How an AI startup hopes to help businesses reopen after lockdown
A Clean Energy Zone startup believes it has come up with a solution to help businesses reopen after lockdown, as well as reduce costs at a time when many of them face instability due to the coronavirus.
EAIGLE, external link, opens in new window, a computer vision and artificial intelligence company, designs and implements smart technology that anonymously and non-invasively detects human body shapes within indoor and outdoor spaces, while keeping all data privately secured onsite. The company’s innovative software, which can be integrated into existing security infrastructure, counts people in real-time, presenting an accurate number of occupants in a given workplace or commercial facility and potentially helping to optimize space utilization and reduce energy costs.
“We count people, see their traffic flow, and then map the occupancy density on the layout of the facility,” explains Amir Hoss, founder and CEO of EAIGLE. “My background is all operations sustainability, so we are all about cutting costs in facility operations. Energy efficiency is an important aspect of this because large energy consumers like HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] systems are substantially impacted by occupancy.”
Hoss has been working in energy management for close to a decade. Utilizing his experience, in 2018, he put together a team of experts to work on developing a unique computer vision solution powered by AI. Since then, EAIGLE has grown to a mix of 15 full-time and part-time employees based in Ontario and California, with a portion of his research and development staff consisting of Ryerson graduates.
Hoss thinks his company is uniquely placed for the new pandemic-aware world, since EAIGLE’s technology can be adapted to monitor facilities with capacity restrictions, help businesses implement physical distancing measures and even flag individuals that show fever-like body temperatures without any interruption to crowd flow. Hoss says EAIGLE’s system utilizes numerous cameras at once and is ideal for public spaces with a large number of employees and visitors that need to be scanned in a short period of time.
In fact, Hoss insists now is a critical time for the company, having received multiple inquiries and interactions that outpace what they had seen before the pandemic began. Commercialization and sales of the software have begun and, according to Hoss, interest from retailers and manufacturers has skyrocketed.
“We’re growing much faster than we were before COVID-19. That’s all we’re focusing on, and we want to keep up with the fast growth.”
During the lockdown period, EAIGLE has managed to keep its own operations running remotely, but is still facing similar obstacles to those being experienced by countless businesses around the world.
“It’s going to be challenging, especially because the companies that we’ll be working with have facilities in cities across Canada and the U.S.,” acknowledges Hoss. “Travel is going to be difficult and the supply chain is going to be stretched, but we’re working tirelessly to properly plan for this expansion.”
As EAIGLE gears up for growth, Hoss says being a member of the Clean Energy Zone provides his team with access to resources that benefit his startup in multiple ways.
“First of all, the Clean Energy Zone is affiliated with Ryerson University, so that adds credibility to the team,” he says. “Number two, we’re getting great advice from MBA profs such as Phil Walsh [a mentoring committee member] and from Clean Energy Zone management. And number three, the Clean Energy Zone has a strong network that really helps with the growth of the company. We want to get the message out there that a local tech company offers such a unique solution during this unique time.”
Alongside the support from the Clean Energy Zone, within the past month EAIGLE has landed major backing from NEXT Canada, external link, opens in new window, Ontario Centres of Excellence, external link, opens in new window and Microsoft, external link, opens in new window.
“We’ve been working closely with the Azure team,” says Hoss, who runs the business on Microsoft Azure and Office 365. “They saw the value in our technology and the progress we have made, and made a decision to provide us with financial support.”
Hoss believes the future is promising for companies that can leverage new technology during this period.
“During this time that companies are laying off staff, slowing down or even going out of business altogether, you’re also going to hear stories of companies that have been able to grow faster, pivot quickly and create opportunities out of the current situation,” he says. “That is not just good for the economy, but also for society.”
Vanessa Balintec is a fourth-year journalism student at Ryerson University
"During this time that companies are laying off staff, slowing down or even going out of business altogether, you’re also going to hear stories of companies that have been able to grow faster, pivot quickly and create opportunities out of the current situation."