Harnessing NYC – Columbia at the Connected Futures Program

Columbia’s entrepreneurship ecosystem connects across its vibrant campus, but also extends to the great City of New York at large.

Teams representing Columbia Engineering and the Data Science Institute were chosen to participate in the Verizon Connected Futures II program – a program hosted by Verizon and NYC Media Lab (a part of the Columbia Accelerator Network, CAN) that provides funding and mentorship for young innovators in emerging media technologies.

Now, since the program wrapped up its mentorship, three participating teams, EyeStyle, Palmos and Kiko, are building their prototypes into startups:


Inspiration for fashion shopping comes everywhere, from social media to street style and media. EyeStyle makes product discovery natural and efficient by directly using the image when it is inspiring for shopping. It significantly reduces the purchase cycle and allows users to navigate the huge online product collection effortlessly, surfacing relevant products to highly convertible customers for retailers.

During the Connected Futures program, “we talked with both regular shoppers and retailers to understand the key problem and what exactly they are looking for,” said Jie Feng, ’17SEAS. “Quite a few assumptions do not work out as we expected which let us think and redesign the solution.”


The world is becoming increasingly urban with half of the world’s 7.5 billion people living in cities today. These cities are already threatened by climate change as weather becomes more unpredictable and extreme. Palmos is improving landslide and flooding monitoring and prediction with a wireless network of multi-sensors and machine learning. Palmos designs and builds sensors that are installed in high-density configurations to gather data maps of urban areas. This data is then pushed to the cloud where it is processed using analytics based on machine learning classification algorithms.

“We came into the Connected Futures program with a working sensor system prototype but we had not completed the loop from sensor to cloud to dashboard in an easily modifiable way,” said Gregory Kollmer, ’17SEAS. “We have been able to complete this loop by using Verizon’s hardware development Cat-1 LTE chip, ThingSpace platform and Freeboard customizable dashboards. It’s allowed us to learn where we can improve on our data analysis and dashboard design.”


Despite the sheer amount of emoji applications available in the app store, as of now, there is no app that allows users to make emoji based on real time movement. Using computer vision and animation techniques, Kiko tracks users facial movements and creates an emoji that mimics their expression in real time. The result is fun, creative, and entirely personal. As a budding startup currently looking for additional team members, Kiko has plans to promote its platform to emoji designs, who will be able to create and sell custom emoji to Kiko users. The prototype was developed by Wanyi Xu, ’16SEAS.

Entrepreneurial education and access to funding for validation and prototyping is critical to transitioning early-stage technologies out of the lab and bringing them to market at a faster rate. Columbia’s collaboration with the NYC Digital Media lab helps to provide our promising earlystage technologies with mentorship and support resources, direct funding, educational boot camps, networking opportunities with industry representatives and the venture investor community.

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