The Black Arcs, a Fredericton company that provides artificial intelligence for city planners, has scored a $1 million research and development deal with the Department of National Defence to adapt its technology to model disease outbreaks.

Founded in 2015, The Black Arcs sells AI software that analyzes people’s travel behaviours and how they interact with community environments for use in city planning. Its first product is Citisketch, which lets users examine specific land-use scenarios by using a digital twin of their community. 

Under the Department of Defence’s Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security program, or IDEaS, the company will add a toolkit that will allow users to model the impacts of various public health measures on the spread of infectious diseases.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we thought we could use Citisketch to give decision-makers the ability to rapidly explore how interventions and preventative measures affect the course of a pandemic,” said The Black Arcs Director of Technology Dane Sheppard in a statement.

“When we took this idea to the 2021 AARMS Industrial Problem Solving Workshop, we were thrilled to discover that our current simulation technology was a perfect fit for integration with a robust disease model.”

AARMS stands for the Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences, which hosts an annual conference where mathematicians liaise with industry to find real-world applications for their expertise.

The Black Arcs will collaborate with the University of Toronto’s Mathematics for Public Health initiative on research and development, and University of New Brunswick Professor Sanjeev Seahra is already using Citisketch to study the impact of closing schools on the spread of COVID-19 in Atlantic Canada.