Artificial intelligence can change the way we think about cities: Startup company Topos is doing just that by creating a platform that uses A.I. to promote smarter urban planning.
“Topos is a company that’s dedicated to transforming location intelligence and the way that we understand cities and neighborhoods,” explains Will Shapiro, the co-founder and chief data scientist of Topos. Shapiro, along with co-founder and Topos CEO Mahir Yavuz, believes we have an incomplete process of compiling and understanding data as it relates to understanding locations, and therefore, an incomplete set of data itself. By using special artificial intelligence, the team has figured out a way to automate the process of gathering data on a specific location.
“We want to create a lab that actually can develop constantly new ways of understanding cities,” elaborates Yavuz, “and finding new algorithms that is applicable to that day’s technologies.”
This streamlined process allows them to use A.I. to gather data on a much larger area, as well as more concentrated areas. Instead of collecting metrics on an entire neighborhood, for instance, they are able to gather data from just one block of that neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods, with the same amount of work.
This kind of data, especially at this scale, can be used to help optimize neighborhoods. Instead of focusing on select aspects of each location, Topos has a more holistic approach. It can find neighborhoods, even within the same city, that share similar qualities while also figuring out which types of businesses would benefit from these communities.
For example, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a popular neighborhood in NYC, but Topos wants to identify the multiple micro-neighborhoods exactly like it within the neighborhood itself. With unique, detailed data like this, the company can help you decide where you fit best — which is good information to have if you’re a business looking to open up a new branch.
On a macro level, Topos can collect and compare data on totally separate cities to find out more about the culture of each location. They can check out how Boston, for instance, stacks up against Miami on any number of metrics, from neighborhood establishments to the kind of people that live there, which can not only come in handy for businesses deciding where to set up shop, but also for cities trying to find out what businesses, or even touring artists, they want coming to their corner of the world.
In the future, Shapiro and Yavuz are hoping to teach government agencies how to use the technology they’ve created. If local governments have smarter, more complete data about the cities they manage, they’ll be able to better serve their communities to start building a better world.