Schulich partners with tech provider to develop AI-powered predictive analytics tool

A new partnership between Schulich School of Business and technology provider Exigent will result in the creation of a predictive analytic tool developed to track supply and demand of resources during a disaster-related emergency.

Exigent, a technology and analytics provider and data-driven consulting organization, is breaking industry boundaries and raising the bar for data-driven decision-making. Through a powerful combination of technology, analytical thinking and financial acumen, Exigent’s multidisciplinary team develops predictive analytics tools to drive change in business and beyond.

Its partnership with Schulich will see the development of an AI-powered platform that will evaluate the business impact of natural disaster management. Together they will build predictive analytics models and a trading platform to foster efficiency and collaboration in wildfire management. The Exigent-Schulich model aims to predict – with a high degree of accuracy – the supplies and services needed for effective disaster response, for example: the number of medical supplies or number of medical professionals needed in the event of a wildfire in a specific area with particular weather patterns.

The project aims to bring together local governments, insurers and medical supplies providers to collaborate and plan proactively for optimal disaster management. Available in June 2020, the platform is the first in a series of analytics tools that the Schulich School of Business and Exigent will develop to deliver on their core focus to turn data into actionable business intelligence and community-centric analytics products.

The highly reliable predictive models will feed data into a shared trading platform, where stakeholders can opt to acquire supplies at the best time with regard to price and preparedness. The predictive analytics model, coupled with the trading platform, will allow insurance companies to calculate the best premium, suppliers to accurately forecast medical supplies and local authorities to purchase the right amount of supplies at the best price. Should the disaster not strike a particular province or state, options can be then traded to those affected. The option structure will keep prices low and incentivize suppliers to build inventory.

The collaboration is part of the Masters in Business Analytics Program (MBAN) at Schulich. Students work alongside Exigent’s data and business analysts to build a model that identifies the environmental, social and economic impact of wildfires in Canada, and subsequently the United States. Artificial intelligence is at the core of the team’s efforts to create their predictive tool, which will absorb and structure data, find and evaluate patterns, calculate impact and feed into a bespoke analytics tool.

“We’re very excited to give our students the opportunity to learn from industry leaders how to tangibly make a difference through data. Hands-on guidance from a company that handles global organizations’ complex data across departments and turns it into bottom-line results is invaluable,” said Murat Kristal, program director of Schulich’s MBAN program and an associate professor of operations management and information systems.

Based on data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, on average more than 6,000 fires occur each year and destroy more than 2.7 million hectares (6.7 million acres) of land. In 2018, in Ontario alone, the Canadian government spent $212 million in combating forest fires. The Exigent trading platform is estimated to cut costs by 20 per cent and drive down premiums.

As well, having an inventory of medical supplies available, and with improved predictive analytics, this tool also aims to reduce fire-related injuries and resulting deaths.

“The numbers are staggering and sadly we are reminded of the tragedy that wildfires cause more and more often, like in California just now, where entire communities face uncertainty and loss, both physical and emotional,” said David Holme, CEO of Exigent. “It’s shocking that collectively we are not using the huge amount of data available to make a difference, both on a social and business level. With Schulich, we are trying to shift attitudes towards data and provide a tangible platform for change for all stakeholders involved.”