PointGrab CEO Doron Shachar: AI-Powered Smart Buildings and Effective Building-Management Systems
Learn about the next generation advanced facility management sensing solution for workspace optimization in commercial real estate.
Founded in 2008, the company has raised over
USD 10M in
Series A and
B funding from several investors, including ABB Technology Ventures and Signify (Philips Lighting). Based in
Kfar Saba, Israel, PointGrab develops an embedded-analytics sensing solution for building automation, extracting the most important information about how and where occupants are using the building. The company facilitates smart buildings and effective building-management systems by providing visibility into the occupants’ behavior and space utilization
How was the idea of PointGrab born? How would you describe its ultimate mission?
PointGrab started off with totally different technology. In
2015, the Company decided to make a pivotal change from gesture control technology to smart sensing, making some use of the original algorithm yet developing a brand new product that was aimed to assist tenants - companies and people - in making better use of their real estate, through capturing the count of the location of people in any given space at any given time while strictly protecting people’s privacy. Our ultimate mission is to allow organizations to manage the human flow in their buildings while protecting the privacy of the people.
PointGrab is pioneering the next generation of office workspace optimization solutions. Can you tell us more about the technology behind PointGrab?
Our sensors, CogniPoint™ capture images of the space, and being an edge analytics device, the processing is done on the sensor itself. The main challenge in developing an accurate, stable solution is to “train” the sensor to identify a person from different angles, heights, and light conditions. Advanced Machine Learning and AI allowed us to do so.
Our ultimate mission is to allow organizations to manage the human flow in their buildings while protecting the privacy of the people.
What role does AI/ML play in your solution?
As described above, the ability to identify a human being required a significant amount of time, development resources, coding, and constant improvement. This is, and will always be, a fundamental stepping stone of our technology which enables us to create almost an unfair advantage over some of our competitors.
What actionable insights the clients of PointGrab can get besides occupancy rates and space utilization?
Our customers keep using our technology for many different use cases, in so many different environments. The obvious ones might be those that are related to the usage of meeting rooms and desks, but the more interesting ones are around smart features that are related to using commercial real estate in a modern, nearly futuristic way. These may be related to smart automatic mechanisms of restroom cleaning, to deploying social distancing regulations, and even to queue management in banks or restaurants. The fascinating thing is that we face new use cases so often, that it keeps surprising us.
The fascinating thing is that we face new use cases so often, that it keeps surprising us.
You mention that one of the use cases for PointGrab’s technology, in particular your flagship product, CogniPoint™, is the improvement of the productivity of employees. How does it exactly work?
This comes in a few different aspects. For one, employees do not have to waste time and energy on looking for an open seat. Vacant meeting room or a table to have lunch on, as they get full visibility over the resources in the building. Moreover, collaboration is based on people actually working together, and even if some of us might have forgotten - it means meeting in person, sharing space, desk, or collaboration area. We enable doing it, and employees can find the physical space to do so, while managers can track and see if these specific spaces are used. Another issue that bothers many employees is "non-show" for meeting rooms, which causes terrible waste of time and resources. We are resolving that by applying online data and "freeing" such meeting rooms that are not really used.
Users are increasingly concerned about privacy and being watched. How do you strike that delicate balance between offering insights and respective privacy?
Indeed, this is a crucial point and a major differentiator we have. As I mentioned earlier, our Cognipoint sensor is an edge device, so images are neither kept nor sent anywhere. Our customers understand this very quickly and appreciate it. If this is not enough - we constantly run penetration tests to make sure our sensors can’t be breached.
Has COVID-19 impacted your business?
We have to be honest and say that the full implications of Covid-19 are yet to be unfolded. We see growing interest from large organizations that understand that there is going to be a big change in the way they manage their Real Estate portfolio. This is definitely a big opportunity for us, as even in the short term, our offering for social distancing and accurate real-time people count in any given space provides great value to Companies that want to get their employees back to the office safely and quickly.
You are right, many people, myself included, are tired of working from home and look forward to coming back to the office at least part-time. Now it is more critical than ever to make sure that this transaction is safe. In which ways can PointGrab help with that transition?
Our technology enables a quick and safe "back to the office" strategy not as a theoretical statement but as a real tool for employees and companies. Our social distancing monitoring was already tested and is in use in some office buildings around the globe, as companies understand that this is a crucial tool. We use the X and Y location in order to calculate the distance between occupants, and use our advanced people counting technology to enable count of people in any given space: room, floor, or building in order to comply with the ever-changing regulations. In most cases, companies do not want to provoke an alert in case of violation, but they do need to know in real-time if any violation was made. Even if an employee turned out to be virus-positive, they could try and track how many employees were in the same space, so you do not need for the entire company to head for isolation.
Our technology enables a quick and safe "back to the office" strategy not as a theoretical statement but as a real tool for employees and companies.
What are the next steps for PointGrab?
We have great plans ahead, in more than one dimension. We intend to grow our offering to the market and grow up the value chain by including additional features and insights as part of our offering. We also intend to penetrate new markets and verticals and focus on areas that are in high demand from customers with very limited products.
What do you think is next for AI + IoT in the real estate industry? Are there any challenges that you think are hindering fast industry transformation?
We are operating in a relatively conservative industry that is facing now a massive transformation. Many organizations rethink now the way they use their offices, and this will require thinking out of the box, adopting advanced technologies, and being creative. I think that that will expedite processes that started long ago that would have taken much longer if not for the pandemic. We will see more products, more technology, and better solutions in a very competitive market.
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