Exterior of the Pennovation building.

Penn and Comcast Announce First Winner of Comcast-Pennovation Challenge

Challenge invited local groups to build solutions for machineQ, Comcast’s Enterprise IoT service

The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) and Comcast today announced Viewpoint, a multidisciplinary team of Penn students from the Master of Integrated Product Design program and the School of Design's Historic Preservation department, as the inaugural winner of the Comcast-Pennovation Challenge.

"I was excited to work with Comcast and have the opportunity to create an application for the new machineQ service," said Kevin Martin with team Viewpoint. "Large scale IoT networks have the potential to help solve a lot of problems that communities, neighborhoods, and cities experience. Through exhaustive first-hand research, prototyping, and iteration, I believe our team came up with an application that could truly help Philadelphia infrastructure be more safe and reliable."

The competition, launched in November 2016 as part of Comcast’s sponsorship of The Pennovation Center, Penn’s new incubator and co-working space, provided the opportunity for faculty and student teams to develop new IoT (Internet of Things) solutions for machineQ™, Comcast’s enterprise IoT network service and platform focused on making cities smarter. The Viewpoint team successfully created a method and technology to visualize the structural stability of railway and roadway bridges through a creative application of connected monitoring devices.

"We were impressed with the strength of the idea, the quality of the technology, the breadth of the team and most importantly, its potential societal impact," said Vijay Kumar, Dean of Engineering, Penn.

The winners will receive a $3,000 cash award, a six-month membership to the Pennovation Center (to be shared among the team) and automatic acceptance into Penn’s I-Corps program, which provides training on customer discovery and business plan creation. MachineQ and the Penn Center for Innovation (PCI) will also continue to work closely with Viewpoint to support the development of the idea. 

"Given the extent of aging infrastructure in the United States, the Viewpoint team has identified a unique, underserved market need and developed a technical solution more compelling and sophisticated than we see from many fully-funded IoT companies," said Alex Khorram, GM, machineQ. "We are excited to help the team grow their idea into real-world pilots with the potential to become a commercial product."

Moving forward, the Viewpoint team plans to partner with researchers at Penn and Drexel University, and is hoping to pilot the technology in cooperation with the City of Philadelphia, which is interested in the technology due to the number of structurally deficient bridges the City has to maintain.

Comcast first announced machineQ in October 2016 as trials in Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area, expanded to Chicago in November, and recently rolled out service in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Washington D.C. Interest in machineQ has come from organizations spanning a wide range of industries, including healthcare, public utilities, automotive, and consumer electronics.

The Comcast-Pennovation Challenge was organized by PCI and Comcast NBCUniversal’s Entrepreneurial Engagement team, and is an example of what the company will be doing to partner more with startups in its new LIFT Labs for Entrepreneurs programs.