Case study

Mastodon C: helping big cities to solve planning challenges

A data platform developed with support of Innovate UK is helping big cities to plan services such as transport, education and housing.

Francine Bennett, of Mastodon C
Francine Bennett, chief executive and co-founder of Mastodon C.

Big data done better

Big data done better

A data science business is helping London to plan its services thanks to a new decision-making platform.

Mastodon C is working with the Greater London Authority to develop and test its Witan platform in a project supported by Innovate UK.

Witan provides modelling tools and data management processes to help solve real challenges faced by cities and their partners, and is already being used by 33 London boroughs.

Francine Bennett, chief executive and co-founder of Mastodon C, said: “Our motto is ‘big data done better’. That has two meanings. What we do with big data, we do very well technically. We are also interested in better applications of big data and data science, building applications that improve people’s lives as well as work for the business.”

Mastodon won £2 million SBRI contract

Mastodon C won a £2 million SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) contract in a ‘future cities’ competition to find ways of meeting the challenges faced by urban areas.

Witan is being used by the London boroughs to see how latest housing projections will affect the spread of population up to 2041. The work used to take specialist staff weeks to do but can now be generated in minutes.

The results will help council officials to plan many services including where the demand is likely to be for services such as school places, waste disposal, and housing.

Francine added: “Innovate UK has been absolutely critical for Witan. That couldn’t have happened without the funding.

“Things such as city data are clearly very important and need to be used well and there is an opportunity to build good systems and make things happen.

“However, the market is not immediately there to fund it, so the fact Innovate UK can fund the initial development that unlocks the market is very important to companies like us.”

Business is working with variety of clients

Mastodon C is also working with other organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust on analysing domestic energy consumption, multinational business Arup on how data science can help large infrastructure projects, and the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs on finding patterns in animal post-mortems to identify new animal diseases.

Mastodon C was formed in 2012 by chief technology officer Bruce Durling and Francine with the aim of finding a wider use and greater social purpose for data science outside traditional areas of advertising and finance.

It is based in London and has grown to employ 12 people including data scientists, data engineers and business strategists.

Published 5 July 2016