Millions pour in for Melbourne AI start-up showing cameras ‘see’

However, Okkonen said its usefulness is much broader than that, allowing the users to monitor their physical environment to get a better understanding of how things work and the complex interactions that take place.

Andrea Gardiner of Jelix Ventures said Black.ai was solving a major technical problem of global concern. Dominic Lorrimer

“In a retail business, we really want to understand a person’s journey from the moment they enter to the moment they leave, and all the things that a person can interact with while in a space,” he said.

“It could also be useful for industrial safety purposes. As if someone is operating a machine when there should always be two people at the same time.

“Initially, it was easy to describe using the retail loss prevention software because it’s very easy to attribute a dollar price to someone walking out with steaks they didn’t pay for, but over the past year we have seen that there is even more of a blind spot when it comes to customer experience in physical stores.”

The retail sector has recently been embroiled in consumer concerns over the use of facial recognition software found that two Wesfarmers retailers, Bunnings and Kmartas well as The Good Guys, recorded customer data in their stores.

Okkonen said this kind of privacy violation was not an issue with Black.ai, as the software intentionally does not perform facial recognition, demographic profiling or other image-based identity verification. Customer data is retained for short-term analysis of a single visit, rather than remembering a customer each time they return.

With the current funding environment for Australian start-ups coming under pressure, as a result of a global reassessment of the value of tech companies, Mr Okkonen said he was pleased to have completed the round “from a strong position”, and that Black . ai should now have enough runway for another 18-24 months before they have to think about further investments.

In addition to retail, Black.ai also targets healthcare and mining operators, where some patient observation and workplace safety precautions can be handled by the properly trained algorithms, rather than scarce human eyeballs.

The aged care sector is an area considered ripe for the intervention of artificially intelligent observation, due to the scarcity of human personnel to monitor the day-to-day events in a center.

While stories of layoffs at Australian tech start-ups Starting to pop up, Ms. Collier said Black.ai was looking for more staff after completing the capital raise.

“We are very excited about the prospect of growing out of our team, which has already started with four people this year, and we are looking to double our original team size to 20 over the next six to 12 months,” she said.

“We have a slightly slower than maybe typical hiring cycle as we like to make sure that the people who come to join our team are really excited about the things they’re working on.

“It is a real privilege to work with such a bright group of people, and we are always looking for bright Australian talent in software engineering.”

Jelix Ventures CEO Andrea Gardiner said she invested because she believed there was a great global opportunity for Black.ai. She said the technology provided a solution to an increasingly compelling, but difficult, technical problem, in the challenge of understanding the variables of human behavior.

“Software is gradually automating the world. From security to scalability and reliability, nothing is off limits,” said Ms Gardiner.

“Black.ai technology is the key infrastructure to support the rapidly growing global demand for smarter environments that respond to real-time events. The software bridges a need that will fuel future innovations for future generations.”

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