Robots with binational DNA
Brazilian-Canadian Startups bring artificial intelligence to everyday life and show that science fiction is a thing of the past
by Maria Emília Farto
The intercom rings and, when you open the door, you find a robot that brings you an order inside a cabin; casually, you open the lid and take the product — which has been properly sanitized by a UVC-ray system that eliminates harmful microorganisms, including SARS-COV-2, which causes covid-19. At the shopping mall, another robot navigates along the corridors carrying someone’s lunch, and delivery happens just as naturally. In another city, Agatha, the artificial intelligence used in the surveillance camera system, prevents theft by alerting the security team, in real time, about the suspicious behavior of two people at a particular location in an industrial condominium.
All these scenes could very well be on a science fiction script, but they are already part of everyday life. The delivery robot is Ada, an autonomous vehicle adopted by iFood, a Brazilian food delivery platform, as part of its delivery system at the Iguatemi Shopping Mall and in some residential condominiums in Ribeirao Preto, a city in the interior of the state of Sao Paulo; Agatha is already operational in more than 5 thousand cameras, covering around 250 thousand people a day in the city of Sao Paulo.
In addition to artificial intelligence, the two stories have another point in common: they both come from a new generation of startup companies, the Brazilian-Canadian startups. Known as a world reference in the development of artificial intelligence, Canada has increasingly attracted Brazilian startups, as it offers a mature innovation ecosystem and a series of programs to support their development.
Many of the Brazilian startups arrive in Canada attracted by acceleration programs of incubators certified by the Canadian government. This was the case of Data H, which, after being chosen to be incubated at the Spark Centre, had mentoring programs that helped to understand its vocation as an AI venture builder and continues to operate in both countries. “We created Data H in Brazil in 2016, focusing on the production of applied artificial intelligence. In Canada, we were supported by a mature ecosystem, which allowed us to understand our identity and explore our full potential. The initiatives that have enabled the creation of Brazilian-Canadian startups have brought technologies capable of transforming various sectors of the world economy,” says Evandro Barros, CEO of Data H.
A spin-off from Data H, Synkar, creator of Ada, in addition to operating in Brazil, has been incubated since 2019 at the Spark Centre, where it also participates in the DMZ and Communitech acceleration programs. “Despite having just joined Communitech, Synkar is already reaping the rewards of consultancies and connections in the mass production scale journey we are embarking on in 2022”, says Matheus Theodoro, CEO of Synkar.
Part of the journey that Theodoro refers to is the beginning of the export of Ada, with its production completely sold until 2023 and companies from Ireland, Canada, Portugal, Malaysia and Brazil waiting. The CEO says that the application of autonomous delivery robots is not just about optimizing and improving already known services. “With the autonomous vehicle technology that we have developed, our goal is to make our delivery robot similar to a smartphone: a device that allows the creation of numerous applications for and from it”, he compares.
“With the autonomous vehicle technology
we have developed, our goal is to make the delivery robot something similar to the smartphone: a device that allows the creation of countless applications for and from it”
Another success story resulting from the rapprochement between the two countries is Kevares, a platform for managing autonomous robots. “The Brazil-Canada combination is powerful. The startups selected for Canadian acceleration programs stand out globally”, observes Joel Tavares, CEO of Kevares, also incubated at the Spark Centre and with high expectations for 2022. The company started pilot projects with robot-dogs, from Unitree, in inspections for the civil construction and electrical sectors — distribution centers in Kingston, Canada, and in historic São João del-Rei, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. In April, the startup moves towards integrated operations between four-wheel robots, robot-dogs and drones. In parallel, the operation of delivery robots will be expanded in Brazilian and Canadian universities and residential communities.
Agatha is an artificial intelligence platform focused on behavioral analysis, created by NoLeak Defence and recognized by Singularity University as a technology that could improve the lives of more than 1 billion people. Founded in Brazil in 2018, this security startup started its operation in Toronto in 2020, after going through the Next AI acceleration program. Since then, NoLeak has been through the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) and is currently part of Communitech. It was invited by the Canadian government to participate in tests in a 5G environment in the country. “Our projects are in Brazil, but our presence in Canada is essential, because it puts us in contact with people who are references in artificial intelligence around the world. This is the foundation of Agatha”, celebrates Rafael Libardi, CEO of the startup.
The openness to new markets, a mature innovation ecosystem and the multicultural environment, factors considered fundamental in the world of startups, make Canada the gateway to a world without borders, especially when it comes to the technology market. “The digital market has no physical limits. It is almost mandatory to go abroad to really become a successful startup,” observes Cezar Taurion, one of the most renowned AI experts in Brazil.
The robot-dog has the technology of autonomous cars, complex sensor system, strategically placed cameras and design with “paws”, which facilitates movements such as going up and down stairs to inspect dangerous places
Regina Noppe agrees. She is the CEO and founder of Dream2B, which has led more than 50 companies to Canadian acceleration programs. “When I started to take Brazilian startups in 2016, the world only saw Silicon Valley as a possibility of growth for technology startups,” she says.
According to experts, the time is ripe for Brazilian startups to seek internationalization, and Canada is the ideal platform. “Brazil is still a closed market. The main point in the relationship between Brazil and Canada startups is that an international experience is extremely important. Unlike the Brazilian reality, Canada is a country where you make it happen, it has a new style of doing business and offers opportunities to talk to mentors who have another perspective,” emphasizes Taurion.
In addition to the favorable conditions that Canada offers, another sign that this is the right time for internationalization is the level of quality and maturity of most local startups. “In the areas of artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, we have a lot of things done well here in Brazil — entrepreneurs with vision, technological training. I am absolutely sure that more and more this Brazil-Canada relationship will be extremely positive, including for the global market. I have seen many successful experiences and I hope it will continue that way”, observes Paulo Perrotti, President of CCBC from 2017 to 2021.
According to Perrotti, health issues, combating fraud and services in general, including financial services, should be the main focus of investment and application of AI in Brazil. He states that the Brazilian market is demanding and eager to adopt new technologies, which contributes to the exchange of knowledge. “It is possible to say that, among the countries in the world, Brazil can be considered an early adopter when it comes to innovation. Canadian infrastructure technologies, especially smart cities, AI and blockchain, will certainly have great applicability to provide new services and meet society’s demand, especially with regard to public services, retail and financial services.”
Sherry Colbourne, CEO of Spark Centre, an incubator certified by the Canadian government to select startups for the Startup Visa and through which several Brazilian startups have passed, sees a lot of affinity and positivity between Canadians and Brazilians, including in the way they behave. “Our ethos is ‘work hard, play hard!’” And she adds: “Brazilian startups bring cutting-edge technology, phenomenal courage and, most importantly, a generous contribution to the culture of our innovation ecosystem”. The executive defines the future between the two countries in one word: “connection”.
Despite the appearance of a pet, which could initially refer to the domestic world, the robot dog is widely used in the construction industry and in the provision of government services — such as electric power operators. Its shape with “paws”, for example, makes it easy to go up and down stairs and move around to inspect dangerous places.
In its evolution, some robot-dog models have incorporated the technology of autonomous cars and have been expanding their range of applications. To fulfill their mission, they train the identification of obstacles, such as people, animals and objects, among other variables that form the set of information needed to make decisions. Their complex system of auxiliary sensors allows immediate detection of obstacles, and they complement this information with images captured by strategically positioned cameras.
All the information collected is processed by an artificial intelligence platform that analyzes it and passes it on to the location and decision algorithms, guiding the robot on the path to follow or the action to take.
CCBC promotes trade mission focused on artificial intelligence
The Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce promotes the World Summit AI Montreal from May 2 to 6, 2022. According to Arminio Calonga Junior, from the business development area at CCBC, the mission is intended for startups and companies that work or use a large amount of artificial intelligence in their operations or businesses.
Montreal is a world reference for AI and that is why CCBC’s mission includes an exclusive complementary program, in addition to the event.
In addition to a three-day agenda with visits and meetings at companies and universities, the program includes participation in the World Summit AI Americas, an event that brings together the entire AI ecosystem, startups, academics, investors, business leaders, all major technology companies and world-renowned speakers.
“Our goal is to increase interaction between Brazilian and Canadian companies and present Brazilians with AI applications from which they can benefit”, says Calonga.
Service: More information can be obtained by e-mail: [email protected]