First, it was apps, then it was about the cloud, next came data analytics, and now government tech startups are venturing into their next – and arguably biggest – undertaking: the world of artificial intelligence.
The impending world of AI presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs to offer governments a new level of service scalability, efficiency, and security. In fact, based on adoption, AI is likely to be a necessity to manage government’s ever-evolving service needs. As an industry, the firm Precedence Research currently values the AI market (private and public) at nearly $120 billion, and this figure is forecasted to more than double by 2025, at almost $314 billion, and hit $1.6 trillion by 2030. As a whole, global investment data from Pitchbook reports that AI startups collected more than $115 billion in 2021, increasing investment 87.2 percent year over year.
With AI’s influence on how we manage, produce, and consume services, entrepreneurs in the gov IT space are already fashioning their own AI solutions for a range of niches and jurisdiction types. Some are tinkering with traffic management, others are attempting to boost civic engagement, another focus is on planning, while still others are providing tools that handle a combination of tasks. Across all industries, a Gartner report shows top use cases that include knowledge management, digital workplace support, crowdsourced data intelligence, virtual assistants, and support for autonomous vehicles.
As governments consider testing and incorporating AI into their services, the GovReport decided to look at which AI startups and young companies are making an impact. Some of these startups have a direct connection to government, while a few others are presenting potential opportunities.
Here are the ten notables carving their way into government IT.
Company Summary: The company provides local data insights to government workers in the office and in the field. This work is done through a range of products that include dashboards for daily assessments of geographical areas, chatbots that engage and alert field crews, and geospatial data that shows a municipality’s mobility patterns.
The Details: CITYDATA is a startup that describes itself as an AI mobility data intelligence and chatbot company. Its CEO Apu Kumar took the helm of the company after serving as the chief of research and development for the civic tech company LotaData.
Since its launch in 2020, CITYDATA has developed a number of AI products. The services are centered around four primary data-as-a-service products. Its city data dashboard, “CITYDASH” uses machine learning algorithms to generate geospatial insights and other data points for more than 1,500 cities worldwide. The company also has a citizen engagement chatbot, “CITYCHAT; a mobile workforce management tool called “CITYWORKS,” and a cities vehicle fleet tracking service dubbed “CITYFLOW.”
The startup has quickly amassed a slate of public and private sector customers that are inside and outside the US — these include the City and County of San Francisco, where it’s headquartered, as well as the smart city nation of Singapore. In 2021, CITYDATA also participated in the United States National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Accelerator to develop its solutions while supporting NGA’s work to generate intel for the US military, US allies, and the nation’s homeland security organizations. For its government customers, CITYDATA expects their services will be leveraged for smart city programs, economic development, urban planning, mobility and transportation, tourism, disaster impact analysis, sustainability, and resilience.
Company Summary: A visual data intelligence service that generates notifications, warnings, and insights about satellite, camera images, and other visual data.
Leadership: Devaki Raj (CEO) Nicolas Borensztein, Pablo Garcia
CrowdAI made headlines in 2020 when it started helping California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) to identify active wildfires. The startup’s algorithms used machine learning to analyze drone and satellite imagery from past fires to detect new fires. What that effort means for CalFire now is that they can fly drones as high as 20,000 feet to get geo-tagged images and notifications of a fire with a resolution of only 90 feet away.
Beyond fire detection, CrowdAI offers tools for multiple disaster response scenarios. Whether it’s a fire, flood, or hurricane, the startup’s AI technology can be used by first responders to assess damage, find disaster victims, map accessible roads for rescue operations, and to understand where to mobilize resources. Based on this capacity, the US Department of Defense has contracted CrowdAI to process worldwide military intelligence.
The startup’s aim is to enhance its platform, which is designed to make geodata insights easily actionable, codeless for users, and easily understandable. In the private sector, CrowdAI also supports a range of industries that, among others, include facilities & maintenance, oil & gas, insurance, retail, and industrial applications.
Company Summary: A platform that quickly integrates with email services to detect dangerous emails and prevent phishing and ransomware attacks.
Anyone familiar with government and cybersecurity knows that phishing and ransomware have been a vexing problem in recent years. Seemingly innocent emails have tricked city staff into downloading malicious ransomware and duped departments into sending funds to scammers posing as government contractors. And looking at research, this threat is only getting worse, with the 2022 ThreatLabz Phishing Report reporting that phishing attempts have risen 110 percent in the government sector between 2020 and 2021.
Abnormal Security’s co-founders, CEO Evan Reiser and Chief Technology Officer Sanjay Jeyakumar, created the startup because of this challenging problem. Instead of merely detecting ransomware files or suspicious email addresses, Abnormal Security uses AI to differentiate safe and suspicious behavior within an organization’s email communications. By analyzing behavior, the startup can spot threats that aren’t already identified within a limited library of malicious software. The company’s AI solution does this by quickly profiling management, staff, and vendors to set baselines for normal email activity and abnormal activity. Abnormal’s software can be up and running in a matter of hours and integrates with common email services like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspaces.
Further, the company advertises its AI software can also create risk assessments for outside vendors. “By recognizing when a vendor may have a high risk of fraud, Abnormal knows when an email should be more heavily scrutinized for malicious activity,” the company notes. IT Departments also get a control panel that tallies threats, lists blocked senders and displays other helpful cybersecurity statistics.
Company Summary: A user-friendly machine learning platform that allows non-coders to design predictive models for any number of processes and applications.
Founders: Tom de Godoy, Jeremy Achin, CEO Dan Wright
The Details: DataRobot is a company that wants to put AI and machine learning into everyone’s hands through a user-friendly platform. The service lets users take their data and create machine learning predictive models to generate insights, flag problems, spot service gaps, or see growth opportunities. For state and local government, DataRobot suggests that this might mean enabling a department to reduce fraud by analyzing state benefits transactions, helping a department’s human resources review candidates, or enabling state leadership to forecast where COVID-19 supplies and vaccines may be needed most.
As one example of government procurement, DataRobot helped the US Military reclaim more than $2.2 billion in excess funds for use in other projects and needs. DataRobot did this by enabling contracting officers to predict the contracts likely to underspend funding so staff could deobligate and reallocate the money to other high-priority projects. In addition to the financial gains, the work aided the military in eliminating thousands of staff hours and improving efficiency by three to five times.
Other government uses for DataRobot, the company notes, can be found in cybersecurity, education, law enforcement, defense analysis, and in the field of healthcare, where agencies are seeking a greater understanding of patient care. In public health, DataRobot gained experience in this field, working with the federal government during the pandemic to identify gaps in COVID-19 information and track usage and inventory of ICU supplies like ventilators and patient bed availability.
Company Summary: CitiBot offers a smart chatbot for a city website that can answer questions, submit service requests and provide update notifications to citizens.
The Details: Cities are always growing, and with this growth comes a greater demand for customer service. The startup CitiBot is a solution to automate responses to constituents and acts as a tool to manage service requests. Through CitiBot’s AI-enabled text messaging, web chat, and interactive text alerts, the company’s chatbot can give users details on common requests — such as trash collection times — and process specific requests for services like road potholes, graffiti clean-up, and animal services. In addition to its chat and customer relationship management tools, CitiBot also offers a live data and analytics dashboard to track usage.
CitiBot says its chat bot has also proven itself as an effective tool to increase citizen engagement with government. In Arlington, Texas, after CitiBot was launched in 2020 it increased engagement by more than 500 percent in less than a year. This work accounted for more than 24,500 resident sessions and an average of nearly 1,100 resident communications per month.
“If you open the virtual door to city hall and make it accessible to chat, people will continue to use it,” said Jay Warren, Arlington’s director of communication and legislative affairs. “Because of Citibot, Arlington is able to efficiently engage and work with our residents and ultimately have a better city because they’re telling us what issues they see in their neighborhood, and we can go out and fix them.”
Company Summary: An AI-driven traffic violation system for cities and citizens to record and report incidents to law enforcement in real-time.
Leadership: CEO Chris Carson, Bo Shen, Vaibhav Ghadiok, Michael May, Charles Territo
The Details: Traffic accidents are a significant issue no matter where you are or what city you might live in. In 2021 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that road deaths surged to a record 42,915 fatalities, a figure representing a 10 percent spike from the previous year and the largest percentage increase since 1975.
To combat traffic deaths and protect residents, the startup Hayden AI has developed a solution to identify traffic violators and assist enforcement officers. Offering both AI software and specialized cameras, Hayden AI can transform almost any set of city vehicles into an automated traffic violation reporting system. Starting with school busses and transit buses, Hayden AI mounts an automated camera system to the buses, and when the camera’s AI algorithms detect a violation, the system records the violator’s license plate number, image, location, and creates an “evidence package” for law enforcement to review. Hayden AI’s school bus solution targets violators passing school busses when passing is prohibited, while the company’s transit solution records bus lane violations. Hayden AI claims its reporting has an average accuracy of 97 percent.
In the future, the company plans to roll out its automated system to police vehicles, streetcars, and street sweepers. Yet, for citizens eager to launch the software in their community, the startup is testing a free app, dubbed SafeSense, that can be installed on a smartphone to automatically detect common vehicle violations and report them to the police. The resident will just need to mount their phones to their front windshield – similar to an Uber or Lyft driver – and the app will automatically start recording data.
Company Summary: Qucit uses machine learning to interpret human behavior and make bike-sharing systems and urban planning more efficient for cities.
The Details: The catalyst for Qucit dates back to 2013, when its founder and CEO Raphaël Cherrier found himself frustrated by the local bike-sharing service in Bordeaux, France. Cherrier was dismayed when discovering empty bike stations when he wanted to rent a bike or full stations, preventing him from returning a bike to a stall. Working as a researcher and teacher at the University of Bordeaux, he began a study of bike-sharing operations, and from this exhaustive study came Qucit, an AI-enabled system designed to take the guesswork out of bike-sharing maintenance and management.
Qucit helps urban planners and bike sharing managers predict rental demand, bike maintenance needs and notifies field crews when bike stations require “rebalancing” — adjusting the number of bikes to fit usage. Further, the startup routes service teams between bike stations and pinpoints the locations of abandoned bikes.
In Toronto, Canada, these tools aided Bike Share Toronto in 2020 to increase bike stations from 200 to 625 and increase the number of bikes from 2,000 to 6,850. The work has led to a 68 percent fewer empty stations and a 66 percent increase in bike availability, according to Qucit’s data. Outside bike share operations, Qucit has grown to provide its services to shared motorized vehicles and offers support for urban surveys.
Leadership: CEO Ali Golshan,Alex Watson, John Myers, Laszlo Bock
The Details: It could be said that governments largest resource is data. After all, whether an agency is hyper-local or blankets itself federally across state borders, data is always at its core. It’s a commodity that increases with every transaction, be it birth certificates, business licenses, taxes, or parking tickets; data keeps growing. Yet one of the biggest barriers to processing, sharing, and developing insights from government data is privacy. Certain data like medical records can’t be shared due to privacy regulations. And this limitation can restrict departments from sharing information even within the same state or city. It also prohibits certain opportunities to develop effective policies and practices through data analysis.
Seeing this obstacle, co-founders Ali Golshan,Alex Watson, John Myers, and Laszlo Bock decided to create Gretel, an AI startup that offers organizations, be they private or public, an easy way to anonymize sensitive data. The San Diego, Calif., startup does this anonymization by using AI to create “synthetic data.” Organizations can run their data sets through Gretel’s AI software — whether on-prem for added security or in Gretel’s cloud — to produce a second synthetic data set without identifying information but with all the important details from the original.
“What if you could have instant access to an unlimited supply of high-fidelity data that are statistically accurate, privacy-protected, and safe to share? That’s the promise of synthetic data,” said Alex Watson, Gretel’s co-founder and chief product officer on the company’s site. “Synthetic data opens up the possibilities of enabling access to artificial and privacy-preserving versions of personal data in minutes, with 95 percent of the accuracy of the real-world data it was trained on, and without having to wait weeks for manual anonymization and approvals.”
The startup has achieved initial successes with clients in finance and genomics, but with its eye toward growth and government’s need for accessible data, Gretel seems an ideal fit for government, and especially agencies such as law enforcement, social services, or health care that routinely work with sensitive information.
Company Summary: NATIX uses AI to map crowd densities using video data so urban planners and local law enforcement can ensure safety in a city’s high trafficked areas.
Leadership: CEO Alireza Ghods, Omid Mogharian, Lorenz Muck
The Details: Cities are synonymous with crowds. Rush-hour commutes send workers charging toward parking lots, weekends pack malls with shoppers, and there are also events, protests, and natural disasters that can quickly raise a pop-up crowd just about anywhere. For city planners and law enforcement, managing these crowds has often been reactionary and informed by rough estimates and educated guesses.
NATIX, a startup based in Hamburg, Germany, hopes to improve public safety work with AI imaging software that empowers officials with real-time, anonymized estimates of crowd numbers and clustering. NATIX’s AI algorithms allow cities to take any video camera and turn it into a sensor to map and manage overcrowding. The platform eliminates the chore of manual counts while simultaneously giving officials heat maps, a dashboard for crowd analytics, and a reporting feature to create shareable crowd assessments.
The NATIX’s crowd management solutions have been deployed in the Hague, Netherlands, and have helped the city’s law enforcement manage its most populated areas. With NATIX’s solution, The Hague won the 2021 Smart City Award in Barcelona, Spain, for its effective use of advanced technologies. Since its launch in 2020, NATIX has gone on to develop additional monitoring services. Its front door camera can detect facemask usage for those attempting to enter a home or facility. The startup also has a construction zone monitoring tool and a parking spot monitoring tool.
Company Summary: Cardinality.ai delivers AI, SaaS, and cloud-based services for the government, specializing in smart foster care management and foster care placement.
Leadership: CEO Thiag Loganathan, Chief Innovation Officer Ganesh RVR, Kevin Jones, Jr., Peter Allen, Anna Harper, Vijay Krishna (co-founder), CTO
The Details: AI in foster care might seem like an unlikely application for advanced technology, yet for the team at Cardinality, this combination presents a breakthrough opportunity to help one of the nation’s most vulnerable populations: children.
This startup is all about social impact and equipping social services with the most effective technology to streamline the foster care administrative process and improve outcomes. Cardinality does this in a few ways. At its most basic, Cardinality helps child welfare officials modernize their applications and documentation with digital forms and workflow management. Then using AI, Cardinality takes its support to the next level by enabling social services with intelligent recommendations. These algorithmically generated recommendations help social workers identify at-risk youth early and match them to suitable foster care families based on the previous reporting.
“AI can be used in finding the right child-foster care provider fit. Using AI, agencies can select the ideal foster care arrangement based on the attributes of the child and the provider,” wrote Cardinality CEO Thiag Loganathan and CIO Kevin Jones in a blog post. “Further, AI can augment human effort in the recruitment process for adoption by cutting down on time taken to place a child in a loving, permanent home.”
Jason Shueh is a journalist and content strategist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His work focuses on the tech sector, digital innovation, smart city growth, and entrepreneurship. He can be reached at jason at govreport.org.
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