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Making Cities Smarter With New Data-Driven Decision Making

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udot.utah.gov

After evening classes in 2014, a University of Utah student was stopped at an unchanging red light. Being the only one at the intersection caused him to think there was a better way to engineer traffic infrastructure. That’s when the business and law student came up with an idea to improve traffic technology applications for the government.

Mark Pittman is the CEO of Blyncsy, a location analytics platform to help customers, mainly the government, understand how people move in traffic, travel times, construction zones, transportation and economic development.

“Traffic engineers are some of the most under appreciated people because people only recognize when something goes wrong,” Pittman said. “No one notices when things go right.”

His company is working to make “smart cities” - cities with data-driven decision making.

“They’re planning the traffic through technology,” Pittman said. “They’re using Google Maps, they’re getting vehicle messaging signs that display travel times to them, and they’re being communicated with more effectively.”

Pittman said his company does have a mobile app service but they mainly work with the government.

“The majority of our data is used for internal operations perspective to help our customers, particularly the department of transportation,” he said. “Cities make better decisions where to put on-ramps and off-ramps, how to update vehicle messaging signs, how to build better smart work zones - those kind of applications that go in the background and maybe go unsaid.”

Pittman says this is the future, and smart cities using data-driven decision will become the norm.

“It results in a higher utilization in tax dollars in more effective ways,” Pittman said.

For example, Pittman said if the city council decides to put in a $10-thousand speed bump somewhere, but data can show that there’s actually not a need for the speed bump, there’s just one teenager who is speeding on a Friday evening after school. That can help alleviate costly infrastructure.

“We are here to help our customers be successful and our customers are the public servants who work every day to improve their communities,” Pittman said.

These are the kinds of technologies and applications the public need to be more involved with. Pittman said it also helps them understand why and where the government is making these decisions.

“I think a more informed electorate is critical to everyone,” he said. Having a buy in at the local level, whether it’s in Park City, which is one of our first customers and has one of our largest employment offices, where we quantify everything from the impact of the Sundance Film Festival and the ski resorts, to travel time in real time throughout the city.”