Rather than picking a single problem and solving it, Australian technology company Lakeba Group is hedging its bets, using AI to unearth a range of business opportunities, commercialising the underlying technology components as well as applying it to industry-specific use cases.

So far the Manly-based company has identified seven commercial ventures, including the Shelfie, a joint venture with Microsoft, and Paid By Coins, a payment service that lets users pay their bills with cryptocurrencies, which Mobecom recently acquired a 80 per cent stake in for $6 million.

Giuseppe Porcelli, Lakeba Group CEO, spoke to Which-50 about how the company approaches innovation and commercialising its ideas.

Giuseppe Porcelli, CEO, Lakeba Group

Lakeba Group’s neural network is able to determine the sentiment behind the text software developers have entered on internet forums, websites and blogs. The algorithm then presents these business challenges to Lakeba’s innovations team, where 100 full-time developers blueprint and build new technology.

But before anything is built, the machine’s ideas also have to pass by the humans, including an internal panel and, in certain cases, external professionals who the company has existing corporate relationships.

“There is a committee of business people, analysts and scientists that sit together once a month in the business and altogether analyse the outcome of the data and try to think about where that solution can be applied in which industry,” Porcelli said.

“We validate first internally and then we validate it with an external partner. If there’s two ticks in the box for us then we consider that is an opportunity.”

The company has a strong focus on solutions for financial services and retail, but is also planning a major healthcare launch in the next few months.

To generate revenue, Lakeba makes the technology it builds available in the form of an SDK (software development kit), that can be licensed to any software developer, as well as coming up with specific use cases designed to showcase the technology’s potential.

One of the most prominent products out of the Lakeba shop is the Shelfie Robot, a drone which uses computer vision to recognise stock levels on retailers’ shelves.

A joint venture with Microsoft, the Shelfie uses robotic technologies with image capturing and data analytics running on the Microsoft Azure cloud.

For its part, Lakeba Group built the SDK which is able to identify differences in images taken over different times. In the case of the Shelfie it can tell when there are fewer products on the shelf. But the tech can also be licenced by other developers for use cases in other industries like or aerospace or agriculture, Porcelli said.

Although the Sheflie’s customers now include global retail giants like Walmart, Home Depot and Tesco, Porcelli argues the technology has not scaled globally, until it’s in the hands of the global developer community.

“Once we prove the technology, the way we scale it globally is to go to the software developer community and show them what we learnt, how we fixed it and how we commercialised that,” he explained.

“So we license them the SDK and they are able to reuse our software pieces in other verticals, other industries, and start making money for themselves.”

“So if they make $10, we make $1.5. If they make $1 billion we make $150 million.”

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