Mark S. Fox

Mark S. Fox is the Distinguished Professor of Urban Systems Engineering at the University of Toronto. He is a Professor of Industrial Engineering with a cross appointment in the Department of Computer Science, Director Urban Data Centre in the School of Cities, founding director of the Centre for Social Services Engineering, and head of the Enterprise Integration Laboratory.

Prof. Fox is a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), was a AAAI councilor, and was a co-founder of the AAAI Special Interest Group in Manufacturing. He is a Fellow of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE), and a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada. He was a joint fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advance Research and PRECARN. He is a past holder of the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Enterprise Integration, and was a Senior Fellow in the Global Cities Institute. He received a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of Toronto in 1975, and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1983.

Prior to his return to Toronto, he was an Associate Professor of Computer Science and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, He was a founding member of the Robotics Institute, and founding director of the Robotics Institute’s Intelligent Systems Laboratory and Center for Integrated Manufacturing Decision Systems.

As director of the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Decision Systems, he led one of the largest efforts in the United States focused on extending and applying Intelligent Systems, including Artificial Intelligence and Operations Research, to engineering and manufacturing problems, including: job-shop scheduling (ISIS/CORTES), project management (Callisto), alloy design (Aladin), facility design (WRIGHT), mechanical design (Design Fusion), cutting fluid selection (GREASE), distribution system analysis (INET), knowledge-based simulation (KBS), and process diagnosis (PDS). This work has been funded by Alcoa Corp., Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Boeing Computer Services, Cincinatti Milacron Inc., Digital Equipment Corp., Chrysler Corp., General Electric Corp., Gulf Oil, Westinghouse Electric Corp., IBM, and McDonnell Douglas Corp.


Prof. Fox’s research career has focused primarily on two questions:

  • How to solve “real world” problems in the presence of constraints, and
  • How to represent the knowledge required to solve “real world” problems.
  • and more recently on how cities evolve.

Reasoning with Constraints

Prof. Fox’s early research in constraint-directed reasoning focused on manufacturing scheduling (Fox & Smith, 1984). His research introduced the concepts of automated constraint relaxation using utilities, and hierarchical scheduling using levels of abstraction (Fox, 1983). This work also introduced the use of “textures” to guide the search process (Fox et al., 1989; Sadeh & Fox, 1996; Beck et al., 1997) with extensions to distributed scheduling (Sycara et al., 1991), culminating in a unified approach to scheduling (Davis & Fox, 1994; Beck et al., 1998). His research was incorporated into KBLPS logistic planning and scheduling system adopted by the United States Department of Defence (Saks et al., 1993). His research contributed to the formation of Scheduling as a sub-field in Artificial Intelligence.

He also explored reasoning with constraints in architectural design (Baykan & Fox, 1997) and mechanical design ( Navindchandra et al., 1993; Bilgic & Fox, 1996).

Representing Knowledge (Ontologies)

In conjunction with his constraint-based reasoning research, Prof. Fox began developing ontologies. Beginning with an ontology for describing distributed, multi-agent systems (Fox, 1979), he continued with ontologies for scheduling (Fox, 1987), and project Management (Sathi et al., 1986).

In 1991 Prof. Fox initiated the TOVE project (Fox, 1992) which developed a set of ontologies for modelling enterprises (Fox & Gruninger, 1998), including:

As part of the TOVE project, he introduced the concept of Ontology Competency (Fox, 1992) and incorporated it into a methodology for designing ontologies (Gruninger & Fox, 1995).

In addition his ontology research has focused on:

Prof. Fox’s current research focuses on Smart Cities. In particular, ontologies for modelling cities and their performance (Fox, 2013). He led the development of the Global City Indicator Ontologies that provide a computational representation of ISO 37120 city indicator definitions and their instantiation. These ontologies have formed the basis of the ISO/IEC 21972:2020 standard for city indicators. He also led the development of the iCity Transportation Planning ontologies, which has formed the basis of the ISO/IEC 5087 series of city data model standards currently under development.

Prof. Fox leads the development of the Common Approach Project’s Common Impact Data Standard (CIDS). CIDS forms the core of the Canada’s Digital Supercluster Compass Project Ontology. Compass is creating a nation wide information infrastructure for the Social Services sector.

Models of Urban Evolution

Prof. Fox co-leads the Urban Genome Project in the School of Cities. The Urban Genome project seeks to develop a formal model of urban evolution in terms of 1) sources of variations; 2) principles of selection; and 3) mechanisms of retention. More specifically, regarding (1) it defines local and environmental sources of variation and identifies some of their generative processes, such as recombination, migration, mutation, extinction, and transcription errors. Regarding (2), it outlines a series of selection processes as part of an evolutionary ecology of urban forms, including density dependence, scope dependence, distance dependence, content dependence, and frequency dependence. Regarding (3), it characterizes retention as a combination of absorption and restriction of novel variants, defines mechanisms by which these can occur, including longevity, fidelity, and fecundity, and specifies how these processes issue in trajectories define by properties such as stability, pace, convergence, and divergence. Central to this model of urban evolution is a formal model of the Signature of an urban space, comprised of: an urban genome which captures the expected groups (i.e., users) and activities (i.e., uses) of physical forms; a description of the actual activities and groups of the physical forms; and the signals that are communicated within and among urban spaces. The core of this model is a ‘formeme’, which provides the building blocks for a Signature. A formeme captures the interactions among physical forms, groups and activities. Various metrics can be defined an urban area based on its Signature, and these metrics can be used to measure similarity of urban spaces. The Signature and its underlying formemes capture the sources of variations in urban evolution.

Silver, D., Adler, P., & Fox, M. (2022a). Towards a Model of Urban Evolution—Part I: Context. Urban Science 6, no. 4: 87.

Fox, M.S., Silver, D., & Adler, P. (2022a). Towards a Model of Urban Evolution: Part II: Formal Model. Urban Sci., 6, 88.

Silver, D., Fox, M.S., & Adler, P. (2022b). Towards a Model of Urban Evolution—Part III: Rules of Evolution. Urban Sci., 6, 89.

Fox, M.S., Silver, D., Silva, T., & Zhang, X. (2022b). Towards a Model of Urban Evolution Part IV: Evolutionary (Formetic) Distance—An Interpretation of Yelp Review Data. Urban Sci., 6, 86.

Entrepreneurial and Industry Activities

Prof. Fox was a co-founder (1983) of Carnegie Group Inc, an Artificial Intelligence software company (publicly traded on NASDAQ until acquired in 1998) that focused on engineering, manufacturing, and telecommunications applications. Prof. Fox was also a co-founder (1993), Chairman and CEO of Novator Systems, a pioneering eRetail services and software company. Recently, he co-founded Urban Data Consultancy Inc. which advises cities and companies on urban data and urban data standards.

Prof. Fox was a member of the committee that created the University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering “Hatchery”, and continues to serve on its advisory board. The Hatchery provides an environment, resources and mentoring for undergraduate engineering students to develop their entrepreneurial abilities.

Prof. Fox designed the PDS system (Fox et al., 1983) as a consultant to Westinghouse Electric Corp., which was one of the first realtime sensor-based diagnosis systems. It has been in production use since 1985, and continues today as a Siemen’s service. It was recognized as one of the top 100 engineering achievements of 1986 (IR100).

Giving Back

Prof. Fox was a member of the board and executive committee of Canada’s Walk of Fame from 2000 thru 2008. He was also a member of the board and executive committee of the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre from 2003 thru 2013 and held positions as Vice President of Membership, Marketing and Strategy. He waas also a member of the board of directors of Ve’ahavta.


Prof. Fox also has a brother, Howard Fox, who is an artist. His work can be seen at: His older brother Barry Fox is a Criminal Lawyer.