The Next Big Think!—a shout out to the future, presented by TCS Co-Innovation Network, powered by TCS Pace™.
Hello and welcome to The Next Big Think!—a podcast where TCS futurist Kevin Benedict is in conversation with startup CEOs and founders to bring you insights and stories from the world of technology with an eye on the future.
Speaker 1 - Kevin Benedict: Welcome to The Next Big Think! podcast, where we give a shout out to the future. I'm your host, Kevin Benedict, a partner in Futures here at TCS. And I want to thank each of you for listening today. Today, my guest is Daniel Raj David. He's the CEO and co-founder of DeTect Technologies. You know, DeTect Technologies harnesses AI, advanced robotics, IoT enabled sensors, AR, VR, and computer vision to connect and unify your data, workforce equipment and processes. Daniel, thank you for joining us today.
Speaker 2 - Daniel Raj David: It's a pleasure to be here, Kevin. Thank you for having me.
Kevin: Absolutely. So, Daniel, let me ask you a few questions here today.
So, you graduated from university with a master's degree in mechanical engineering. Before we even jump into the details of what your company does, were you always focused on engineering? Or were there other career options that you are considering?
Daniel: Now, that's an interesting question. I would think that, you know, up until my schooling, I was very focused towards physics and math, as are most of the people in the engineering discipline, right? And, I studied at IIT Madras. And, to even get in there, you have to be proficient in two out of three in your physics, chemistry, and math equivalent, and for me, it was physics and math.
But, I think once I came to university, I always felt like I wanted to do something different and focus on engineering. I did not want the four years, or five years in fact, in my case—I did a dual degree, a Bachelor's plus Master's when I got in. And I wanted to ensure that I use my engineering knowledge somewhere.
But, I also did always have the backup option in my head, which was, you know, the standard Indian parent dream, right? Which is, hey, do your Bachelor's at IIT Madras or one of the IITs, do your MBA out of an IIM or any of the Ivy Leagues in the US. It could be Stanford or Harvard and, you know, then the world is your oyster. That was what I was fed early on. But I quickly swayed away. So yeah, I did always have…engineering is still a very big part of my heart and continues to be, so. But I wouldn't say it was 100% at that point of time.
Kevin: So, you…it looks like that, maybe, did you start your company DeTect Technologies while you're still in the university?
Daniel: Yeah, yeah, that's true. That's true.
Kevin: Wow. You know, for most of us, a university is enough. It's hard enough for us. I can't imagine opening a startup in the middle of that. But let me just ask you this, about that startup. Did you start the company, did you have this new idea or a new kind of strategy…or what was it that made you start the business? And what did you build that business around?
Daniel: Now Kevin, I think the answer to that, from my end, is pretty straightforward. It wasn't an easy decision. And it wasn't just me that started out from university. I think, at…early on in DeTect when we started building things…we were a bunch of students—along with all of my co-founders—except one person. His name is Tarun Mishra. He was one of my co-founders. We were a four-member co-founding team along with a professor. So, there's myself, my closest friend from campus, and a genius from campus, his name is Hari. He is from my batch. We also had an electrical engineer named Karthik, and Tarun. So, Karthik, myself, and Hari were students in university.
Tarun was a graduate and was an inventor of a certain technology. He, in fact, invented a material for the first sensor in the world that could monitor pipe degradation for long range assets. Right? Basically, imagine it to be like a Fitbit, but for your pipelines. Right? And, he ended up graduating and working in Reliance. So, the experience for us was, we met this professor in campus. We wanted to do work and research with him. Tarun in his time in Reliance wanted to bridge the gap between industries and university research and worked very closely with the professor.
And, I believe we all met…at that point of time, there was a common overlap. And this was in my second year of college, this is back in 2014. Right? And the moment I think we all met, it just dawned on us that this could be the start of something great. But of course, as any risk averse person, you will want to keep your options open.
But Kevin, it became quite natural. Over time, we built a large team, they were close to 35 students, top scorers in campus in all of the departments—computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical, across the spectrum that started working towards this mission of automating the industrial sector and a legacy driven, paper driven industrial sector.
And I think by the time we reached close to 2016, when the company incorporated, and 2017, which was my graduation, the base of a very strong company was already built. So, it became quite an easy decision at that point of time as to what we were all going to do.
Kevin: Fascinating. I love to hear start-up stories, because you know, myself as well, I've spent five years as a CEO of a startup, and went through many rounds of investment, and kind of went through the whole maturity curve, too. So, I just, I can relate. And I just love to hear the stories out there.
So, when I was doing some background research on you and the company, Daniel, one of the career goals that you had mentioned in your biography is a desire to really make an impact on the world. Let me just ask, have you accomplished that? And if so, what's your next goal?
Daniel: That's an interesting question. Yeah, I’ll go a little deep on this one, Kevin, if you don't mind. I think if I take you back to my second year of university, and like all of us, right? Everyone's trying to find out who they want to be and what's the story that they're going to write moving forward in their lives, right? And not just in university. I think people in jobs, many people relate to that feeling.
I had this feeling very acutely back in my second year. I did, you know, your traditional internships, I was looking at these college festivals where you can get the famous term of POR—positions of responsibility. And I started thinking, hey, I'm managing a college festival. I can get some experience here. But what am I doing, right? What am I doing that is impacting other people?
And I think the core of everyone that has joined us, there's Varun, Nikhil, a bunch of folks that joined even before we started the company officially, we all had a common dream. That was what binds us together—which was we want to impact the world, right?
So, this was, before I met anybody, I ended up emailing a professor telling him that I did an implant training; I hated it, because I learned nothing that could impact people. And I want to work on some technology that would really go out and have industrial or worldwide applications, right? And that was incidentally the very night that the professor was looking for a mechanical engineer to work on a technology that would be installed in the Reliances and BPCLs (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited) of the world. And so, then I met a few of my…I met Tarun the next day, I looped in Hari. We met Karthik, we built the top leadership below us, and fast forward to where we are today.
We’re more than 150 people in strength. We have technologies spread out across more than six countries at the moment, if you include India, Singapore, Indonesia, USA, Canada, the Middle East, including Saudi and Abu Dhabi. This is the spread in a four-year time span. We've raised a total of, upwards of USD16 million so far; and have saved number one—a lot of money for many of these industrial companies who have digitized their roadmaps—but most importantly, have saved several, several lives. And that's been a key driving factor to a lot of the technologies that we built. It's lifesaving, you're able to prevent failures, prevent HSC (Health and Safety Code) violations, prevent explosions far before they happen.
So, short answer to your question—have we impacted the world—yes, in a small way. Have we accomplished the goal in the way that I meant it? No, I think that is a few years into the game from here. We have the right support. We want to be able to number one, of course, if you're looking at patriotism, probably be the first Indian deep technology company that has truly scaled globally, across the world, and created a brand name that Indian technology, both software, as well as hardware, can sit all over the world and represent the country.
The second thing is, we want the impact of this genius team that has come together to be felt in every country. And as a result, as mentioned, save lives and save money. And finally, the vision is to automate facilities completely, right? I don't think we’re there. I think we have the pieces to get there. But it…now, it's a matter of really executing at that level.
Kevin: Daniel, I must say it's good for the soul to just be around people with enthusiasm, and ambition and vision. So, it's just…it's so much fun to be talking to you this morning. Another question, this is dear to me because you know I’ve been there, I've sat there. Do you feel engineering and entrepreneurship are different skill sets, or similar? And, why?
Daniel: Kevin, I would say they are both very different, and very similar. While that is the most diplomatic answer that anyone could give, and I'm truly not one for diplomacy in answers, it's just, it's such a true statement that they're very similar and very different.
How they're similar is, I think, when you talk strategy, you go through the same disciplines that you go through engineering. You have your data points, you have experiments that you perform, your proof of concepts, for that matter, both in engineering, as well, as you know, in client deployments, you have proof of concepts before they scale up, right? And then, when you see that something's working, it can be your go-to market strategy, all the way to, you know, fundraise requirements, what kind of metrics are investors looking for? The moment you understand the pieces that fit in, it becomes something like engineering. Strategy in a large way is accumulating data points and to a large extent is common sense which follows engineering disciplines, right?
But, they're also vastly different because when it comes to entrepreneurship, you deal with people, you're not dealing with science. And as a result, the variables that people come up with. I mean, you can have, you know, various…I was reading this book recently by the founder of Netflix, it's called “No Rules, Rules.” And the way he has understood people at a large scale, and what many people are passionate about. The moment you read it, you start thinking, “man, that's a science.” But when he starts giving you specific case studies, you understand that every single person is different. Every single person is driven differently, every single person would react differently to a situation, but you can treat it like a science by taking in those data points, and then channeling it, to derive the right value out of those sides of people, right?
So, I think the variables and people are unpredictable. But the moment you have predictable elements in them, it becomes an engineering science as you take things forward. And that's how businesses are run, that's how MBA books are written, or business administration books are written.
I talk like I know this, but I haven’t done an MBA. I'm giving you feedback from most of the MBAs that work with us.
Kevin: Yeah. So, which do you find more challenging—the engineering side or the entrepreneurship?
Daniel: The entrepreneurship side. I think on engineering, you can, unless you're pushing the boundaries of physics and chemistry as a whole, right? The rest of the stuff that you do, you're working under known data, you're working under known physics, and you broadly know what the results are. It is a matter of identifying the right test beds, the right partners, and the right talent, right?
But in DeTect, we are actually doing both—we are entrepreneurs that are also pushing the boundaries of physics, of technology, and of where technology can scale right? So, in my case, specifically, I would say the engineering is as challenging.
I just…to give you an example. We’re 150 people, more than 60 of our people are dedicated towards product and R&D. We have one of the best product practices or R&D teams in the country, and one of the best in the world, for that matter, on the aspects of AI, robotics, and NDT - non-destructive testing technology.
But I would say the entrepreneurship aspect, personally to me, is even more challenging because how many experts do you think there are in the world right now? It's a handful. The market is changing so much every day. There are no books that can teach, there's no guide to physics or research papers that are going to tell you how to run your organization. Of course, there's Harvard Business Review. But that is catering to a large audience and not catering to your specific business, right? So, I would say it because it's an unknown and unknown is always a little more difficult. But we do that on the engineering side, as well.
So, I will put a 50/50 marker on both. But on traditional companies or traditional startups, I would say the entrepreneurship is majorly more difficult than, you know, the software, or the engineering aspects.
Kevin: Oh man, Daniel, thank you for sharing that kind of behind-the-curtains look at your world. And, you know, there's a saying that I've heard many times throughout my life—“build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” Do you agree with that comment?
Daniel: Could you explain that, Kevin?
Kevin: Yes. So, to build a better mousetrap means something that everybody needs… and if you have something everybody needs, the world will just run to you. And it doesn't take much effort because if you have something good, everybody wants it.
Daniel: Oh, yeah, no, I completely agree. I think that's the philosophy of the company. I see many entrepreneurs, peers, these days, amazing guys that go into the market, saying, you know, “I don't know what my idea is, I don't know what my product is. But I know this, this area needs a solution, and here's a stellar team, give me some money, and I'll build out that team. And we will figure out the solution as we move forward.”
That's not the approach that we've taken. What we've done is, we identified the problem upfront, we built technology, we understood the boundaries of technology, wherever we didn't know. Ours is a very interdisciplinary company. So, you have electrical engineers, you have robotics guys, you have drone guys, you have software guys, you have signal processing guys, all coming together on the same product to say, “Hey, we need to marry all of this together, and where's the value for the customer?”, right? It’s the engineer's dream, for that matter, to actually have funding and work on this sort of technology. So, we build out a solution, right?
And upfront, the question from the clients or in a B2B marketplace is, “Hey, I don't believe that this is possible. I've not seen a single technology in the world do this. And you guys are, you know, you're a bunch of guys from India, which is not known for this sort of R&D or industrial technology. So, you know, do a free pilot, or do a do a small-scale pilot, and then we'll see.”
Now what we've seen is once you have your pilots in place, and show them that the savings are tremendous, and you're doing something that you would otherwise need to recruit, let's say more than 5060 people to solve an individual problem, right? It becomes an easy sell from there. From there, you don't have to sell. It goes up the management. The people, the clients, need to meet their own KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). They see that this can meet their KPI multi-fold without additional recruits, and it just goes up the ladder. And we've been fortunate for that to happen because you know, we've met CXOs at the Adanis, the Vedantas, the BPCLs, the Reliances of the world, right?
And we've done that with zero marketing as a company. We’ve had a sales team of three people. And we handle, I would say more than 100 facilities across the world, at least. Of course, the sales team is very talented, but that actually speaks volumes for how good the product is.
And it's my experience that if your product really fits and works, the world is your oyster, and the marketplace is there. Our industry is very client reference based. The moment a Shell loves your technology, or a Reliance loves your technology, everyone’s going to hear about it. We do case studies, we release it into market, and it moves like wildfire from there. So, yeah, I completely agree, and I couldn't agree more with the statement.
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Kevin: Welcome back, Daniel. Now, I'm just picking up where we left off. You have scaled your business across global markets. Let me just ask you this, because I've done the same thing in my history, and it's not easy. What's the hardest part of scaling globally that you've experienced?
Daniel: That's an interesting question. I was talking about variables earlier in this session, right? The variables of people—I think that's the biggest key, right? So, assume you have product market fit, your product works well, your clients have many great things to say, you don't have any churn as an organization, your technology needs to get out of the country.
Now, a lot of what I will say is probably from the perspective of an Indian entrepreneur, more so than you know, someone from the Valley, which is, as an entrepreneur, you're used to working with certain costs in place. People cost a certain amount, your hardware, your logistics cost a certain amount. Outside the country, you just multiply that by 4x or 5x, right? Immediately up front, right? So, then you start thinking, “Hey, you know, my sales team, a cost one-fifth of what I have to pay outside, but without the sale, I don't have a customer to sell to outside, right?”
So, it becomes a question of, alright, it's clear to me, I need to make the set of expenses. But then the question is, will the person perform? And, you know, as, as an Indian entrepreneur, let me talk about…you know, US sales track, the ones who talk to us as candidates, almost everyone there, every three people we meet, sell better than some of the best people that we've seen selling here, over here. And a large part of it is due to cultural differences. It’s tough for us to identify where there's substance, and where it's just great showmanship, right? But for creating sales, you need more than showmanship, you need to be able to get into the nitty-gritties, understand what the customer is looking for, understand their pains, understand the industry, and sell. So that's from the selling standpoint, right?
The second is the customer. Are they facing the same sort of pain areas as the facilities in this country? If not, how do you identify them, right? How do you garner the goodwill of your customers to understand the differences over there? I think there, to a large extent, we've solved it by working with the largest global players in the world. For example, I think I mentioned a couple of names—Shell and Exxon are a couple of customers that we’ve worked with that have facilities all across the world, more than 80 countries for that matter. And as a result, central teams have a deep understanding of the pain points of each of the market segments. But then it becomes a question of, “Do I build a direct team? Or do I work with partners, right?” Partners, like, for instance, even you guys on the call—TCS and various other folks, consultants across the world, de-risk myself and then work with my own sales team.
And Kevin, it's been my experience that you can work with partner networks, but in a B2B enterprise sale, partners are aides. Nobody sells as well as your own sales team, and your own bread and butter. So, building out that star studded team that you trust—I think that's one of the biggest challenges out there. And, I'm sure that is one of the things that possibly you'd have faced as well. And hence, I was speaking to one the HR heads of Shopify, for that matter, during a visit in Canada, and I kid you not, they go through a five to six stage hiring process to bring in the people. And this is a startup, right? This is not a TCS that has, you know, a large organization and huge legacy. These are startups that are going through five-six levels for mid-level hires, right. And for even larger hires, I've heard of entrepreneurs that actually spend a whole day working, and just understanding what the day is like in the hire that they're looking to bring in before they bring them in.
And there are many different ways to do this. And I think a lot of that is custom to the company. But I think that's one of the biggest, biggest avenues of expertise that needs to be brought in to founding teams.
Kevin: So, Daniel, you and I share so many of the same observations and experiences. It's just always a challenge, when you try to step outside of your region, and try to replicate or duplicate what you have there, around the world, when the level of trust is not the same, the history is not the same, the culture is not the same, the business climate is not the same. So again, this goes back to…I just want to congratulate you for taking on that challenge of being both sides of that—the engineering and entrepreneurship there.
So, one of the other things in just doing my background research on DeTect Technologies, is really this comment, one of the goals of DeTect Technologies is to accelerate your customers path to Industry. 4.0. I'm going to just pause right there and say, first, what's your definition of Industry 4.0? Second, what are the inhibitors and obstacles that companies are facing on that path, that kind of prevents them from getting there? Let's stop there.
Daniel: Oh, that's very interesting. And a lot of that has to do with business model. So let me split that up. So firstly, what's my definition of Industry 4.0? Yeah, I work in the Industry 4.0 space. But I'm sure many people give different definitions. The way I look at it is most of the industries that you look at, across the world, are highly manually driven. The solution to most problem, historically, has been—send more people to site. For instance, let me give an example.
Assume I have a project with more than 1000 people at site, I have only a safety team of let's say, 15-20 people. Now, it is impossible for a safety team to be in all parts of the site at all points of time. As a result, you have incidents, issues, violations, happening across facilities, even the best run facilities, you always have a few of these incidents, just someone you know, a suspended load and somebody’s under a dangerous suspended load where there's a chance that the load could fall from the crane, and the person could die, right? And this is a problem that every company tries to de-risk. But the solution to that is, let's do more audits, let's send more people, right? And, this is not just in safety, for that matter. This is even in productivity—for planning teams to keep track of projects, right, you have the same set the same set of constraints. So, projects get delayed as a result of the same issues.
To me, what Industry 4.0 is… bringing technology to number one—digitize; number two—de-risk. And number three—cut down on the requirement to actually send people for each and everything. People are strategic resources, right? You don't want people to be just standing in front of a confined space entry taking an attendance as to when a person is authorized to enter a certain area or not. These are things that can be digitized. And the idea is put zero time on data acquisition and data analysis by people. And people should be spending time on execution and strategy. That's where the value lies, right?
So, any avenue in which you bring in technology to move towards execution and strategy of people—I think all of that comes under Industry 4.0. This can be done through various types of technologies, right? It could be done through, you know, IoT, it can be done through drones, it can be done through AI. The means is custom or subjective. But Industry 4.0 to me is that. It’s automation completely, in acquisition and analysis. That's what it is to me. Coming to...so sorry, I lost the second part of your question—you mentioned the obstacles that companies faced.
Kevin: Oh, yeah. Just, you know, what are those inhibitors or obstacles that prevent companies from just doing that? Because for you and I, in technology, some of the answers might seem obvious, but what are some of those obstacles that prevent companies from just doing those obvious things?
Daniel: Oh, yeah. Yeah, no, I mean, there's good merit to that. So now, Industry, 4.0 is a wave, right? Like, every and especially after the pandemic, it's become an even stronger wave to digitize facilities, right? So, what are the things are at play here? Number one—facilities want to shift to Industry 4.0. The intent is present, right? If you speak to any industry personnel, right now, everyone's going to say my organization is investing in Industry. 4.0. So now, they will be evaluating, let's say 20 plus, 30 plus companies, including large organizations, like the TCSs of the world, as well as startups that are using deep or cutting-edge tech to revolutionize, right? So, they'll be talking from the known players all the way to new players.
Now, the areas that we found that a lot of people get wrong in these adoption cycles is, and especially in startups, is many entrepreneurs, are in love with technology, and really love the technology, and spend a lot of time in selling that piece, or that concept piece to the customer. Less time is spent with the customer on the efforts of generating ROI or showing that ROI, and most of it is done in the flamboyance of digitization as a whole, right? So, as a result, many customers, you will speak to end up coming and saying, ‘Hey, I've done this Industry 4.0 stuff, it doesn't work,’ right? There's nothing that can replace people in your facility, right? And many examples in this nature, actually, disincentivize customers from trying it out. But many customers then improve or increase their diligence process, right? And a lot of it has to do with talking the language of the customer. So now comes the second problem with this is, these are large customers. You're not selling to startups, you're selling to customers that have been there for hundreds of years, right? Maximum, you know, probably 10-15 years. So, they have long, stringent processes of evaluation, they're going to evaluate 15-20 companies of merit for the scope that they're thinking of digitizing. And each of those 15-20 companies might be solving it through a different method, right? Now the management, inspection teams, maintenance teams, operations teams, safety teams, plant heads, all have to evaluate all pieces of technology and decide which ones do I have to bet on, and which ones do I have to go with, right? And further, they look at credibility, deployments, what the feedback of those other customers have been; and have they signed master framework agreements, in which case, someone else has taken a great risk on this company; which means, they've de-risked them—in which case, I can take that as well. But then that disincentivizes them to take large risks on companies themselves, they just look at who's proven it before.
So, it becomes a cycle of evaluation, startups, and what really, that management specifically wants to take through. And this process can be two months to about a year, right, for that matter, to scale up a technology. So, there are all of these moments at play. But let me tell you this, Kevin, is that in this industry, it is worth the effort, right? Because you can start with pilots of, let's say, USD10,000 to start off with, but the deals that you sign at MFA levels, even for entrepreneurs like us, can be upwards of USD25 million of recurring revenue from these customers, right? So that one-year effort is worth it at the end of the day, but you had to fight the long fight with these places. And these are the hurdles in place.
Kevin: So, one of the stated goals of your company Daniel, is to reimagine global industrial productivity. That's kind of a mouthful there. But let me just ask you, what do you mean by reimagine global industrial productivity?
Daniel: Got it. Got it. So, Kevin, I think the moment…the reason we've kept it as four words is because there's meaning behind each of them. Where are we driving value to our customers? It's in the productivity segment, right? Even avenues of safety, the levels of losses that you're reducing can go upwards of tens of millions of dollars per site. And each logo that you work with could operate more than 200 sites for that matter. By site, I mean, you know, a facility like an individual refinery or a chemical plant, right? So, industrial productivity is the area or the market that we are players in, right? And another piece is that when we talk industrial productivity, it is not just Indian facilities.
We are operating with customers globally. In fact, cutting edge top-tier logos across the world. And where that speaks volumes is that these are problem areas that are not faced just by a customer, let's say in Chennai, where I'm based out of, or a customer, let's say in Singapore, which is a very different market. But the areas that we are catering to are problems that are faced by customers everywhere. This can be in facilities in Nigeria, it can be facilities in Canada, where we're working. It can be facilities in America, Pennsylvania Chemicals, being one of our customers over there. Exonn Baton Rouge being one of our customers over there. So, we've seen that this works. Across the world, we are able to derive the same value, and same scaled up value. And we are doing this by bringing in technology that does not exist, or ROI that does not exist, or value that no industrial facility has seen a technology that can bring down safety, they see incremental value, they can see safety violations decreased by 5%, or 10%. We brought in technology that can do that by 70%, and 75%. These are tall claims and claims that we've substantiated through multiple deployments.
So, if anyone asks us, what does direct technologies do, we reimagine global industrial productivity, that's our bread and butter.
Kevin: Thank you for sharing that, Daniel. So, let's talk about the Internet of Things and how it impacts what your organization does, and what your industry does. So, I've heard this phrase, which is “sensing the world from a distance, and acting on it from afar.” And that's a phrase that I've seen describe the power of the Internet of Things. What do you think of that description? And then tell us how important is the whole Internet of Things in situational awareness to your customers?
Daniel: Oh, incredibly relevant. I mean, this is exactly what we do, right? And I need to know where you got that line, because that line is perfect. I’ve never heard it described that way—sensing the world from a distance and acting on it from afar—is a beautiful way to put it. But yes, I mean, I…that description is perfect.
I've seen facilities that, you know, have a centralized room in Bangalore, and operate sites in the Gulf of Mexico, for that matter, and have full visibility on exactly what's happening over there at all points of time. And they’re just a phone call away. We ourselves handle facilities centrally across all of the countries that I'm talking about and are further expanding across the world, and we're able to do all of that from locations like Chennai, for that matter. So, I think that's beautifully put, and I couldn't agree more with that description.
How important is IoT and situational awareness to our customers? Incredibly, and I think they're becoming more and more aware of it by the day, right? You see the biggest logos investing in teams that bring in IoT, bring in digitization, bring in…from things like camera infrastructure, to sensor infrastructure, to drone infrastructure, all across the spectrum, right? And what do all of these devices do? They bring your awareness to your engineers that are working at site, normally, the information stops there. People at site work on data, they tell their manager what happened. And that's it, that's where the buck stops.
Right now, with technology like IoT, which has been there for years. Like your SCADA systems, right, which are very well-known systems used to monitor several facilities, including solar panels. IoT gives you awareness all the way to the CXO level as to what exactly is happening at your site. And, that's the future. That is the present. That is the revolution and that is the future of where the industries are moving towards.
Kevin: So, drones, it seems like are really just an extension, right? They’re mobile sensors that you can load with all kinds of different sensors—multispectral cameras, and on and on and on. So, talk to us about, you know, some of the use cases that you see for drones in your area.
Daniel: Oh no, there are plenty. But you're right. I think when we started DeTect, you know, what was fascinating to us was, what kind of drones can you build, right? You had your conventional DJIs where you can fly, you can attach a camera, and they kept coming up with neat stuff, right? It can follow people, for that matter, you can control it a certain way to take selfies, for that matter, right? We started thinking, “Hey, you know what all can drones do for the industry?” So, we looked at visual, we looked at thermal imaging. Thermal imaging, we build tremendous intellectual property into how the analysis works on thermal imaging. The next step was, can you build a technology that can go in contact with structures? And you must have taken an ultrasound test in your life, right?
Kevin: Right, yes.
Daniel: You know, when a doctor, you know, applies a gel and takes ultrasonic thickness measurements. So, a very interesting thought with us was can you do that with drones? And if you're doing that with drones, you get an accuracy of 0.1 millimeter, without having to send a person anywhere, at site for inspection, right? So that is the thought process, and our team spent years… and we have a patent for one of the drones, one of the only drones in the world that can do that, right? And, then we started thinking, “Hey, you can use this the information from drones for a lot of things”.
You can use it for automating visual intelligence, thermal intelligence, ultrasonic intelligence, you can automate the integrity of your complete site, just by finding the drones in your site. And we moved on to then, as I think a fundraise activity is important, because even if you're not raising funds, it's important because you identify what your positioning is.
And as we were finding out who we are, as an organization, we realized we're not a drone company. We're a company that utilizes drones as a tool to acquire all kinds of details from inspections, you know, from stacks, boilers, furnaces, to, you know, your transmission lines, all the way to automating safety and productivity, including planning teams, across any infrastructure project, right, including the use case that I was just telling you about ultrasonic thickness measurements.
There is no end to what drones are capable of. Many companies are trying different approaches. We’ve stuck to reliability, safety, and productivity. But there's no telling, I mean, in the future, you could be looking at technologies where drones can be used to eventually wipe glass, clean up areas, start doing actual mechanical interventions. That's the next phase. Because right now drones are data acquisition devices. The question is, can they be used as execution devices? And that's something to be explored.
Kevin: That's fascinating. So, as you just mentioned there, drones are just another way of, very quickly, being able to collect more data. And there's all kinds of different sensors available for that same thing. Yeah, but it's easy, it's easy to get overwhelmed and matter of fact, drown in data. So that's where, at least my understanding, that's where the role of artificial intelligence comes in, and the ability to actually analyze, and then execute an action based upon what you've found there.
So, at a high level, because I know AI can be applied to every little process through algorithms; but at a high level, where do you see the role of AI, really having a big impact in your area?
Daniel: Kevin, AI is the future. It's the future of the industry. And I believe the industry is actually very well aware of it. If you look at some of the programs that the big players in the market are doing, from chemicals to oil and gas to constructions, there's a lot of work. It used to be knowledge share sessions, to deployments to actual scale of programs of AI technology. In our solutions, AI is the biggest piece.
Every single piece we put out in the market has data intelligence and automation built into it, or otherwise, we don't take the solution to market. It's a very core piece of the company. And right now, we're the fastest growing industrial AI company that's coming out of South Asian market, right? And we run AI on reliability, on productivity, on manpower efficiency, on authorization, on safety, all across the spectrum, right? And the reason we're doing that and the reason we've been able to garner top venture capital funding as well as top logo deals is because the industry sees that there are many things that humans would need to continue to do, but there are many things for which they are redundant activities, right? And that would account for close to 40 to 50%, of what is being done in the industry today. And, that can be completely replaced through AI to run more efficiently, more accurately, and with lesser costs.
And the more AI you build, it has a direct correlation to the amount of costs that you're saving, because it's automated, right? And given that the industries are now moving towards sectors like renewables, EHS, Green Technology, many assets want to automate as much as possible so that they can utilize their workforce into moving towards what the future of the industrial market or segment is going to be. And you see, the investments into EVs, the Teslas of the world and the sort of investments that even oil and gas majors are making into EV right now…a lot of what we do is enabling that transition, right, through these technologies.
So yeah, I think that will give you a quick snippet of the role it's going to play moving forward.
Kevin: When I look at the way the environment that we all work at, it seems to me that we all work in at least three different time dimensions, Daniel. One is kind of the human time, the circadian rhythm, a 24-hour clock, in which us as humans are limited by our need for rest, and downtime, and food and all of that kind of things, that humans have in their world. That's one time dimension.
The other is digital time, which is the speed in which our computers can work, our networks can transmit data, and collect data. So, that's the digital time.
The third is really, future time. And it seems to me that more and more in a competitive business environment, our ability to work in future time, where we can do predictive analytics, we can predict all kinds of things, is becoming increasingly important.
And if we can get good at working in future time, there's a lot of value we can harvest today from that. So, talk to me about what you think is the value of predictive capabilities in your market.
Daniel: Oh, in our market…I think, you know, across markets, Kevin, regardless of my own market, you know. So, if you are able to predict stock markets, for that matter, that's a multi trillion-dollar problem statement, right? And the Goldman Sachs of the world, many, many of them are trying to solve or at least bring in some metric of predictability. I think predictability is key and is what defines businesses. Businesses that are able to predict revenues, for that matter, end up being able to scale sustainably, right? And if you had, you know, an AI that could give you all of the metrics and the variables that you can work on to do that, or to run a business right, I think that's a multi-billion dollar problem statement as well.
So, I think it's a requirement in every market, right and even from you know, when you look at manufacturing that started back when, you know, Ford started their cars…a lot of why they were successful and have such a legacy behind them was because they had a vision and they predicted various aspects of the future. I don't even have to go to Ford. I can talk to you about something closer to home. Dhirubhai Ambani predicted that, you know, with a population like you have in India, you need to build the world's largest refinery. And to build the world's largest refinery, you can get all of the labor and contractors locally. You just need Europe experts to design facilities, and in fact, designed it at the biggest level of difficulty, right? And took risks, ended up making sure that all of the variables that could not be predicted were taken care of. And right now, it's the biggest refinery in the world. Nobody's even close, right?
So, predictability brings an edge into every business that you look at moving forward. What that plays a role in, in our industry is huge. If you're able to predict where…if I can save…in fact, Kevin, let me tell you, the risk in our industry. In our industry, if you delay an activity or a shutdown by even one day, 24 hours, if you delay it, you lose more than a million dollars in production, right? And delays happen in this industry for 40-50 days, in a year, right? So, that's the value over there. So, there's huge value into improving time, improving predictability, and improving safety, right?
For AI entrepreneurs, it then becomes a factor of how well you communicate that story, both to your investors, as well as to your customers. At the moment, that buy-in into that storyline is present, it becomes a reality. The moment your deployments start, and that's the dream that we've been taking to the market. And that's the dream that the customers have been realizing, with deployments as well. So, for me, that's one of the biggest parts of the changes in the markets that have really benefited, I would say, even DeTect as an organization.
Kevin: And predicting there's so much behind it. Like every technology we've talked about plays a role in that, doesn't it? So, as we get ready to wrap up here, Daniel, let me just ask as a kind of concluding question here. What's the next big think? The idea or trend that you see out there for oil and gas that you want to share with us today?
Daniel: Yeah, this one’s going to be a short answer. Because I think it can be illustrated in a few words. The next big thing for oil and gas is automated facilities, right? Complete automation.
Not just…leave aside, data acquisition, data analysis, right? Especially with the advent of COVID, you have a key requirement insight where, you know, the number of people have reduced significantly, because there's the automatic risk that you have, right? I'm sure, Kevin, you're probably working from home. Most facilities are working from home. So as a result, the next big think, step one, automate data acquisition, data analysis, right? That's something that facilities have to master. And there are players like DeTect that are enabling that across the world, right?
Then where do you go from there? I'm sure you saw the unveiling of who was it…was that Micromax, or somebody who's brought out a robot, which is similar to one in your Boston Dynamics, for that matter; and you're seeing robots that are able to, you know, you have stunt double robots, you have robots that are able to move around, perform functions that, you know, the militaries are looking to eventually fight wars for that matter, right? At least have that as a backup.
The next big think for our industries is to automate all of those aspects as well from execution, and eventually have us talk, really, about strategy. And this also follows the philosophy…I don't know if it was Jack Ma, or one of the other players in the ecosystem that ended up stating that the jobs that you're going to see, moving forward in a futuristic society, is majorly, where humans come in, as nothing is able to replace the brain right now. And strategy is going to be a big key component. And on facilities like dangerous facilities specifically, you would rather have robots take the risk of running these facilities, under the supervision of human beings.
And who knows within the next 50 to 60 years, you would be able to see that come true.
Kevin: Industrial automation and full automation of many of those areas. Thank you for sharing those ‘The Next Big Think’ ideas with us today. And again, Daniel, thank you so much for sharing your journey, and your experience. And we all here, sincerely, wish DeTect Technologies the very best, and we hope you accomplish all of your visions and ambitions. Thank you very much, Daniel.
Daniel: No, thank you so much for your time, Kevin.