Labforge situational awareness platform will use AI to protect the Royal Canadian Air Force
Intruders are at the fence, and before you can react, your security is compromised. That is a scenario that Velocity company, Labforge, wants to prevent using their artificial intelligence situational awareness platform. They have now announced a partnership with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to protect the physical security of personnel and equipment on Canadian soil. This high tech network of sensors uses AI to understand the objects they see and visually display their movements on a map.
Founded by Yassir Rizwan, a Master of Mechanical Engineering and Thomas Reidemeister, a Doctor of Computer Engineering, who met while studying at the University of Waterloo, Labforge is the culmination of six years of research on AI and robotics. While working out of the Embedded Systems Lab with professor Sebastian Fischmeister, the two co-founders set out to commercialize the drone technology they were working on. Initially working on drone autopilot systems, Labforge was conceived as an aerial inspection service offering, using their technology to inspect solar farms from the air. The company has since offered products and services in AI and robotics and counts large companies like Magna International as their customer. With a vision of growing the company to a $10 billion AI safety and security company, Labforge has been focusing their R&D on their flagship product.
Labforge’s AI powered situational awareness platform is broken down into three components, which comprise an integrated classification and tracking network. Multiple low power, high-range sensors work together to create an ad hoc mesh network and piece together a comprehensive visual mapping of where people and objects are in any environment. These thermal, high-resolution sensors capture everything in their vicinity, and using artificial intelligence, interpret and illustrate what is happening around them. The data is processed locally on the sensor, rather than in the cloud, and because the sensors are low-energy, they can be used in environments with limited internet bandwidth, and at a higher range field of vision. The Labforge positioning engine is responsible for taking information from the sensors, and compiling it into three dimensional coordinates to provide insight into what’s on the ground or in the air, and where. This information is then displayed on a geospatial interface in a user-friendly way, showing movement of people and machines on a dynamic map.
“Within as little as 30 minutes we can setup an ad hoc network of situation awareness.” – Yassir Rizwan, Co-founder and CEO of Labforge
Initially starting with exploratory discussions in 2017, the Royal Canadian Air Force has now signed a deal to use Labforge technology for defensive force protection at multiple sites within Canada, to protect people and equipment in the field. Whether it is a temporary camp, or a fixed location, the technology will allow the RCAF to visually map everything in the camps and facilities the sensors are deployed to. Unlike traditional surveillance tools, the sensors use small amounts of data and energy, and are well suited in a military environment that does not always have established Internet infrastructure. This will allow the military to more easily fulfill its mandatory requirements to protect assets and enhance the capability for detection of unauthorized access on-site. It could be used to observe a perimeter at an airbase or the facilities themselves by being mounted on poles, trees, or walls, allowing a higher fidelity overview than what ground surveillance radar would offer.
“The Government of Canada and the Royal Canadian Air Force is an excellent reference customer for Labforge, especially with the additional non-military use-cases that we are pursuing, like industrial protection, and protection of infrastructure and schools.”
Labforge has mostly been boostrapped from the start, with a small seed round in 2016. Perimeter security is currently their main focus, a market that encompasses military, infrastructure, industrial, commercial, government, and residential environments. Even larger than the market that serves the military is the potential for use in industrial security in places like factories and warehouses, a $28 Billion market. In contrast to traditional security systems like fibre optic fences that are activated by touch, Labforge systems require less infrastructure to setup and have a much more versatile and broad field of vision, meaning they can offer a more advanced warning to provide time to respond.
Industrial safety is another major focus, with the goal of helping prevent workplace injuries. Using machine learning, the Labforge system is trained to understand problematic scenarios, for example the imminent collision of a person and forklift on a factory floor, without the need to tag people or equipment with sensors. “Industrial safety is a whole other behemoth on its own, but our technology is really well adapted to it. Say somebody walks onto the shop floor without a hard hat – the system can plot the locations of everybody on the factory floor without a hard hat and raise an alarm,” noted Rizwan.
This potential for surveillance poses privacy questions that Labforge has worked to address through its unique technical design, which processes data on the sensors themselves, rather than sending images to the cloud, where they are vulnerable to hacking or misuse. “We tackle privacy using AI at the edge. Because no real video or photos are being sent anywhere from the sensor, it stays local to the facility. Only the sensors know what is happening – they look at every image, and then the image is discarded every second. None of those photos are stored or transmitted anywhere because not even the cameras have enough storage to do so. Everything is fully autonomous, fully private by design.”