24 March 2022 16:03:29 IST

Harnessing tech to Detect 

Daniel Raj David, CEO and Co-founder, Detect Technologies | Photo Credit: Bijoy Ghosh

For many years, men used to walk a few kms every day in the difficult terrain of Assam to monitor pipelines of Oil India Ltd (OIL) to check for pilferage, sabotage or leaks. Today, drones, cameras, sensors and thermal sensors (placed inside pipelines) are slowly replacing them with advanced surveillance systems using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) by Detect Technologies, a Chennai-based start-up, which was founded in a lab at IIT Madras.  

Daniel Raj David, AS Harikrishnan, R Karthik and Tarun Mishra, alumni of IIT Madras, in 2013 brainstormed in a lab in the mechanical engineering department to find a solution to arrest the leaks in oil pipelines.

In three years, the idea led to the formation of Detect Technologies, which today helps large companies keep critical assets such as oil pipelines, power lines, and ports, safe and secure. 

Starting with refineries to detect and monitor such leaks using sensors and drones, the Chennai-based industrial AI and SaaS start-up expanded its services across 11 sectors. Its presence is today in facilities of large customer sites of Shell, ExxonMobil, Reliance Industries, BPCL, IOCL, HPCL, CPCL, Tata Steel, and Adani. 

At OIL, the company implemented the project to get a complete visibility of crude oil delivery lines and flowlines across large areas and ensure their security. Prasanta Borkakoty, Resident Chief Executive, OIL, said that the project would assist the company to lower miscreant activities, faster response to security, health, safety and environment issues and result in enhanced productivity, profit and safer operations. 

In February 2020, the company released T-Pulse. Using a dashboard, in real-time, an official can see if a person is wearing a helmet; working dangerously or resting. T-Pulse is an integrated AI platform that ensures safety compliance.

It seamlessly integrates with visual sources like cameras and drones to draw accurate insights and identify safety issues across industries. “We have reached up to 90 per cent reduction in safety observations in many facilities,” explains David.  

Analysing images, videos

During Covid, for a client, Detect’s product, T-Pulse, analysed image and video footage with AI-driven algorithms to identify violations in face mask usage and social distancing. These real-time observations enabled the site team to act decisively, counsel people, and improve site safety and social distancing compliance. 

At Vedanta Group’s Hindustan Zinc factory, T-Pulse could also identify a total of 129 violations in five days. This included a crane in use with unattached hooks; a layman resting at the work site. After the surveillance system was introduced, the violations reduced to just one a day. There was real time tracking of the sites. There was 95 per cent increased efficiency in production due to reduced downtime. 

These are a few examples of how the start-up is changing the landscape of detection and surveillance in industrial sites. “We provide technology that automates the detection of safety, surveillance and enhances security, and use data acquisition with automated analytics,” says Daniel Raj David, CEO & Co-founder, Detect Technologies. “We offer our solutions in ten other sectors, including power and construction,” he added. 

It all started in 2013 at the small lab in IITM. Tarun Mishra invented a unique metallic amorphous material that could withstand high temperatures up to 350 degrees Celsius. He started working with Reliance Refinery in Jamnagar, and the company officials started visiting IITM.

“I was in my second year at IITM and was working on Tarun’s technology. Along with other students, we decided to build a solution for the oil industry to arrest the leaks in the pipeline. We collaborated with Reliance; went to the field and started being exposed to all kinds of problems. This seeded what we are today,” said David. 

Interdisciplinary team

The starting of the venture was quite interesting, says David. “We were the first group at IITM that assembled an interdisciplinary team involving computer science, metallurgy, mechanical, chemical to engineering and physics. We advertised in every hostel seeking students if they are willing to be in India’s next big start-up. We had 20 people then, and all are with the venture even now,” he adds.  

IITM incubated the company in 2016 and provided it with a small grant and options for loans in the early days.

The two key pillars that the team looked at were workers’ safety and asset downtime (predictive maintenance). “We noticed common problems across the oil and gas sector and slowly all major companies started working with us,” he said. The idea was to build industry-trained intelligence. 

Data acquisition could be from cameras, sensors or drones for pipe monitoring with a one-stop solution platform to predict failure of any asset and to identify all of the safety violations as per international norms and standard.  

“With data sets increasing at a high pace, we want to end up as Google and Facebook in this space — industrial digital transformation or industrial AI SaaS. We are one of the fastest-growing companies in this space globally,” he said. Detect Technologies has so far raised just over $16 million from various investors, including Accel, Elevation Capital and Bharat Innovation Fund. 

“With data sets increasing at a high pace, we want to end up as Google and Facebook in this space — industrial digital transformation or industrial AI SaaS. We are one of the fastest-growing companies in this space globally.”Daniel Raj DavidCEO & Co-founder, Detect Technologies

A Unicorn in the making? 

In the last five years, the company has been growing at 5X in revenue, and could well be a Unicorn in the making. Clients pay a service fee for the quantum of data that the company processes and a subscription fee and usage on top of it. “We identify the problem and suggest recommendations or insights for them to act but the decision is up to them,” he said. 

Krishnan Balasubramanian, Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT Madras, said, “I have been a part of and monitored the growth of Detect Technologies from its infancy, with a unique technology advantage, to now a professional corporate company with global relevance and is a paragon of deep tech SaaS companies.”

“IITM and the Center for Non-destructive Evaluation are proud of what it has accomplished and look forward to more breakthrough products and solutions in the future,” he added.