In the golden age of data, businesses in media, communication, and commerce were some of the first to adapt their operations to work directly with the newfound aggregation of consumer data. Sensors and AI, in particular, have become ubiquitous parts of the tech startup zeitgeist. We have a few startups in Batch 26 that are trying to not only demystify the overuse of terms like sensors and AI, but also utilize the technology for substantial change in the realms of travel, retail, and more. 

Taking the Headache Out of Flight Delays – Pilota

Not many founding teams can say that they have visited over 100 countries before diving into the travel business. The founding team at Pilota has an immense love for travel and one of their team members is even a licensed pilot. Traveling frequently, they often grew frustrated at the frequency of flight disruptions and the all-too-familiar headaches that come from trying to book new flights due to delays and cancelations. In 2018, they founded Pilota, a service that applies machine learning to predict flight disruptions for passengers and automatically re-books a traveler’s flight for free. 

 “We are at a key turning point in the travel industry where legacy players are finally looking to emerging technology and startups to help them stay on top. Pilota is one of the first movers in this space to infiltrate the market that is finally ready for a product like this.” – Saniya Shah, CEO of Pilota 

Since founding, the company has already presented on the mainstage at top travel conferences like the Phocuswright Summit. 

Increasing Accuracy in the Car Insurance Industry – Predina 

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) reports that approximately 52% of all accidents occur within a five-mile radius of home. To no surprise, when the team at Predina came out with a product that applies AI to compute how accident-prone a location/road segment is at a given time, most customers were quick to check the areas around their homes first. 

The team has over 20 years experience in risk scoring and pricing for auto insurance, they were inspired to create the product because “Vehicle accidents are a global problem that affects everyone regardless of their socio-economic background. Our mission is to reduce the impacts and costs of accidents – starting with auto insurance” said Bola Adegbulu, Co-founder and CEO of Predina. 

By analyzing more than 14 million historical accidents and other factors, such as street intersections, weather conditions and time, they will provide location intelligence to power how both innovative auto insurance startups and incumbent insurers price risk fairly and profitably.

The Predina Team

Cleaning up Commercial Real Estate Data – Mero Technologies 

When Cole MacDonald was working at a commercial real estate company as a data analyst, he found that much of the logistical data, like the cleaning staff timesheets, were still recorded on pen and paper. He would have to enter the data manually and the resulting spreadsheet was used as the single source of data for multi-million-dollar contract renewals. Needless to say, the data was unreliable and spurious, and he set out to create the technology that started Mero.

Mero Technologies provides a smart route map for cleaners in commercial buildings by retrofitting sensors to analyze traffic and consumables in real-time, such as toilet paper and soap. “The sheer size of our market combined with a practical approach to providing value from Day 1 of installation gives Mero a unique blend of long-term growth potential and short-term speed of customer acquisition” said Co-Founder, Nathan Mah. 

While the team admits that they have gotten a few strange looks from spending so many hours in public restrooms for research, they remain determined to bring efficiency to the space. 

Bringing the Data Revolution to Brick and Mortar Businesses – Butlr

From autonomous cars to consumer products, data and technology have transformed the majority of industries over the last 100 years. When co-founders Honghao Deng and Jiani Zeng took a look at the history and design of architecture, they didn’t find the same kind of data-driven disruption. 

“We started the company to advance the technology evolution in architecture. Butlr’s sensor network capture human dynamics through the lens of state-of-art sensory and AI without violating privacy. It detects user behaviors and indoor positions without using video footage, understanding users’ need to achieve seamless automation experience, prevent risk, and optimize business.” – CEO and Co-founder Honghao Deng 

With a team that met at MIT and Harvard, Butlr hopes to disrupt the science of retail by providing store owners with the data that will allow them to craft advertising and marketing ads in real-time, predict and respond to changes in consumer trends and spending habits which ultimately improves conversation rates and completely changes the shopping experience. While they started with just the retail space, they have big hopes in the long-term to translate their technology into use cases that span all smart cities. 

Butlr Co-Founders, Honghao Deng and Jiani Zeng

Increasing Autonomous Accuracy – Omnitron Sensors 

LiDAR is known as the “eyes” of an autonomous vehicle. It allows for the cars to see what is around them and make real-time driving decisions based on current conditions. When Eric Aguilar was working with LiDAR, he realized that the system would consistently falter under high vibrations and temperature changes, things that often occur in a car.  Just as human eyes depend on other senses to stabilize our field of vision, Aguilar hopes to build novel silicon photonics processes for a new scanner used for safety-critical systems in self-driving cars and drones. The result is a new application of sensor technology to improve autonomous vehicles. 

As Aguilar puts it, this technology “is the pathway to bring LiDAR to the mass market; it’s cheap, scalable, and small. Omnitron is innovating at the device physics level of silicon to bring a new age of sensor products. Omnitron’s solution leverages the benefits of MEMS technology, while critically de-risking the endemic problem with LiDAR through our proven silicon process IP.”

Moving Forward

Investing in sensors and AI is nothing new for 500. For AI in particular, 500 has invested in over 80 companies with artificial intelligence at the center of its business in the last ten years. We look forward to continuing our investment in these types of companies going foward.

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