Data News Awards for Excellence
Each year, Data News, Roularta Media’s ICT journal, presents its Awards for Excellence. Aimed at IT professionals, including CIOs, general managers, HR and Finance managers, the magazine has a strong focus on Belgian news, trends and opinions, making the awards prestigious within the Belgian IT and data world. This year, DSP Valley startup member Edgise has caught attention for their Covid-19 innovation. They are nominated for not one but two categories:
- Artificial Intelligence Innovator of the Year
- Belgian StartUp Company of the Year
We spoke to Edgise co-founder Nick Destrycker to find out a bit more about their nominations, what’s gotten them this far, and what they’re looking forward to.
Innovation in Covid-19 lockdown
As with most of Europe, when Covid-19 came to Belgium in early 2020, lock down soon followed. Economic and business rhythm changes ensued in turn, as official health measures forced a rapid realignment of public spaces. Many companies saw business change in an instant, and Edgise was no exception. According to Nick, Edgise saw an immediate impact as projects stalled or were withdrawn.
Not to be discouraged, the team called upon the enterprising spirit that defines successful startups. As Nick puts it, they “started thinking about how we as a company could mean something to society.” With social distancing the order of the day, they quickly focused on the need to monitor occupancy rates in buildings, which they realized would be key to ending an almost total lock down.
As health officials around the world have continuously explained, the pandemic can be contained by limiting (large) gatherings and maximizing distance among people who don’t live together. Enforcing this means being able to tell whether a space is close to capacity. In other words, being able to tell how many people are in a given store, museum, office, or whatever building at any given time.
The Edgise team combined their engineering know-how with some edge AI — meaning it operates at the device level rather than continuously connecting to a remote server — to come up with a simple, privacy-proof solution. Enter their newest technology: “Telly.”
We started thinking about how we as a company could mean something to society.Nick Destrycker, Co-founder Edgise
Telly to the rescue
As Nick explains, “Telly provides real-time overviews of how many people are present in buildings. It is a small device that can smartly count people without any privacy exposure. Via a small low-power camera and an intelligent AI algorithm, Telly can recognize people and detect their movements (in or out of the building). This all happens without recording the video images. Multiple Tellys can also be connected [to each other] if the building has multiple entrances or exits.”
Telly’s versatility, and by consequence its award-worthy Covid-19 innovation, comes from its ability to be smart and dumb at the same time. It’s smart because it’s using AI. This means that the cameras can harness artificial intelligence to also analyze the images they see. For example, far from just counting the number of people entering and exiting a building, Telly can be integrated with a voice or chat system to proactively send alerts about occupancy rates. It could also be used to detect whether someone is wearing a mask (or not).
Simultaneously, the system is “dumb” in the sense that it’s not storing or recognizing sensitive images. Edgise has cleverly avoided sensitive privacy issues by not recording the images and not integrating facial recognition technology. Telly can pick up whether you’re wearing a mask, but she’s not picking up who you are.
Where to from here
Currently, Telly is monitoring activity at 15 different locations, including both office and retail space. That’s absolutely just the beginning for Nick and his colleagues. “We see many opportunities for Telly in the future, both in retail and in office buildings, factories, other public buildings, etc., both today and in the future.”
And of course, there’s the awards to look forward to. Edgise is a strong competitor for both categories thanks to the innovative edge AI technology in Telly. The jury is currently deliberating and the winners will be highlighted in September 29th issue of Data News.
We’ll be staying tuned!