Innovation Interview: How Indoor Robotics makes our lives safer
What if we could improve the security in our workplaces and homes with an autonomous, affordable and powered AI solution?
Indoor Robotics, an innovative start-up from Israel, has developed Tando, a cloud-based software platform able to manage a drone fleet to detect and predict security threats.
We have asked Doron Ben-David, CEO and Co-Founder at Indoor Robotics, to let us know more about the idea and path behind this disruptive project.
Your company was founded in 2018 with a very ambitious vision: “We believe that by using robotics, humankind can create a better, more convenient world for ourselves”. How did Indoor begin, and how did you start to make that vision a reality?
With this vision in mind, we got on the road. Indoor Robotics is our (the founders) way to make the world a bit better, and to get our vision closer to reality.
Indoor Robotics is based in Israel, a country that has been referred to as the “Start-up Nation” and is recognised as a world leader in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship. In your opinion, what makes Israel such a fertile ground for creative start-ups?
A lots was already written and said about it, but my 2 cents are:
- Mandatory military service. This gives young people (18 years old) the opportunity to get a lot of responsibility (manage tens and hundreds of soldiers, be responsible for their wellbeing as well as lives) and early access to state-of-the-art technology.
- The “Israeli Mother” cliche is kinda true. Our mothers want us to be doctors, engineers or engage with other leadership occupations. Judging from my family, I believe that the roots are in what happened to our people during the holocaust. It kinda made either fight to prosper part of our DNA.
- Geopolitical situation. Israel has had to endure a consistent external threat to its security from surrounding neighbours, a situation very unique that not many other developed societies have had to face. Through this struggle, it made it mandatory for us to find innovative ways to keep safe.
Your main project is named Tando, the first indoor drone fleet for security, inspections and operational tasks. Please, tell us more about the technology and its intended impact for society.
At Indoor Robotics we developed the needed stack for an autonomous indoor drone to map the environment, localize itself inside it, and navigate from one point to another. While this can be done with no humans in the loop, we can automate those little data collection routines in premises, such as security patrols, preventive maintenance inspections, and others.
The problem with those inspections is that they are dull repetitive tasks that no human enjoys doing. Furthermore, it became a real hustle to recruit employees for those, which at the end damages the safety of the people who travel in the premises, as well as critical equipment which could cost a lot of money to repair (and add additional cost during down-time).
Drone technology, initially used for leisure and military purposes, has spilled over into lots of practical market applications such as delivery services, precision farming, surveillance, and security. In your opinion, what are the challenges and opportunities this industry is currently facing?
At Indoor Robotics, we do not see “Drones” as our industry. Rather, drones are tools. There is no “hammers” industry, rather construction. We are using this wonderful tool to solve a very disturbing problem. Others tried to solve this issue with other tools (e.g. ground roaming robots), but at least for the time I’m writing those lines (2021), ground robotics is just too expensive to penetrate this conservative market.
The main challenge behind drones for indoors is autonomy. It’s a no-brainer to fly a DJI drone indoors. But taking it to the next level, allowing it to autonomously land and take-off, charge its batteries, navigate, avoid obstacles and perform complex missions – this is the challenge we solved at Indoor Robotics.
I believe that, in the future, we’ll see more drones indoors, inspecting underground tunnels, pipes, etc.. Think about your local municipality detecting sewer problems in real time, or the facility management company detecting a malfunctioning A/C vent before all the food in the refrigerating room is thrown away.
The main challenge behind drones for indoors is autonomy. But taking it to the next level, allowing it to autonomously land and take-off, charge its batteries, navigate, avoid obstacles and perform complex missions – this is the challenge we solved at Indoor Robotics.
Regarding your EU Funding experience, Indoor Robotics secured a €2.44M grant under the EIC Accelerator Programme. How has the European Commission supported the development of your project?
As a deep tech company, we are developing the classic “high-risk” project VCs tend to keep distance from. Raising those funds from the EIC allowed us to de-risk the development, and to on-board more investors who were sharing the risk now rather than taking all of it.
In addition to this grant, you decided to apply for blended finance and were in fact one of the first companies ever to receive equity funding from the EIC. Can you share your thoughts about the due diligence process?
The EIC Fund instrument is a great way for the EIC to enjoy the fruits of the grant support. It’s a very innovative instrument, as it is a government investing money in companies for equity. They now share a much higher bond with us because if we succeed, they will succeed, which is great.
The due diligence process itself was quite long but, as you mentioned, we were one of the first companies to receive this opportunity. It was held by the EIB (European Investment Bank) and luckily, we enjoyed working with the EIB’s staff during the process.
You had the opportunity to pitch your project to the EIC jurors face-to-face. Can you give a piece of advice to start-ups out there who are about to face this challenge?
At the end, we did our preparation by asking entrepreneurs who already faced similar jurors what they were asked, and making sure we had good answers.
Therefore, I think that the best advice is to come prepared for this show. It’s a 10 minutes pitch, with questions afterwards, so the key is to be prepared and confident about what you do. As the founder of the company, you probably understand stuff that they don’t about your business. You just need to make sure you know how to explain it in a short manner and in a way the average person would understand.
For us, being involved in a project with this potential has been a great pleasure. How has Evolution helped you with your funding strategy?
We found the high proficiency Evolution provided as a real asset. We felt we had someone “watching our backs”. We enjoyed the very sincere feedback about our proposal, got someone to give some critical review of our stuff, and foresee possible chasms we missed.
Looking into the future (and perhaps preempting a question our readers will have), when will we see Tando drones in our homes and offices?
We are launching the product these days. We actually have several pilot sites installed, and we are gaining hundreds of hours of autonomous flights indoors. In the next few months, we hope to start delivering the first systems to our early adopters.
Thank you, Doron, for sharing Indoor Robotics’ story with all of us. From Evolution, we wish you the best of luck in your future plans to develop a more secure world.