Chicago uses new technology to solve this very old urban problem

 at Fortune: “Chicago has spent 12 years collecting data on resident complaints. Now the city is harnessing that data to control the rat population, stopping infestations before residents spot rats in the first place.

For the past three years, Chicago police have been analyzing 911 calls to better predict crime patterns across the city and, in one case, actually forecasted a shootout minutes before it occurred.

Now, the city government is turning its big data weapons on the city’s rat population.

The city has 12 years of data on the resident complaints, ranging from calls about rodent sitting to graffiti. Those clusters of data lead the engineers to where the rats can potentially breed. The report is shared with the city’s sanitation team, which later cleans up the rat-infested areas.

“We discovered really interesting relationship that led to developing an algorithm about rodent prediction,” says Brenna Berman, Chicago’s chief information officer. “It involved 31 variables related to calls about overflowing trash bins and food poisoning in restaurants.”

The results, Berman says, are 20% more efficient versus the old responsive model.

Governing cities in the 21st century is a difficult task. It needs a political and economic support. In America, it was only in the early 1990s—when young adults started moving from the suburbs back to the cities—that the academic and policy consensus shifted back toward urban centers. Since then, cities are facing an influx of new residents, overwhelming the service providing agencies. To meet that demand amid the recent budget sequestration, cities like New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Chicago are constantly elevating the art of governance through innovative policies.

Due to this new model, in Chicago, you might not even spot a rat. The city’s Department of Innovation and Technology analyzes big chunks of data to an extent where the likelihood of a rodent infestation is thwarted seven days ahead of resident rat-sightings…(More)”