As a follow-up to the company pitch that ran earlier this week, StartUp Beat conducted a Q&A with Parimics CTO Axel Kloth and CEO Royce Johnson. Comments are welcome below!
SUB: Who do you consider to be your primary competition? Is it companies like iRobot?
Royce Johnson: iRobot would be a perfect customer of ours. They make military and security robots that could use the power of our video analytics processor. Whenever you have a complex visual environment to deal with, our solution is unmatched in performance. There are quite a few companies out there providing vision systems and high performance processors. Some are focusing on niches that do not overlap with our solutions. Others are focused on general purpose processing solutions that require a much more complicated software solution. DALSA, Matrox, National Instruments, TI, Intel and Freescale as well as MobilEye are respectable companies with good products, but we believe we have a unique solution to address the challenges of a wide range of vision system problems. We are the only advanced chipset specifically designed to solve advanced vision system challenges.
SUB: What are your target markets, specifically?
Axel Kloth: Let me expand on your question a bit since it might not be immediately clear where we fit in. Parimics helps users analyze still images and videos, without having to rely on people. That sounds abstract, but it is not. In effect, we enable advanced machine vision. Most security surveillance systems rely on people actually watching monitors and, unfortunately, break-ins often occur when those guards are not watching. That method of security is not reliable or efficient. The same is true for sorting trash and recyclables; that is done by people today. I would not consider that a sanitary or healthy environment. I would not want to perform that job. Jobs like this can be done by machines.
There are many more applications for our technology, such as advanced medical imaging, air traffic control, and automotive driver alert systems. Considering that every year customers buy about 50 million vehicles, there is a huge market for automotive vision systems that can handle the complexity of typical driving environments. Cars have become a lot more intelligent over the past few years, and they already avoid lots of accidents with smart driver alert systems. We would substantially improve upon that. An advanced driver alert system based on our technology would be able to recognize an impending collision with another car or truck or bus, and alert you to take counter measures before it is too late. Eventually, our advanced processors can handle the complexity of automatic driver guidance systems. Imagine the impact on driving safety!
We can also help accelerate drug discovery. Current technologies cannot rule out toxic drugs fast enough for scientists to move the drugs with good prospects into the next phase. We can help with that screening process. Parimics’ technology can reduce the time it takes to run drug discovery image analysis from several weeks to less than half an hour. Medical diagnostics is another area where we can help tremendously. An MRI machine captures cross sections of your body. The data it generates is too much to handle in real-time for current solutions. We process this amount of data in real-time and allow doctors to see what is hidden inside these cross-sections, not slice by slice, but in a projected 3D-view of your body.
We are currently focused on defense and security applications, and medical image analysis. But the number of markets needing advanced vision capability is exploding. We can address problems in robotics, video surveillance, defense, medical analysis, driver alert and control systems, manufacturing quality control, video and image search, and much, much more.
SUB: Explain a little further how your product is a paradigm shifter, as you claimed in your pitch.
Axel Kloth: Parimics’ architecture is novel in its hardware and software approach to image analysis. We are very specifically targeted towards image analysis and image analysis only. We don’t run Word or Outlook or Firefox. Our chipset is not a general-purpose processor chipset. Special-purpose processors have been successfully deployed in cell phones, in video cards for graphics output, and in other applications such as automotive engine control units. We have taken this successful approach and applied it to image analysis. So it is instruction- and energy-efficient, and it’s easy to use and program. The Parimics platform combines state-of-the-art processors and open-source based software development kits and integrated development environments. All of these components combined with sample code and two fully integrated vertical solutions will make it very simple to create machine vision applications.
Our processors and the development tools are being designed with ease of use in mind. In fact, we put effort into making sure that every possible machine vision application can be written or generated with the least possible effort on the side of our customer. We anticipate that once we have all of our APIs and subroutines done, it will take us less than 12 man-months to implement our first complete vertical. With four programmers it could take as little as three months to implement a whole new vertical if a customer decides to do so.
SUB: How do you generate revenue? Are you profitable at this point?
Royce Johnson: At this time, we are building our initial prototype. We expect our markets to be very profitable since we are providing our markets with an opportunity to greatly improve productivity and reliability at lower costs.
SUB: How are you marketing your products? Do you plan to expand your marketing, moving forward?
Royce Johnson: Most of our markets are dominated by a small set of suppliers. We are contacting market leaders in each market we pursue. Of course, we expect to expand the number of markets we address as we grow. At this point in time, we are very focused on getting customer wins in high impact market
SUB: Are you looking for funding? Do you anticipate looking for funding in the near future?
Royce Johnson: We have been self-funded to this point. We are now looking for help to complete a very robust prototype and SDK. Design wins will then make subsequent funding much easier.