TECH Meets BUSINESS
Site Sensing Inc. develops and provides products and services using three technologies : Tracking People&Vehicles , 3D Modeling and Face Recognition. This venture company has been attracting attention as a result of the active sales and publicity activities of their CEO, Takashi Hirabayashi. They are gradually establishing a name for themselves in the world, and the “3D Modeling Service” in particular, was the recipient of the Tokyo Innovative Service Encouragement Award.
President & CEO of Site Sensing, Inc. In 1983, he completed his master’s degree course in architectural engineering at Waseda University. In 1992, he obtained an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the USA. Thereafter he worked as a management consultant at Arthur D. Little Japan, A.T. Kearney, and the McKenna Group. In September 2008, he joined the Venture Development Department of AIST. He founded Site Sensing Inc. in June 2012, and was appointed President&CEO.
A company formed from a collection of advanced and excellent “measurement” technologies
― Tell us about the events that led to the establishment of Site Sensing Inc.
I used to belong to the AIST Venture Development Department (currently the Innovation Center for Startups.) I encountered numbers of technologies, and using my knowledge accumulated as a management consultant in the past, I looked after startups. At that time, I was initially responsible for “Face Grapher”, which is now one of our company’s products.
Then in June 2012, Site Sensing Inc. was established, and we were designated as an AIST technology transfer venture company. The following year we moved our office to Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo.
After this initial startup, actually I had one more startup company with two technologies. With the aim of having a collection of basic “measurement” technologies, we merged with “Kodo Lab Inc.” This had been founded by then an AIST researcher, Dr. Kourogi, who currently holds the central technical role within the company, which led to the present Site Sensing Inc. As a result, we are a venture company with three fascinating technologies, which is very rare.
“Face Grapher”, “PDRplus” and “3D Modeling Service” are all based on measurement technologies.
― What kind of service is “Face Grapher”?
“Face Grapher” is face recognition and attribute measurement software. By mounting it in digital signage or on a tablet, it is possible to do surveys of the attributes of customers and measure the effect of advertisement contents.
Face recognition technology has been in use in Japan for many years, but almost all of them are used for face authentication to check whether the person in the photo is the same as the person that has been registered in advance, to solve so-called authenticity problems. On the other hand, “Face Grapher” is a face recognition technology that measures the age, gender, and smile level of unspecified people.
It can perform authentication of DRM of the measurement results in the cloud, accumulation of contents, schedule maintenance, and collection of measurement results, preparation of graphs, etc., for visualization, which can be displayed on a PC.
For example, it can tell the demographics of people looking at digital signage, whether they think it is interesting or not.
― What kind of technology is the product “PDRplus” based on?
Position measuring technology using GPS is well-known, but the radio waves from a satellite actually do not reach indoors, underground, and inside a tunnel, etc. The accurate position measurement thus is difficult with GPS. In other words, GPS doesn’t do a good job when it comes to tracking indoors and underground where most of our industrial/commercial activities are held.
“PDRplus” adopts an independent navigation technology called Dead Reckoning(DR). Applying integral calculus to accelerations from 9-axis sensor, DR estimates, by calculation, the position from a reference point even in places where radio waves do not reach. The measured data is displayed for visualization in an intuitive easy-to-understand manner for individual flow lines, for multiple flow lines, and in heat maps of dwell time.
Methods of use include determining the status of work in factories and plants with a mixture of indoors and outdoors by measuring the movement or dwell time of workers, analyzing the working rate, distance traveled, and traveling routes of vehicles such as forklifts, etc., to measure the efficiency.
The entire system used is rather simple. It consists of just beacons set at reference points, and a sensor module, smaller and lighter than a smartphone, to be attached to the target to be measured. It is used for marketing by measuring the actions of consumers at commercial facilities, and for improving productivity by measuring the actions of workers at a factory.
― Give us an overview of “3D Modeling Service” and its advantages.
This is a service to produce a 3D digital model by combining photo images of a subject. It uses a unique technology for combining images, and it has received the “Tokyo Innovative Service Encouragement Award”.
Our 3D model is produced from multiple images obtained from an omnidirectional camera. The delivery time therefore is short, and its production cost is low. The volume of data so small that it can be simply viewed over the internet or on a smartphone.
As a result of these characteristics, the 3D Modeling Service is our company’s most active business.
It is being used by many large companies mainly in the construction industry.
The target buildings are various, such as high-rise buildings, residential buildings, cultural facilities, restaurants, etc. The original images can also be processed. A construction machinery, for example, can be deleted from images. The roof can be removed to show an internal view of a facility, etc.
And also, a 3D model can be produced from a single old photo or from a picture drawn with perspective, even though the original object no longer exists, so historical or cultural value can be created.
‘We are strengthening our technical innovation and sales power, and beginning to focus on expanding overseas”
― What are the issues with expanding your three technologies, and what are the measures to resolve them?
The measurement technologies are excellent, but I feel that our expansion capabilities are still insufficient. If one of the technologies is attracting attention, we become busy with it, and there is insufficient manpower for expansion of the other technologies, and to be honest, we have insufficient finance to expand the business. It is necessary to further develop and improve each of the technologies in accordance with our customers’ wishes.
It is thus necessary to strengthen our sales force and create a system to enable a stable supply. Certainly, it is necessary as a venture company to manage risk, but we are always ready for a rapid growth after our startup period.
― Tell us about the future expansion of the business and your vision for the future.
We surely want to expand within the Japan market, and if the opportunity presents itself, we want to expand overseas. To date, we have had inquiries about “Face Grapher” from Singapore, and have made a delivery to Thailand. As a result of exhibiting at “GITEX Technology Week 2017” held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in October 2017, we obtained very high interest in “PDRplus” in particular.
What I felt in the past as a management consultant was that when a venture company expands, it achieves extremely fast growth in a very short period of time. Fortunately our technologies are beginning to attract attention, and we need to spread our technologies in order not to miss the opportunity for growth.
* The contents of this article are based on an interview held on February 23, 2018.
Site Sensing Inc.
A 3F Wako Building, 1-15-6 Uchikanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0047
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