Behind the Scenes: An Interview with UrbanLogiq’s CTO

As a technology-driven society, we often focus on the products and services offered by companies instead of the people behind the tech. At UrbanLogiq we value our team members and see them as key players in our company’s success. So we wanted to introduce you to UrbanLogiq’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Max Burke! 

In this candid Q&A, we explore the role of CTO within a government technology (GovTech) company, the critical role of data privacy and security, and explore some of the opportunities of building technology to serve the public good.

Meet UrbanLogiq’s CTO

Before joining UrbanLogiq in 2018 Max spent over a decade building high-performance teams and advancing the state of technology behind the biggest video games and distribution platforms. Max has multiple patents that span the areas of machine learning application from software operations to the rendering and streaming of video games. He has been UrbanLogiq’s CTO since December 2019.

Behind the Scenes

Q: What does the Chief Technology Officer do at UrbanLogiq?

Max Burke: At UrbanLogiq, the Chief Technology Officer is responsible for building out the UrbanLogiq platform and making sure we are able to deliver on the commitments Urbanlogiq makes to our customers.

Q: What is the most important part of your job?

Max Burke: Making sure that we are able to deliver the solutions to the people that are trusting us. When we commit that we’re able to help model what their city is going to look like by 2050, we are able to develop a system that is able to actually model what their city is going to look like in 2050. Our main goal in life is building better communities with data and we need to deliver on that. I think that is the most important part of my role as UrbanLogiq’s CTO.

Q: What do you like most about your job as UrbanLogiq’s CTO?

Max Burke: I think what I like most about being UrbanLogiq’s CTO is the variety of things that we get to build. Within the scope of the CTO are, for example, everything from actually doing the building of the product to making sure that we’re able to meet all the requirements that we have for our users. That includes compliance, security and privacy. There’s a lot of interesting spaces within those domains that I like being able to jump on and help out with. 

Q: Why is data privacy and security so fundamental in the GovTech space?

Max Burke: When data science as we know it started taking off years ago there was a common refrain that data is the new oil. Like the early oil boom, it was everywhere, it was just under the surface, and we were finding it incredibly useful, not to fuel engines but to fuel insights.

 But as more corporate data breaches happened, as the GDPR and other regulations came to be,  ransomware attacks started to hold critical infrastructure hostage. And some people started to coin the refrain that data isn’t the new oil but rather uranium. It’s still powerful, but if you don’t handle it properly you find yourself in a real pickle.

Governments need data, and they often need especially sensitive data. There is no margin for error when it comes to the personal data the government holds. Municipalities are turning towards accurate data sources of people’s movement in order to more comprehensively plan cities that are more livable.  This data, in some cases on its own, but also in aggregate, can reveal patterns of how people move. Going back to the energy analogy, we’re seeing that some data sources on their own aren’t an issue but, like deuterium and tritium, when combined, create something that is.

Q: How does UrbanLogiq meet or exceed privacy and security standards?

Max Burke: One of the core principles for us is that we’re a platform that is designed from the ground up to respect the privacy and the owners of the data. We have made conscious decisions for how we build out our platform and how we deploy data on it so that we’re able to make sure that only people who have rights to the data are able to access it. 

Our platform houses some sensitive data, such as mobility data sets that describe how people move in communities. It is important to make sure that we safeguard that data that we do right by the people who are represented within that. At UrbanLogiq we try not to draw a distinction between “data that’s sensitive” and “data that’s insensitive” because we can’t tell what combination of data sets will set off a fusion reaction, we treat it all as if it’s going to cause problems and let the actual stewards of the data determine how it can be used and by whom.

Encryption is applied where necessary, and we have appropriate access control to that data. You see, things coming out of the woodwork from some of these big Silicon Valley tech companies, where you hear about people who just joined the company, and they can poke around and see all the various user data that they shouldn’t. We’ve gone through great pains at UrbanLogiq to make sure that only the appropriate data stewards have access to the data in our platform.

Q: Which emerging tech trends do you see rising in 2023?

Max Burke: I think one of the biggest tech trends that is coming in the industry right now is the growth of artificial intelligence, and we’re seeing that play out. Right now, for example, with the large language models, things like ChatGPT, and just the promise that brings with the ability for the computers to start being able to, fill in the gaps for us.

 We are going to see the proliferation of artificial intelligence for assisting in decision making and processing large data and finding patterns in past decisions and helping planners in communities work with that data.

 I think the use of artificial intelligence in government decision making is going to help the people who actually have to make the decisions on a day to day basis, make their decisions faster and more informed. 

Q: Why did you choose to work at UrbanLogiq?

Max with his two kids

Max Burke: I think having kids changed my perspective on the world. I have an obligation to do things to make the world better. I came to Urbanlogiq, right as my second kid turned one years old. At that time, I had been working for a fairly large tech company basically figuring out how to build the technology to enable them to sell more gizmos. With my kids growing up, and the world changing, and there’s questions on the horizon about how do we become more livable in the space of climate change and whatnot, and growing cities, the ability to go work at Urbanlogiq presented a number of interesting possibilities for solving real problems in the world.

Q: What is something that might surprise people about you or that they don’t know about you?

 Max Burke: I have a pilot’s license. I got my pilot’s license when I was eighteen years old and I flew for a number of years as a hobby. It’s a very expensive hobby, but it was a lot of fun. I got to see cool places up and down the coast of BC and spend a lot of time getting myself and my friends into interesting scenarios and small airports. 

I haven’t flown in about thirteen years. But you know, I think maybe one of these days, I’ll go refresh that pilot’s license and see if I can enjoy doing that again.

 If the pilot of a commercial airplane, you know, had a heart attack and or could no longer fly the airplane. I think I would be able to try and get that airplane down. I don’t know if there’s other more capable commercial pilots on board,if there were I would probably defer to them. But if I was the only one on board and that challenge ended up in front of me I would feel confident going for it.

Q: What is something you want people to know about you?

 Max Burke: I’m a pretty private person. I follow things about digital privacy, these sorts of issues fairly closely. I like following people who talk about digital privacy legislation online and I think being able to work in the same space Urbanlogiq does with all this data, it’s it’s an honor because I think being able to take my my strong principles of digital privacy and ethics and security and being able to apply it in a space where we need strong moral principles around digital privacy is important.

About UrbanLogiq

UrbanLogiq’s easy-to-use data platform is designed to help governments make data-driven decisions faster and cheaper than traditional methods. UrbanLogiq’s mission is to break down data silos and help government agencies of all sizes make the most out of their existing data by collecting, analyzing, and visualizing data from various sources. The UrbanLogiq platform creates one common operating picture of each community empowering public officials to make the right decisions and improve the lives of their citizens. 

Explore Open Opportunities.