When one thing leads to another

When I started working for swissnex Brazil in April, the mission of “connecting the dots” fascinated me. A few weeks into experiencing the busy office life, overwhelmed by the number of inspiring people and projects that come together here, I wondered what happened with the many connected dots? How do we keep track of the impact of our projects?

A few weeks ago, two colleagues and I attended presentations of Brazilian and American engineering students at the Open Innovation Day, organized by the Columbia Global Centers, COPPE/UFRJ and the city of Rio de Janeiro. I suddenly noted that Gioia Deucher, our CEO, got increasingly interested in the presentation of Fred Souza, a computer science student, and his team.

He vividly described how they used the real-time bus tracking system RioBus to correlate bus traffic with pollution measures, gained from a sensor placed in a very green neighborhood (Jardim Botânico). After having found surprisingly high pollution levels, they teamed up with meteorological specialists to dig deeper. They came to a first conclusion that the high bus frequency, together with the trees releasing organic chemicals coupled with solar radiation result in a toxic combination of increased ozone levels.

The surprise for us was that Gioia recognized that very same sensor she had personally brought from Switzerland to Brazil for the Data Canvas initiative. In 2015, swissnex San Francisco initiated the Data Canvas project in collaboration with Gray Area and Lift. Approximately 100 participants worldwide built an open, do-it-yourself environmental sensor network that measured air quality, noise, pollution, light, and temperature in all six cities where swissnex is located, as well as Geneva. A participant himself, Fred continued to use the sensor for a promising research project, containing a team of seven bright minds that work on developing a pollution prediction software.

Through this encounter, I experienced first-hand how swissnex can plant seeds for initiatives that may later take on a life of their own. The flexible, innovative and unbureaucratic structure of swissnex is key in providing the environment for moments of serendipity where one thing often leads to another.

For more information about Fred’s project, please contact him directly: fred@nullriob.us.

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   Sebastian Zumbühl, Junior Project Manager swissnex Brazil