TNB: Tell us a bit about your business? When were you founded, where are you based and how many people do you employ?
Robok was founded in 2017 and is based in Cambridge. We are a spin-out from University of Cambridge Department of Computer Science and Technology and venture-capital backed. We work in computer vision and develop AI-based 3D sensing software solutions optimised for low-power computing platforms. We are a team of researchers, engineers and business development professionals. Our vision is to empower advanced driving safety for passenger, commercial and public transport vehicles cost-effectively.
What does the business do?
Our plan is that commercial vehicle and bus operators who already have on-board cameras can easily and cost-effectively add next-generation automated driving features and AI. For example, our perception software solutions can be used for safety features from collision warning (when getting close to pedestrian, cyclists, other cars etc) to more advanced path planning and navigation for higher level of vehicle autonomy.
In essence, our technology enables vehicles to ‘see’ and ‘understand’ the implications of changes to their environment and produce useful information for collision warning, avoidance and path planning by detecting and classifying hazards depending upon position and movement. We do this by developing efficient AI-based computer vision algorithms that can work in real-time on low-power computing platforms.
We primarily work with input of a monocular camera as used with many ADAS technologies, and apply algorithms for general-purpose computing platforms. We have been working with passenger and commercial vehicle OEMs to adopt our solution and reduce the cost of incorporating safety-enhancing technologies.
Use cases for commercial vehicles may include autonomous operation on highways or confined and geofenced environment such as ports, depot, construction or mining sites. In particular, our vision-based localisation can allow accurate positioning and navigation of vehicles in areas without GPS. For bus operators, use cases could range from collision avoidance to detecting and tracking movement of passengers if cameras are used within the vehicle.
How is business? What’s the outlook for the year ahead?
Like any business, the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on our customers. However, with a growing emphasis on the importance of robust supply chains and associated growth in demand for safety-related applications in commercial vehicles such as haulage, last-mile delivery, warehouse and port logistics, we are seeing strong demand from manufacturers and other customers for our products across different geographic regions.
We are therefore growing our team further to ensure our current customers are well supported and we are able to secure and support the growing volume of new business opportunities that we’re seeing, at the same time as continuing to develop our products further.
What are the big issues or technological advances that fill you with positivity?
We see the rapid rise in interest and investment in both electric and autonomous vehicles (and ADAS safety features on all vehicles) as good for both society as a whole and our business specifically. Beyond the use of our products on vehicles, then the continued growth in 5G and the ‘internet of things’ (IoT) is also a major opportunity to improve safety and efficiency across a wide variety of businesses.
As the number of cameras and sensors continues to explode across a broad spectrum of applications, then our ability to process and make sense of data from these (often within the camera itself, allowing rapid actions to be taken and with low consumption of network bandwidth) is gaining interest within a wide variety of applications, from commercial vehicle and public transport applications.
Hao Zheng, co-founder and chief executive at RoboK