Cities large and small hold a wealth of problems for entrepreneurs to solve. With the enormous amount of services that cities are responsible for providing--public transportation, utilities, emergency services--observant founders can build businesses that will garner plenty of interest by finding ways to optimize these operations.

Several early-stage startups that are introducing smart city innovations will compete at the 2017 Smart Cities Startup Challenge at the Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo June 26-28 in Austin. Companies were curated in partnership with SmartAustin, a nonprofit that champions smart city startups. Startup Challenge finalists will pitch, engage, and receive feedback from city officials and representatives, as well as investors and thought leaders.

Three Interesting Approaches to Infrastructure Improvement

Three of the 13 featured startups have deployed tech solutions that can be layered on top of existing city infrastructure to drive much-needed improvements:

LotaData transforms mobile geolocation signals into what they call "people intelligence." Their CityDash product is an A.I. platform that "enables government leaders and decision makers to unlock the wealth of insights in public and private data to create social impact and engage with local communities." The city-wide dashboard is used to deliver actionable intelligence on crime, permitting processes, and 311 activity, as well as service optimization information for parks and recreation departments. They say that this is all without accessing any personally identifiable information.

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RoadBotics. Using technology developed at Carnegie Mellon, RoadBotics allows drivers to gather information on road conditions as they drive, thanks to an app users can install in their smartphones, and then attach to the car dashboard. Using machine learning, RoadBotics is able to use the data collected by the app to pick up on and identify certain types of road damage. The solution would offer contractors and other city workers a cost-effective way to gather information on road conditions--like where there are potholes that need to be fixed, for example.

Sensco designs, builds, and integrates sensor technologies with appropriate components, software, and connectivity. Its first product focuses on mitigating leaky pipe infrastructure that is responsible for the loss of as much as 50 percent of a municipality's water supply. If developed nations could reduce their water inefficiencies, more than 200 million people could be served. Sensco has a social impact message focused on quality of life for residents and technologies built "with each other in mind."

These are just a few of the examples of the many exciting companies that are forming all over the world in service of cities. As more cities are opening to a new way of operating, they are inviting startups to turn their frustrations into innovation.