartment must have been warm enough that day.
Heat Seek NYC provides an expert witness to testify for any cases brought by our partner organizations. We work closely with our partner organizations to help them make sure their readings will be admissible in court. We use tamper evident tape to secure sensors in place, and photograph them to ensure they have not been moved or opened.
No. An inspector's report is still the most credible evidence of a heating violation because government documents are automatically admissible as evidence, there is no need for testimony or cross-examination. That's why long-term we want the city to start using these sensors instead of the old-fashioned thermometers they use now. In the mean time, we definitely still want inspectors coming out, in fact we want inspectors to know even before they get on the road which buildings will be in violation that day just by checking the website.
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