This week, Fast Company announced the winners of its fourth annual “Innovation by Design Awards,” and a few cool projects that made the list notably intersect with the urbanist world. In fact, Next City has covered three of the 13 winners in the last year.
An innovation intended to streamline bike-sharing, Vanmoof’s Spinlister app, won the Product Design award. The company’s high-tech approach dispenses with bulky dock stations. Bikes are connected to users’ phones via bluetooth so riders can lock and unlock a bike directly through the app. (Ditching docks may pick up speed: Portland is hoping to implement a bike-share program with “smart bikes” from Social Bicycle next year.)
According to Vanmoof, the company’s mission is to “usher in the world’s first sustainable bike-share model owned by the people, for the people, requiring little to no investment or involvement from private entities or government.”
Pages of the “drinkable book” become water filters.
Next City also has covered the winner in the health category: a book that cleans water. The pages can be torn out and used to filter contaminants from drinking water. The silver nanoparticles that coat the pages filter 99.99 percent of the bacteria found in cholera, E. coli and typhoid. The invention could save some of the 3.4 million people, mostly in developing nations, who die every year from water-related diseases.
Another water-related solution won the design award for social good. The Ocean Clean Up uses floating barriers to let the ocean currents concentrate some of the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic that have made their way into our oceans. For more on that effort, read Next City’s “Did a 19-Year-Old Really Just Solve One of Earth’s Biggest Environmental Problems?”
Lastly, Florida’s high-speed rail project, All About Florida, won the “City Solutions” award. The planned Miami-to-Orlando connector is far from a done deal, but supporters tout private financing and transit-oriented development as the main pluses. (Of the three U.S. high-speed rail lines in the works,, the $2.5 billion All Aboard Florida would be the slowest.)
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill have designed rail stations intended for Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, which Fast Company believes will become “architectural destinations in their own right.”
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.