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Nowadays, cities face the ever-rising challenge of ensuring security, be it a low crime rate, reliable infrastructure, or safe traffic. At the same time, however, cities have less and less money to provide more services. Securaxis SA, a start-up in Geneva and the first incubatee of the Swiss BIC of CERN Technologies, is working on a very special solution to this problem. Using CERN’s unique know-how in large-scale data-gathering and control, it has developed a novel acoustic monitoring system for smart cities. In his interview with PARK INNOVAARE, Securaxis CEO Glenn Meleder talks about his invention, its main fields of application, and the way the Swiss BIC program has affected his business.
PARK INNOVAARE: Glenn, last year you were selected from among 30 other candidates to become the first incubatee of the Swiss Business Incubation Centre (BIC) of CERN Technologies. How has this affected Securaxis?
Glenn Meleder, CEO Securaxis SA: Winning and joining the Swiss BIC of CERN Technologies has deeply affected our business. Thanks to the prize money and CERN’s technological support, we have been able to further develop our product – an acoustic monitoring system. But this we expected. What we did not expect is that we would be able to broaden our business network to such a great extent, in particular to the German-speaking part of Switzerland (author’s note: Securaxis is located in Geneva, the French-speaking part of the country). We were put in touch with different universities, local promotion agencies such as Aargau Services, and the Hightech Zentrum Aargau, who helped us with some challenges. Through the program and PARK INNOVAARE, we were able to connect with potential investors and learn more about how to access European Union grants. Last but not least, we got such media exposure that clients started to contact us directly.
The winning project – Securaxis’ RTExD – is an acoustic sensor. How does it work?
Simply speaking, an acoustic sensor is a device that consists of two core components: a microphone that “hears” the sounds and a computing unit that runs artificial intelligence software to classify and understand them. The sensor allows us to listen to the environment and detect different events. It classifies and stores sounds in the database. Using this information, it can then identify sounds and alert the customer if something happens in the monitored area. It sounds like a simple approach, but it is challenging to process that much information. That is why we needed CERN’s know-how in the field of large-scale data-gathering and monitoring.
What are the main areas of application of your acoustic sensors?
We have developed our sensors to primarily increase security in our cities. For instance, the device can detect gunshots, explosions, or car crashes in the city, accurately locate the place where the sound is coming from, and alert the authorities. One big advantage of our system is that it can be used in places where video surveillance is prohibited or difficult.
Another security aspect that we can tackle with our device is the monitoring of critical infrastructure – roads, bridges, tunnels. We all remember what happened in Italy last year when Genoa bridge collapsed, leaving forty-three people dead. We would like to prevent that from happening again. Our sensors can “listen” to the infrastructure and detect strange noises that alert us about a possible break-down.
Finally, there is a third area of application that we are pursuing – traffic management. Our system can classify the traffic and count the vehicles; from there, we can provide very light solutions for the cities to control their traffic.
Now that RTExD is taking off, are you planning on developing something new?
We are not developing anything new per se, but we are already working on some new fields of application, and some very exciting ones. One of them is wildlife monitoring in national parks in Africa. This project is so manifold. On the one hand, it can help rangers learn more about how the animals live together and some of their behavior patterns – when they come to the water point, how long they stay? How do they share the space with other species? On the other hand, it could help authorities fight poaching in the parks and protect the animals. Our sensors can distinguish between animals and humans and notify the rangers of violent activities that might be taking place. It might even be possible to detect the language people are speaking to better track the poachers in the area. We are proud to be a part of this project. After all, it is a completely new world of animal security.