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A Mesh Network of Sensors (To Protect Against Shady Landlords)

Today’s smartest cities are learning to see urban environments as massively complex ecosystems.

A Mesh Network of Thermostats (to protect against shady landlords)

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Well, winter is coming, and Heat Seek, a team of coders from NYC's Flatiron School, is using a network of affordable temperature sensors to help low-income residents ensure that their homes are being properly heated in the cold weather.

Winters in New York City can be brutal. People get accustomed to feeling their eyelashes and nose hairs freeze within seconds of walking outside. Imagine, in those conditions, coming home to an apartment without heat. Even worse, imagine your landlord was deliberately cutting costs on your heat and ignoring your calls for help.

Heat Seek's founders created their system after reading this story in the New York Times about landlords denying proper heat to low-income tenants in the middle of January, possibly as a way to force them out of quickly-gentrifying neighborhoods.

Denying heat is a violation of New York City's building code, but unfortunately, it's a difficult violation to enforce. Heat Seek aims to deter these violations and keep landlords in compliance by logging tenant's temperature data and making it public.

Heat Seek's Cold Map.

Here's how it works:

Tenants install a small, affordable Heat Seek sensor in their apartment.

Building by building, these sensors link up with central wireless hubs and form a mesh network, collecting and transmitting ambient temperature data to a main server.

Heat Seek's web app then compares this data in real-time against public heating complaints to create a live "Cold Map" broken down by Zip Code.

The system monitors temperature compliance 24/7, comparing sensor data against outdoor temperatures and minimum indoor temperature requirements specified in the NYC heating code. The sensor data is available to both tenants and landlords on Heat Seek's web app.

Landlords are alerted in the event of violations and given a chance to correct the problem, and, if necessary, the data can be provided as objective evidence in housing court. With this simple technological solution to an all-too-common problem in low-income neighborhoods, hopefully such court cases will become fewer and far between.

Winters in New York City are so brutal, people get accustomed to feeling their eyelashes and nose hairs freeze within seconds of walking outside. Imagine, in those conditions, coming home to an apartment without heat. Even worse, imagine your landlord was deliberately cutting costs on your heat and ignoring your calls for help.

Well, winter is coming, and Heat Seek—a team of coders from NYC's Flatiron School—is using a network of affordable temperature sensors to help low-income residents keep that from happening.