Four great ideas were named first place winners of the Verizon Powerful Answers Award, a year-long global challenge to discover and help bring to market technology-based solutions with the potential to change our world.
The first place winners in each of the four main categories (education, health care, sustainability and transportation) will each receive $1 million. Two additional winners in each category will receive $250,000 each for a total of $6 million in prize money from Verizon.
And the million dollar winners are:
$1M Winner: Sesame Enable - Based in Israel, this company has developed touch-free smartphone and tablet technology for children and adults for whom touch is not possible. According to Sesame Enable, of the 5.6 million paralyzed people in the U.S., 150,000 are children who cannot move their hands. The technology integrates with games and applications and allows those children access to educational opportunities previously inaccessible to them.
The education winners who will receive $250,000 are:
- Books that Grow - A learning acceleration program, featuring Common Core-aligned, downloadable eBooks that adapt to each user’s reading ability.
- School Yourself - A platform for scalable, personalized education courses that provide a suite of authoring and analytics tools for interactive lessons specific to each student’s needs.
$1M Winner: Eco-fuel Africa is committed to fueling an environmentally and financially sustainable Africa. According to Eco-fuel Africa, 2 billion people across the globe depend on dirty and expensive wood-based fuels. As a result, 2 billion tons of biomass are burned each year, leading to unsustainable levels of deforestation and CO2 emissions. To solve this problem, Eco-fuel Africa, based in Kampala, Uganda, has created "green" charcoal produced from agricultural waste that's 65% cheaper than charcoal from wood and burns clearer and longer than wood-based fuels. The fuel reduces the rate of deforestation, creates sustainable local jobs, saves money and reduces indoor air pollution.
The Sustainability winners that will receive $250,000 are:
- d.light - Created a model for a mobile-enabled distribution grid that provides energy to those in need by designing, manufacturing and distributing solar light and power products throughout the developing world.
- Radiator Labs - Developers of “Cozy,” a smart, low-cost drop-on retrofit for radiators that eliminates overheating while connecting less sophisticated heating technology to the cloud.
$1M Winner: ORGANIZE - Organ donation simplified is the mantra for this NYC company. More than 120,000 people are on the waiting list for an organ donation. According to ORGANIZE, that translates to $42 billion in annual dialysis cost, which is expected to quadruple by 2030. ORGANIZE is creating a donation system fit for the 21st Century, through increased points of entry and a coordinated approach to registration for a more modern U.S. organ donation program.
The Healthcare winners who will receive $250,000 each are:
- Aldatu Biosciences - Changing infectious disease treatment through innovative diagnostic solutions for people with HIV.
- Talkitt - Developed a voice-to-voice application that translates distorted pronunciation to understandable speech, filling a gap for the 1.5% of the population affected by speech and motor disabilities.
$1M Winner: Vaxess Technologies - Each year, more than 2.4 million people die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines, and more than 20% of children born each year do not receive proper immunization. This occurs because 97% of vaccines require cold storage between 2˚ and 8˚C, and a lack of cold chain infrastructure limits this access. Vaxess Technologies, based in Cambridge, Mass., has created a soluble, silk-stabilized vaccine that can be shipped without refrigeration, and extend the global reach and access to vaccine products.
The Transportation winners who will receive $250,000 are:
- HopOn - Taking ticketing and boarding public transport systems to new levels through cloud service technology designed to make public transportation more efficient and enjoyable
- Matternet - Matternet pioneered the world's first autonomous network for the transportation of lightweight goods by air. They developed a complete transportation solution by seamlessly connecting smart drones, cloud services and safe landing stations to an intuitive mobile application which enables easy set-up and operation in places facing major road infrastructure challenges.
Each of these visionary entrepreneurs is using technology to change the world, and Verizon is looking to help them succeed along the way. This is the second year of the Verizon Powerful Answers Award, which is designed to encourage innovation and new solutions taking advantage of innovative technologies such as wireless, cloud, GPS, and other technology.
Follow the winners’ progress on Twitter and look for details of the 2015 Powerful Answers Award with the hashtag #VZPAA.