NYCEDC / Intellibins


Intellibins was born at a Google Glass Hackathon. Our challenge from the New York City Economic Development Corp. was to help reduce New Yorkers' ecological footprint. After winning 2 rounds of hackathons, our team decided to pursue Intellibins on a more widespread medium: iOS. I led the UX research and design process on a team of 5.

We were featured in FastCo Exist if you'd like to read about it!

Current version of the app demo



"Do you recycle? If not, why not?"


Since time and development resources were limited during the hackathon, we ranked possible solutions in terms of benefit to the user vs technical feasibility. The user's needs would be met by an app that: shows how and where to dispose of a specific item; shows what types of items are accepted in which bins; and totals and lets you know the value of your contributions.

"Final" solution for Google Glass: Speak an item

True to Google Glass's nature, we landed on a speech interface for item input.

Tested Concept 1: scan an item

In this iteration, the user scans the item. After tesing, we realized it might be better for a user to speak the name of an item that they have as opposed to scanning, since only a fraction of items have barcodes.

Tested Concept 2: scan a bin

In this iteration, the user scans the bin itself. This was impractical for several reasons: a) it would require us to stamp thousands of bins in NYC with QR codes. b) It's unhelpful if a scanned bin does not provide the proper recepticle for that user's item.

personal Contributions

Since we discovered that people were unable to tell if they were making a difference or not, we will email them periodically with tangible facts to let them know specific ways in which their recycling is contributing.

How is it powered?

We worked with a baseline list of trash cans in the 5 boroughs provided by NYCEDC, and triple checked it for errors and updates. (This required a LOT of walking around NYC!!) We combined that with a database of all the stores in NYC that take back items to get a fully comprehensive list-- the first of its kind.

From glass to iOS

A wider audience was available to us on iPhone than on Glass. There was room for a better recycling solution than what's currently out there... this is what you get when you ask Siri about it.

competitive analysis

In context of other recyling apps for iOS-- none are quite as local and comprehensive in terms of bin locations as Intellibins.

creating an mvp



long term business plans & monetization

- Partnerships with grocery stores like Whole Foods
- Partnership with Recycle bank, which offers users rewards for recycling
- Gamification of recycling
- Community that keep database of both bins and items up to date
- Apple Watch App