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Rising to the Challenge: Floodproofing NYC with OptiRTC


Thousands of homes and businesses were ravaged by floodwaters during Hurricane Sandy. 

The team behind OptiRTC saw an opportunity to combine three different technologies—cloud-based sensors, physical floodproofing, and alert systems—to help protect buildings in New York City from future floods. 

As one of eleven winning teams in our RISE : NYC competition, Geosyntec Consultants will share up to $30 million with the other winners to implement the OptiRTC technology at Sandy-impacted small businesses across the city.

Over the next few weeks, our blog series, Rising to the Challenge, will share the stories of each of the eleven innovative resiliency technologies. Read on for this week's profile of Geosyntec Consultants and the OptiRTC technology.

Basic Facts

Company Name: Geosyntec Consultants, Boca Raton, Florida

Number of Employees: 1100

Name of Winning RISE : NYC Technology: OptiRTC

About: OptiRTC is a cloud platform that integrates sensor data, site-specific conditions, and forecasts information into a real-time active alert and floodproofing system.

Technology Category: Building Systems, technologies proposed by finalists in this category improve the resiliency of critical building components before, during, and after a storm.

An Interview with Geosyntec


What does Opti do?

The Opti platform monitors a network of field sensors that detect water level, temperature, and moisture—and control floodproofing measures such as inflatable flood guards, valves, and shields to protect small businesses against flooding.

When and how did you get the idea for Opti? 

The technology behind Opti was initially developed in 2008 to improve the health of a salt marsh—the sensors actively controlled the inflows and outflows of the marsh. We realized then that this technology had broad applications for improving the infrastructure that controls the flow of water, especially as it relates to flood mitigation, as well as providing real time information on the current state of infrastructure.

Climate and storm surge resiliency is one of the most important and high value applications of Opti.

What mechanics went into developing your technology? 

Opti was developed by Geosyntec Consultants and has been in constant development since 2008.

There are multiple aspects of the technology, which include cloud platform development, sensor trust analysis, data ingestion, data analysis, data integration, control logic, security, and integration of telemetry, sensor, and control hardware.

In January 2015, Opti became an independent company from its parent company, Geosyntec Consultants, with the specific mission of protecting clean water and reducing flooding by actively managing stormwater infrastructure. 

What type of small businesses/buildings will benefit most from your technology? 

Small businesses that have a high potential for flooding and high value flood damage would benefit most from our active floodproofing technology. The ultimate goal of the system is to increase the resiliency of local businesses and mitigate or reduce impacts from flooding related to storm surges in a cost effective manner.

How do programs like RISE : NYC support innovation and climate adaptive technologies like yours? 

RISE : NYC provides access to small businesses that can benefit the most from technologies like ours. Without the support of RISE, the implementation of these projects may not be possible for small businesses with limited available funds for preventive flood mitigation.

It also provides the ability for NYC to observe first hand the potential advantages of the innovative technology for improving the performance of infrastructure. 

Are you using this technology anywhere else?

The Opti sensor technology has a lot of potential applications for other types of water management, including sewage systems.

More than 850 billion gallons of untreated sewage are discharged into bodies of water each year in the U.S. With the same cloud-based platform technology, Opti developed an “OptiNimbus” platform, which uses weather forecast information to predict the amount of rain that will enter a watershed and then prepares the system to receive water based on site regulations. What results is the ability to minimize wet-weather discharge while maximizing harvesting potential.

Sample Pilot Project Dashboard: The data gathered from sensors and forecasts will be displayed on interactive dashboards like these for each business--- and ultimately used to create a regional, network-wide dashboard. 

We applied a similar technology to manage combined sewer outflows in the redevelopment of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. The system preemptively lowers the water level of the Water Garden pond to create stormwater storage volume ahead of incoming storm events. It reduces wet-weather discharge and reduces the peak load on the City’s sewer system. In Phase 2, which is currently under construction, the system will be used to monitor a water recirculation and filtration system that could save hundreds of thousands of dollars in potable water costs, and reduce city water use by millions of gallons per year.

Learn more about Opti here.

About the Rising to the Challenge series: Eleven innovative resiliency technologies are helping to build a stronger, more resilient New York. What are they and who are the companies behind them?

This blog series shares the stories of each of the winning RISE : NYC technologies and the impact they will have on businesses and communities in New York City. Read all profiles here



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