On this episode, Clue CEO, Oded Ran, speaks with David Gaw, CEO & Founder at Sensera Systems, talking about their site vision and video tracking technology for the construction industry.
About David Gaw, CEO & Founder, Sensera Systems
David Gaw is an entrepreneur, having founded 2 companies and been the first hired executive in 2 others over the past 24 years. His first company, Coactive Networks, a pioneer in m2m/IoT, created some of the first hardware/software systems to connect devices such as thermostats to the Internet in the late 1990’s. Gaw has worked in various technology areas including wireless broadband, robotics, and AI software. He founded Sensera Systems in 2012 with the goal to dramatically simplify and reduce costs for remote monitoring systems by combining wireless and solar power.
About Oded Ran, Co-founder & CEO, Clue Insights | Angel Investor and Board Member
Chief Executive with track-record building and scaling mobile, SaaS and eCommerce businesses. Hands-on leader with early stage start-ups (Clue Insights; TouchNote), scale-ups (Retalix/NCR) and Fortune 500 companies (Microsoft).
Passionate company builder exceptionally well-versed in all aspects of driving revenue and profit growth, business operations, product development, marketing, and data/BI. MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.
Read the Transcript
Oded Ran (Clue) (00:08):
Hello and welcome to another episode of The Full Scoop. My name is Oded Ran, and I’m Co-founder and CEO at Clue, the hosts of this show. And today we have with us David Gaw, who is the founder and CEO of Sensera Systems. David, great to have you nice to be here. We’re going to have today a cool technology that we’ve not shown yet on this show. And David, please introduce yourself and tell us about the company you founded.
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (00:34):
Yeah. So my background goes back quite a bit. I originally was a software developer for a number of years out of grad school. I started in the area of robotics, so that kind of gave me an on ramp into IOT. And I’ve kind of stayed there for most of my career since then. So, you know, we started Sensera Systems about seven years ago, we launched our first product in the market six years ago, and really set out to take some of the knowledge that we have in IOT to really bring construction into the modern age, sort of helped digitize construction, but really focused on the execution side, the construction side field execution side.
Oded Ran (Clue) (01:17):
Brilliant. So what does Sensera do?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (01:20):
So we provide real time site intelligence. So we’re really aimed at closing the loop of construction. A lot of work goes into creating a plan, both the building model and then the execution plan, but really to deliver that project on schedule on budget, on quality on safety, you have to close that loop and that involves gathering a lot of information as the project is executing and ideally tying that information to the plan and where you should be. And we do that today, primarily with site cameras. So we have very easy to deploy visual monitoring solutions that give project teams the ability to see exactly what’s happening in real time, but also to automatically capture the visual documentation of that project as it goes forward.
Oded Ran (Clue) (02:10):
So you deploy multiple cameras at the job site, and then you enable, I guess, all the stakeholders to see what happening in the site. Right?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (02:18):
Right. And, and the way that way that really looks to the, to the customer is there’s, there’s a handful of value propositions we’re supporting for them. One is, is productivity on the project, making sure that the project team can keep it on track. A second is safety and risk. So cameras can be used to impact risk by capturing a near misses and incidents. And then using that to fold into training and determining root causes and so forth. The site security, we also support collaboration with stakeholders, particularly the owner is also a very important one that, so those are some of the value propositions really that our customers are coming to us for.
Oded Ran (Clue) (02:56):
And typically, who are the people who end hiring you to do that? Is that the owner and developer is that the general contractor?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (03:04):
It’s mostly the general contractors. So we have about a thousand general contractors today that use our solutions. It’s, it’s, it’s sometimes owners as well. They’re really invested in being able to have the right type of technology and the right type of visibility on the, on the project. So they’re often involved.
Oded Ran (Clue) (03:23):
So let’s have a live demo and then talk a bit about the must be so many crazy things you’ve seen throughout the years. And we’d love to hear by that. How about you share your screen? And as we see the system in action, we can talk through a few of these things. Sure. And those of you who are listening to the podcast, instead of watching it on video, we’re going to start to do more and more live demos of things. If you’re listening to this in the car, you can later on go to our website and then watch the recordings as well. So what are we looking at right now?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (03:53):
Yeah. So you can see one of the screens here of our site cloud systems. So the way we deliver our solution, it consists of field hardware, cameras that are solar powered, easy to deploy. And then those are connected through typically through the cellular network, to our cloud system. And this gives project teams from a desktop and mobile, the ability to see their projects. In real time, we’re looking at an actual project here. The system is configured to automatically collect all kinds of imagery over time. So a lot of it can be sort of set and forget. Anytime a project team wants information, they can log in, look at historical information. The system support a number of different types of imaging modes, including real time recording. So the system can be recording continuously. And when there is a question or an incident, or, and that can be not only about safety, but it can be about quality. Was that step done correctly? I can go back and look at that. And this tool is available across the entire project team. There are a number of different ways to share this information. We support different types of sharing from public URLs to integration with third party construction, software construction management software, we’re integrated with Procore and Autodesk and Plangrid and tools like that. So that also allows teams to get that information out to a wider audience across the company. Oded Ran (Clue) (05:21): That’s brilliant. And, and we spoke separately about many of our customers at Clue who are heavy civil, and I’m guessing lots of your projects will be more in the residential shopping malls, skyscrapers and the like, or deals that?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (05:34):
Yeah. We, we, we serve a pretty broad swath of construction. It does concentrate in building construction, commercial building, I would say of all sizes. And, and we do get into some civil, one of the, one of the advantages, of course, civil projects be more horizontal. Typically you, you know, there’s a lot of ground you have to cover, but our solutions being portable and solar does allow them to relocate those systems very easily as the project progresses.
Oded Ran (Clue) (06:02):
And that’s exposes a URL. So it’s very easy to integrate. Right?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (06:06):
Exactly. Exactly. So there’s, we have a couple levels of integration. We have a full set of API APIs as well as simple public URLs that are hosted, that can be embedded in websites.
Oded Ran (Clue) (06:17):
Beautiful. Looking forward to any of that, that, that looks awesome. So tell it, let’s talk about a few of the use cases. Let’s start with safety. Any story? No, no need to mention any names, but of a case where your system was used in the context of safety.
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (06:32):
Sure. One of the ways that the system is used, there’s some very straightforward ways that it gets used for safety. A safety manager has put forth some procedures to be followed guidelines for this particular project. They can easily look over time and determine whether people are generally following those guidelines. And if they’re not, do they need to emphasize that in the, in the morning meetings, maybe that’s one way, another way is the recording feature. You can set up cameras to record continuously. And then when there’s an incident, I can simply click and retrieve that footage and share that across the team, the, before the during and the after and determine what really, what, what really happened. And do we need to change our training? And of course, what actions do we need to take with respect to that incident? And that can be an incident involving people, or it can be an incident involving just how a step was done in the process, right.
Oded Ran (Clue) (07:28):
Has that already happened? I hope it hasn’t happened because human lives involved, but have you had the misfortune to be involved in one of these cases?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (07:36):
It has. We have, we have had our cameras capture incidents or even deaths. So you know, it does happen. It’s, it’s, it’s rare, but that’s, that’s why you want to have the system there so that when you do capture that, learn from it and take corrective action.
Oded Ran (Clue) (07:52):
Absolutely. And I mean we all hope it’s going to become more rare and more rare until the system is just used for prevention. Of course. And let’s talk about other aspects of that safety we discussed from a security perspective. Do you have companies who actually use this as their construction equivalent of a ring camera.
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (08:12):
Right. We have a whole range of different camera models and some of those models are aimed specifically at the site security application. And those models allow you to set zones that you want to have automatic detection happen. And that detection can be configured to route to whoever you want. On the project team. We don’t currently offer sort of automated call the police. These are tools that are in your hands to do as you want. So you can get alerted in real time. Those same systems get used. In addition to site security for after hours intrusion detection, they also get used operationally, for example, if I want to have an image capture a every time a vehicle enters the site, that can be important to know how many deliveries were actually made. So those same security camera models can be used to capture that those events of vehicles coming and going off of the site.
Oded Ran (Clue) (09:08):
Brilliant. Let’s continue talking about the company and building it. So we’re in 2020, and I think it’s hard to believe you started the company six years ago. Right. And that was, if I remember correctly, five years ago, I could not really video call my family. You know, we didn’t have LTE, we didn’t have 4G I don’t even remember if we had the 3G, did we have 3G maybe in some areas, right?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (09:33):
We had mostly 3G, barely. Right.
Oded Ran (Clue) (09:37):
And it was a slow 3G. It was more like 2.03 G…. But how have these things affected you really? What have you seen that you scratching your head? And can I imagine that in five years we moved so far along?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (09:51):
Yeah. Well, certainly cellular capabilities have, have, have grown quite a bit during the last five years, as you point out that helps us. It makes video more feasible costs per gigabyte have come down. So all of those things make it, make it more feasible, right? For us to deploy, we do deploy most of our systems on sailor. It really provides a great user experience. They don’t have to worry about reach of their WiFi, or maybe they’re running on generators and all of that kind of thing. So that’s been very powerful driver for us.
Oded Ran (Clue) (10:23):
And do you place most camera on cranes? So let’s talk about the typical installation. Someone is looking at this and things, you know what? This could help us in our site. What’s the process from the second they call you until they have the system working.
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (10:41):
So that, that’s one of the, one of the things that we’ve really focused on. It’s a differentiator for us in the market. Our systems are very portable and self-contain. A solar powered system weighs less than 10 pounds. So it can be really placed anywhere. We do deploy them on cranes so that you can have an overhead view as you saw, but really anywhere on the site, they can be put on a roof of a building across the street. And one of the things we’ve worked very hard on is the automatic provisioning. That means from a customer standpoint, they can receive a system from us and have it up and on the cloud with no technical expertise and within 20 minutes. And so that’s important to project teams, right? As I remind, remind our team all the time that construction companies have been building buildings without cameras since the Roman days. So they can do that, but it, they want to see it be really easy, very simple to deploy. And so we’ve had great success in serving customers in that way.
Oded Ran (Clue) (11:36):
And let’s talk a bit about the technology really. So from a power perspective, you do have solar cameras, meaning they do, they can be non powered, correct?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (11:43):
Correct. Yes. That’s primarily what we provided there. Solar and battery powered. So if there’s no sun, they’ll continue to run off a battery for, for days or weeks.
Oded Ran (Clue) (11:54):
I’m in sunny, California, but if you’re operating it anywhere where it’s a snowy for three months of the year, how long would the battery be able to last? Because I’m guessing power consumption is an issue.
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (12:04):
Yeah, it is. And we have, that’s really a cornerstone of some of our core technology is that low power capability. So we have cameras that can run for 10 days on the batteries that they have. And so we’ve got cameras deployed, you know, as far North, as Canada, Alaska tough areas, Portland, Maine, Michigan, actually near the lakes is not a good solar place. As some people may know.
Oded Ran (Clue) (12:30):
And have you, the technology itself, have you worked with manufacturers in the US or in China to produce their own version of the camera – tell us a bit more about the hardware itself?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (12:41):
So we’re, we’re a little bit unique in what we’re, we’re a highly integrated platform. So we designed in order to achieve the performance that we do in solar operation and low power operation. We have a very tightly and highly integrated systems. So we develop the hardware and the firmware that runs on the cameras. And we develop our cloud system. We actually manufacture here in the U S I mean, we certainly use some off the shelf components. We’re not making imagers or lenses, but we’re incorporating that as you probably know, these days, cameras are really more about software and processing than anything else. And so we do all that to give us really a seamless user experience, lower cost, easier deployment. So we manufacture here, we currently serve customers, us and Canada, and a growing set in the internationally. We just installed cameras this last month in Sweden, in Australia.
Oded Ran (Clue) (13:33):
That’s great. And so what at the moment excites you by the journey of the company and then for the next a few years,
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (13:40):
I think that in this endeavor to really help automate construction and bring better results through technology, we’re at the very, very early stages. And I have been in markets before that were really at that technology adoption stage. I like that it’s very exciting. It can be frustrating as a technologist, as a company, but it’s very exciting. So to see the changes that are happening in construction and that are yet to happen is very exciting to me. I think that we’ll see more and more maturing of solutions and solutions that, that maybe have been around a while, but really starting to have a bigger and bigger impact on construction outcomes.
Oded Ran (Clue) (14:20):
Good. And one of the technologies that is fantastic practices in visual analysis is machine learning. And let’s talk a bit about that. What have you been able to do already to date and what is your roadmap looking like for the next year integrating machine learning algorithms?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (14:38):
Yeah, so, you know, there’s two parts that what we do today is fairly simple. So within our security product, we do the intrusion detection detect people in cars and things like that, sort of where they’re not supposed to be on site. There are a whole set of potential applications, I’ll say within construction to process that visual image imagery to detect events and things of interest on the site. So we’re starting to do that. We’ve, we’re enhancing our site cloud to have the capability and incorporate multiple analytics algorithms to operate on that imagery. Having been now in the market a while we have tremendous amount of data that we’ve collected from thousands of projects that allow us to train those systems and to deliver that functionality. I think what we all, as an industry have to be a little careful of there is to make sure where we’re, we’re solving problems that need to be solved, and that can be solved sufficiently to impact the business for right.
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (15:37):
So there’s certainly a lot of things that can be done with machine learning is very exciting doing that in an outdoor environment over long ranges is challenging. And so I think we’re at probably peak hype cycle on AI machine learning right now. So we have to be a little careful about sort of a trough of disappointment with customers, but there are absolutely applications in construction that can be very positively impacted with, I think, machine learning and automating the detection in general, in general, what we’re doing with site cloud is going from that data to information to insights. Ultimately what the customer wants is tell me whether my project is on track or not. And that’s what we have to do as, as technology providers is to work up that stack and give them that answer they want at as high a level as we can.
Oded Ran (Clue) (16:27):
How far do you think we are from a future in which one could use a system like Sensera for supervision? So for example, I’m thinking about a query that would be able to analyze whether the excavators are as efficient in their trips and the dump truck is as loaded, perhaps even combining that with telematics, which is a side of things, Clue does because I envisage, you know, from our perspective in the cloud, we see all the telematics, we know the location, but we obviously there’s no visual element. Right, right. Do you feel we’re a year away, three years away from being able to combine both elements to start to basically help companies optimize and tell them, Oh, look, this could have been optimized. There’s an issue here. Maybe the grade is wrong or the loading is suboptimal and so on.
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (17:15):
It depends on really defining the problem as narrowly as possible that, you know, in automation, that’s kind of the name of the game. And there are certainly applications, I think for machine vision in the equipment side of the business, as you’re pointing out, trying to detect automatically behaviors of the equipment, what are they actually doing from moment to moment there’s applications around detecting how much material is in a location at a given time, those kinds of things. So I think they’ll come, but it can take some effort. I’m not a naysayer. I’m very optimistic about what could technology can do, but there’s a long history in technology, adoption of technologists, overestimating how fast something can go. And actually this is the good news underestimating, the ultimate impact that it has. Right. And you can see this in a number of different threads of technology adoption in it over the years. Right. So I think we’ll see that here, but it’s already happening now. And that really, the thing is engaging with customers to know what, what is the next best problem that we can solve and sort of stair-step that way that’s something that I think is a good, a good approach again.
Oded Ran (Clue) (18:29):
So what are the things you are currently focusing on, or maybe I should ask, what are the things you are currently losing sleep?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (18:37):
Well, I mean, we’re all losing sleep on the pandemic, of course, and, and how that will ultimately impact construction, which things are permanent, which things are temporary about. That’s certainly one thing, but I think, you know, there’s a tremendous sort of number of nuggets of solutions out there and what we’re trying to do now, I think as an industry is look at really how that gets adopted, right? So I think we, as, as an industry, we have to work a lot closer together, the technology providers and the customers to bring those things together, right. Marry that with specific business processes. But as we know, technology can change the business process. So we have to build that trust so that we can help them change that business process to take advantage of a technology, help customers understand what’s possible with technology and what isn’t, or what’s hard, and what’s easy so that we can all really make that happen. Awesome.
Oded Ran (Clue) (19:31):
So we always end with a, with a question, which is, if I gave you now a field day to play with any piece of equipment, which one would it be for you and why?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (19:42):
Heavy equipment. Yeah, probably, yeah. You know, those cranes that use electromagnets to pick up
Oded Ran (Clue) (19:48):
We haven’t had one of these in the show yet. Okay.
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (19:51):
That just seems amazing to me. Right. Cause I get how you can have a very large screen grab something, but the electromagnet thing I think would be really fun.
Oded Ran (Clue) (20:00):
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (20:02):
And of course, anything related to demolition, because it’s kind of like the, you know, the antithesis of construction. So, you know, demolition things would be fun.
Oded Ran (Clue) (20:11):
That’s great. So anyone who wants to learn a bit more by the system, we’re going to have a link at the bottom of the recording to your system, to the website and David, if anyone wants to get hold of you directly, what’s the best way to reach you?
David Gaw (Sensera Systems) (20:25):
You know, I’m on LinkedIn or my email, David at SenseraSystems.com, happy to hear from people.
Oded Ran (Clue) (20:31):
Fantastic. So we’re going to put both of these links up together. I very much look forward to seeing how we can work together with customers that want to get both the visual side of things and telematics, like you said, sometimes we wish them to take longer the shorter story, but it takes longer to implement. But there’s no question that by marrying all these various technologies, construction can become much more efficient. So it’s great to have you and looking forward to staying in touch about all things. Thank you. I appreciate the time. Fantastic. Thanks David.