A new start-up in Berlin wants to use information that is already available on the Internet to create warnings about large scale dangerous events before they happen.
Thanks to the endless flood of data, we can already know exactly when, where, and what happened, or even when something is about to happen. The startup Ava is on a mission to collect information from cities, the police, the World Health Organization, and social networks, and develop a picture of where it is safe and where it is not.
This is not an easy task: disasters usually occur quickly and are difficult to predict. It is therefore unclear how meaningful the findings can really be. The two Ava founders, Sascha Knopp and Aleksandar Stojanovic, are still convinced with their model. The idea came during a visit to the US Tech Festival South-by-Southwest in 2014, Stojanovic says. There was a serious accident with four deaths and more than 20 injured after a 21-year-old driver attempted to avoid a drug and alcohol test with a passenger car and then ran into the crowd.
“We were very close, but even in a tech mecca like the SXSW, there was no warning and no information where it was safe and where not. We felt powerless. Basically, not much has changed, even if everyone has a smartphone and receives tweets and posts.”
Theoretically, however, there could have been a warning, Stojanovic believes. Some time had elapsed between the start of the actions and the accident. After several “technological experiments” in 2014, Knopp and Stojanovic then made the decision to try and build a safety app.
The plans for their own smartphone app are now no longer in focus. Instead, Ava offers the data that cities, authorities or corporations collect for purchase after processing it with their own algorithm.
Applications could be apps for tourists, says Stojanovic.
“Not every international city dweller has on the screen that the Schalke game in the city centre in Dortmund can get restless.”
This is not all.
“Companies are legally required to ensure the safety of employees, business travellers and expats, and they are looking for solutions.”
He therefore sees many potential customers. Manufacturer of navigation systems for example. Ava is currently looking for new donors to further develop the technology. Many patents have already been filed. “We rely on technologies like big data, machine learning, real-time analysis, or predictive scoring.”