Culverhouse Team Takes Third Place in 2022 INFORMS Innovative Applications in Analytics Award

Brendan Moore and Dr. Erik Johnson stand with their blight detecting technology
Erik Johnson and Brendan Moore
City Detect’s founders Brendan Moore, left, the executive director for urban development at the City of Tuscaloosa and Dr. Erik Johnson, right, assistant professor of economics at Culverhouse, with a Tuscaloosa garbage truck outfitted with their company’s innovative blight detection system. The technology was at the core of the project that competed at the IAAA competition.


Using Analytics to Detect Blight and Enforce Codes in Cities, a joint project between the cities of Tuscaloosa and Springfield, Illinois, Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa, and the Culverhouse College’s Institute of Data and Analytics, finished in third place (from 25 entries) for the prestigious 2022 INFORMS Innovative Applications in Analytics Award (IAAA) competition.

The team includes Brandon Kaesteler of Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa; Scott Holmes, Brendan Moore, and Mayor Walt Maddox of the City of Tuscaloosa; Robert Hogue and Richard Benanti of the City of Springfield; Gavin Baum-Blake, Ezra Coutre, Comer Jennings, and James Mulvey of City Detect; and Erik Johnson and James J. Cochran of The University of Alabama.

The IAAA, which is given annually if a suitable project is nominated, recognizes creative and unique applications of a combination of analytical techniques in new areas. The prize promotes the awareness and value of the creative blend of advanced analytics in unusual applications to provide insights and business value, and it is considered the premier award for the application of analytics to real problems.

The other five finalists were:

  • A Data-driven Optimization Approach to Solve the E-commerce Packaging Problem (Sharvendu Bhushan, Himanshu Gupta, Chandrasekhar K, Rohan Nanaware, and Sandeep Sangwan of Flipkart Internet Private Limited; Debjit Roy, Shanthan Kandula and Srikumar Krishnamoorthy of the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad)
  • Small World AI (Haoran Zhang, Zhilng Guo, and Dou Huang of LocationMind Inc.; Xiaodan Shi, Peiran Li, Jinyu Chen, Yuhao Yao, Wenjing Li, Yanxiu Jin, Zhiheng Cheng, Xudong Shen, and Wenyi Lu of the University of Tokyo Center for Spatial Information Science; Qing Yu of the Tongji University Key Laboratory of Road and Traffic Engineering of the Ministry of Education; and Ning Xu of the China University of Petroleum-Beijing Key Laboratory of Urban Oil and Gas Distribution Technology)
  • Online Non-Parametric Regression for Sales Forecast amid a Pandemic (Ruihao Zhu of Purdue University; David Simchi-Levi and Michelle Wu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Rui Sun of Amazon; Felipe Aragao, Obrad Scepanovic, Ivo Montenegro, Nitesh Bhardwaj, and Tapas Ray of AB InBev)
  • An Optimization and Artificial Intelligence Based Cooperative Mucilage Cleaning Approach via a Mixed Fleet of Autonomous Unmanned Surface Vehicles and Drones (Mumtaz Karatas and Levent Eriskin of National Defence University’s Turkish Naval Academy Department of Industrial Engineering; Mustafa Erol of IWROBOTX Co.Ltd. TechnoPark)
  • Data-Driven Surgical Tray Optimization to Improve Operating Room Efficiency (Vinayak Deshpande, Nishanth Mundru, Sandeep Rath of the The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School; Martyn Knowles and Benjamin C. Wood of UNC Rex Hospital; and David Rowe of Operative Flow Technologies)

The strong slate of finalist teams competed on April 5 during the 2022 INFORMS Business Analytics Conference. The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad/Flipkart Internet Private Limited team was awarded the 2022 IAAA.

The City of Tuscaloosa/City of Springfield, Illinois/Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa/Institute of Data and Analytics team’s project has been instrumental in i) identifying instances of blight through its innovative artificial intelligence tool that identifies various types of blight from photographs of homes and ii) prioritizing these instances of blight in a manner that is consistent with the objectives of the city. This supports efforts by cities to work cooperatively with homeowners to address blight on their properties, increasing the value of the homes suffering from blight as well as the value of nearby homes and properties. These efforts are rapidly expanding to cities around the country, enabling these cities to work cooperatively with thousands of homeowners to rectify blight on their properties.

This is the second consecutive year in which an Institute of Data and Analytics project has been selected as an IAAA finalist; in 2021, the project Using Analytics to Understand and Improve Provider Accessibility for a State Medicaid Agency achieved this distinction.

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