During this week where we celebrate the power in connecting, we’re excited to start sharing the stories you’ve been submitting through our open call for HubWeek connections.
“Do you know what electronic ink is?” Pete Valianatos, Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives at Billerica’s E Ink asked me. “Well, I have a kindle?” I suggested, unsure if the ubiquitous technology was, indeed, what I use to read my short stories on the T. “Exactly!” Pete confirmed for me. “Or maybe you’ve seen the Soofa around town.” (I almost blurted out that Soofa is a HubWeek favorite!) Well, E Ink is the digital technology that makes these low-power, easy-to-read solutions possible. E Ink spun out of MIT’s Media Lab in 1997 and took off in the early 2000s with technology integral to the the e-reader. A low-cost, low-power way to share information, it’s more earth friendly and timely than paper, allowing for quickly-deployed updates on a global scale.
HubWeek (flagship event of the newly branded Manifest Boston) has always been centered on sharing the incredible successes of our neighbors. But it’s also been more than that. HubWeek “is about social networking and collaborations — meeting people you don’t always have the channels to connect with and sharing ideas,” says Pete.
Pete, who has been with E Ink since the beginning, specializes in finding new applications for E Ink technology. As a company that focuses on improving and growing its technology, they find partnerships to grow along with. “We always have partners for our products,” says Pete. “Hardware, like shelf tags, signage, and e-readers,” are how E Ink gets into the hands and lives of consumers. So, when they want to do more, E Ink needs to collaborate.
A few years back, Pete and the E Ink Transportation team were targeting the MBTA as a potential partner. For E Ink, the idea of a wireless, solar, and earth-friendly method of delivering real-time transportation information seemed like a total win. But, despite their best efforts and many calls and conversations, they weren’t able to get the buy-in they needed at the MBTA — until a HubWeek event popped up.
HubWeek teamed up with Babson College in October 2017 to host “IoT4Good/ Inclusive Smart Cities,” featuring brief presentations by experts in the field. But, as Pete says, “People go to HubWeek for more than the talks.” In this case, Pete attended so that he could talk with David Block-Schachter, the then-CTO of the MBTA. Pete shared E Ink’s vision for MBTA signage that was responsive, inclusive (can be activated in different languages and at different sizes), and inexpensive to implement. The rest, as they say, is history.
The E Ink/MBTA pilot began in 2017 and the results are very promising! The signs are simple to install (no wiring needed), avoid light pollution, and update easily. They are also a value add for T riders, empowering them with real-time timetables. The project is in the middle of its second stage with pilots at bus stops and more T stops to test rider satisfaction and logistical needs.
“If it wasn’t for HubWeek, we wouldn’t have gotten the meeting,” Pete shared. We’re honored that this collaboration began at one of our events. Collaboration for a better city; that’s what we’re all about. We invite you to come, open minded, to the HubWeek Fall Festival or any of our Manifest Boston events to brainstorm, ideate, and build — together.
Do you have a story to share? Stories of HubWeek connections are a great way to amplify your work and help us understand the kinds of programming that is most impactful for you. They’re also a way to share what you’re looking for in your next collaborator. Who knows, they may be out there, reading, hoping to connect with YOU.