Interview with Securaxis
Who is Securaxis is and what do you do ?
We are a start-up based in Geneva, Switzerland. We turn sounds into data, enabling cities to monitor urban noise in order to improve many aspects of city life. We combine Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things to hear our urban existence – this adds a missing layer to the smart city concept.
What is Securaxis background story?
Glen Meleder and Gaetan Vannay are the Co-founders of Securaxis. We both have experience working in difficult and sometimes unsafe environments. Glen Meleder is an IT engineer by training. He has worked in duty stations for an important international organization with focus on conflict resolution. Gaetan Vannay has worked extensively as a war correspondent. This is how we met. Our first project was to develop a tool to manage security and security information in an operational framework through an app on a web platform. This tool is currently used by international organizations, governments and private companies all around the world.
Since then, Securaxis has evolved into something very different.
The idea of combining AI and acoustic analysis (“to turn sound into information”) came out of a hackathon organized in 2018 by the CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research.) This made immediate sense to us. In many contexts of armed conflict you may hear a threat before you see it. Sound is very useful information!
As humans, we are used to understanding and transforming sound to guide our actions. At Securaxis we aim to transfer this ability to smart cities; hearing will add the missing layer to smart solutions. Initially, we focused on safety and security. However, discussing with authorities in different cities, we understood that the immediate traction of this concept is in the domain of road traffic monitoring; this enables traffic management, dynamic smart lighting, predictive road maintenance and real-time monitoring of the level of traffic noise.
Securaxis is also active in biodiversity monitoring. Scientists have shown that sound is a reliable indicator for monitoring ecosystem biodiversity. It provides information about species, habits, quality of life and habitat conditions. It can also help to determine the many and varied interactions between wildlife, human habitats and human built infrastructures. This solution can fulfil an important part of studies pertaining to the environmental impact of major construction projects. It is a surprise to us how far we have come from issues relating to people’s safety and security. But we are comfortable with this surprise!
Why are the projects important?
Road traffic causes 80% of noise pollution in cities. By 2050, 68% of the world population will live in cities or suburbs and road traffic will increase by more than 40%. It is well documented that exposure to excessive noise has an impact on people’s health. New tools to monitor and better understand noise in a city are needed urgently. There are also implications for privacy. People are wary of cameras that are currently the main solution for monitoring of traffic. With our system, the sounds never leave the street. There is no recording. Only specific sounds are detected and these sounds are processed at sensor level; only metadata are sent.
Who can profit from your services?
Our clients are OEMs (Original equipment manufacturers) and system integrators active in smart cities. At the end of the day, the people living in cities will profit from our approach. Cities can monitor and improve their urban environments whilst accommodating people’s concerns about privacy and sustainability.
Can you give some further examples of your success stories?
We have initiated projects all over Europe from Finland to Portugal. Because of Covid-19 we had to delay some deployments of sensors. So far, we already have installations running in Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom. We will also soon have installations in Luxembourg. These projects are going well. What we could call a success story is that the idea of monitoring road traffic and noise traffic by a combination of acoustic sensors and AI is well understood and validated as an accurate and very cost-effective solution.
How do your customers find you?
Before Covid-19 we were mainly present at European fares and congresses. Today we participate in virtual events, but we increased our footprint in these. We sponsor the event and/or organize virtual workshops and panels. We reallocated budget for travel and accommodation to upgrade our participation in virtual fairs, exhibitions and congresses as a mere presence with a stand is not enough to attract prospects in this virtual world. Our potential customers find us at these events organized around “Mobility” or “Smart Cities”. Of course, we have our website (www.securaxis.com) and we work the phone. The good news: today clients are coming to us before we reach out to them.
What are your biggest challenges?
Initially, we found that people’s thoughts about noise is first about recording or measuring decibels. We had to explain that what we are offering is very different. We had to show that cities can listen to themselves and that the technology that does this really works. The challenge today is to show that we comply GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and that our solution fully respects privacy. Our direct customers – OEMs and system integrators – understand our technology well but City authorities, policy makers, lobbyists etc. often need further clarification. Notably, in France we went through the process of having our solution validated by the CNIL (Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés), the official national body in charge of protecting personal data and preserving individual liberties.
How do you see the future of Securaxis and what is your long-term goal?
Our long-term goal is to become a reference for recognition and monitoring of sounds; especially for smart cities.