Making Counting Count
CEO Tara Pham explains how CTYs flagship product can change the way cities interact with and plan space, starting right here in St. Louis.
EXPLAIN HOW YOUR PRODUCT, NUMINA, WORKS. Numina works like a fitness tracker for places, with a plug-and-play device measuring all kinds of real-time activity and environmental metrics for any physical space. It uses pattern recognition to produce real-time counts of pedestrians, bicyclists, wildlife and vegetation growth, eventually even things like cracks in the sidewalk and potholes.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND CTY AND NUMINA? It was, in fact, the city of St. Louis that inspired Numina. I was on a team for GOOD Ideas for Cities back in 2012, and we wanted to show all of the activity happening in St. Louis’ neighborhoods. The central idea was to broadcast real-time, quantitative data as the proof. Because of my previous research experience in urban design and public health, I was aware of how difficult it is to collect this data.
HAS THE INITIAL VISION FOR THE COMPANY CHANGED? Numina started as a tool to count people moving through spaces. It has developed into so much more, delivering complete situational awareness about a space. Numina collects data that would have previously required human observation.
WHO IS USING NUMINA? Currently, our biggest customer is the City of St. Louis Department of Health. It is using Numina to collect baseline bicyclist and pedestrian counts. This data will be used to better plan streets and respond quickly to changes in the environment and predict problems before they arise. We’re working with a number of other cities, parks systems, museums, theme parks and campuses.
WHAT ROADBLOCKS HAVE YOU FACED? It’s challenging to find manufacturing resources on the startup scale. Many manufacturers see an order of 10,000 as small. To a startup, that’s a lot. We still make our devices by hand. Luckily, we’ve found some great resources even within St. Louis city limits and are looking forward to manufacturing.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO STARTUPS? Ask smart people for feedback, and take their advice seriously. Start building as soon as you can, and fail out the bad ideas early.
Left to right: Tara Pham, CEO and Martin McGreal, CTO of CTY
Photo credit: Wesley Law