In Conversation with IRIS R&D Group
What is IRIS? Describe your company.
In a nutshell, IRIS is a data platform company. It’s a privacy centric, smart cities data platform company, using computer tools like this one for sending a pdf file via sms and AI machine learning models to automatically detect assets and defects and other matters of interest.
By matters of interest, we mean, for example, how many people are waiting in the bus shelter at any given time, how many people are in a concert or looking at the street art, how many people are going out of the store. Data collection at IRIS revolves around privacy, people’s faces are automatically redacted so the camera is never picking up any private information.
It’s really important when you talk about the data collection and how automatic, easy and robust data collection is, it’s important in the same breath to say IRIS gathers data without private information being collected. And it is something we’ve patented to have proprietary ownership and take very seriously.
What is your name and title?
My name is Emil Sylvester Ramos and I’m the CEO of IRIS. I’m responsible for the strategic vision of the company, its execution and business development.
I’m David Keaney. I am Co-Founder with Emil. I’m a CPA, CA, so I came on really focused on the business, administrative and corporate side of things. As a start up, it’s really important to ensure there’s enough financial capital available to execute your business model and we are focused our operations on solutions and products.
What inspired you to start IRIS?
Emil: We saw the normal, manual process of how municipalities collect and assess information, such as roadway data, pavement conditions, right -of-way assets and their condition – all processed manually.
Being part of Regional Innovation Centres, I have come upon this emerging technology called Artificial Intelligence that can potentially automate the manual processes municipalities and enterprises do to collect and analyze data.
Our approach is always client centric. We first established that there was market pull for the proposed solution before we started building any technology. Having our first revenue contract signed, we then assembled a team and started building Q4 of 2019.
David: That is a result of us, Emil and I, being a start up that is a bit different than a lot of start ups out there, whereby we use the customer solution focused approach as opposed to many start ups that build some great technology with fantastic bright minds behind that but then they have to go around and find a solution to solve. We took the opposite approach, we found a need and then applied the right technology to that need.
Who makes IRIS? Describe your team.
Emil: There are no employees here at IRIS, as everybody have skin in the game and are willing to go above and beyond what is expected of them. What enables us to continuously meet and exceed our client expectation is the amazing teamwork we have come to embrace and continuously hone. And really having the right people in place to meet these commitments. Of course there needs to be corporate oversight, there needs to be somebody who’s done it before and, therefore, can lead the team. That’s where David and I come in. My experience is in rapidly building niche companies that address a demonstrated market opportunity. David has the financial prudence necessary for any company to stay healthy, operational and revenue generating.
David: Any start up is attempting to break new grounds and create something from scratch that hasn’t been done before and that’s not easy to do and you need that start up mentality that Emil just spoke about. It’s required to support that team, so what makes up IRIS is a team that is focused on operations, technology and business development. And we’ve got some great leaders in all of those functions.
How big is your team?
14, with a couple part time employees.
What kind of person will succeed in your company?
David: I just simply love seeing how smart team members are at the end of the day! We encourage people to open up the creativity in their minds and display their intellect and how smart they are. We don’t focus on experience in a particular area or activity, because as a start up, there are things in front of us that we cannot even imagine right now that we are going have to deal with in a forward looking way. What we need to have is skillset and capabilities on staff, intellect, smarts, stability to have good professional judgment to address and attack these new elements that keep coming at us every time we move forward.
What inspires you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
David: I’m fortunate enough to have quite a number of years of experience by me and I find that these last few years working with Emil and IRIS has been the most fun because, at the end of the day, it excites me to see how we’re building something from scratch. We’re able to now have 14 full time employees most of which have ability to support their families to some extent because of the business we’ve developed. So giving back to the community in the way of creating jobs and creating opportunities for people to provide value, is exciting. It’s more enjoyable seeing that than most other things. It brings one back to the idea of how can you contribute to society. It is a primary objective of what you do on day to day basis. And I am able to do that with IRIS.
Emil: What excites me is that we are truly delivering tangible and measurable economic, societal, and environmental impact to Canadian communities using AI and machine learning. There is no greater high than pioneering, being in open waters, breaking new grounds, discovering new business horizons with our partners and clients. Here at IRIS, we love solving problems, celebrating our small wins on a daily basis and finding new ways to do ordinary things, extra ordinarily well.
What is your special talent or a hobby?
David – searching for the best game apps to make money, golf, skiing, yacht racing.
Emil- swimming, basketball and hanging out with my 3 boys! But where I truly find satisfaction is building things and taking on emerging opportunities. The exercise I love to do is to try to find ways to organize my personal day to day life that is going to benefit my business life. If I go out, I’ll go to places where I am going to find people who would help me with my business and learn new opportunities such as networking events, hackathons, etc.
David: I’ve observed what Emil special talent is – it’s meeting and forging relationships with people. He does it better that anyone I know.
What are some current projects you are working on?
PCI – Pavement Condition Index, it’s something that we have patented. It’s the ability to use our models and automated data collection solution to provide civil engineers in cities with the state of their roads, their pavement condition index which is a civil engineering standard that helps cities maintain their capital plans for road maintenance. It’s very expensive for cities to do that with current legacy solutions. Our technology substantially reduces that so we’ve got a number of deployments providing PCI data for clients and we are looking to enhance that capability and expand and scale in that product line.
The other project we focus on is forging partnerships globally. We’ve set up a partnership with a Japanese company, with our first deployment going to a city outside of Tokyo. We are in discussions with a number of other partners, related to the sector we are in, the smart city sector, in Australia, US and other countries.
We are seeing great results on our partnerships with engineering consulting firms in Canada. And we are looking to expand that globally.
How can we assist you? What is your current ‘ask’?
Everyone who has heard our story so far has responded with a personal story of themselves of how they can see our technology working in different fields, sectors. Readers of this article can help share that information with us, that can maybe lead to partnership and exploring other opportunities that we may have not even realized.
One word that describes TechPlace to you?
When you focus on executing your business strategy, it was just so convenient to have a boardroom, to have own office, to have all the facilities, even on Saturday, all day.
How can we contact you?