Pittsburgh is now home to the innovation arm of an international security tech startup.
Founded in 2018 in Munich, Germany, security camera application startup Azena finally unveiled its Innovation Accelerator, and announced new business partnerships and growth plans for Pittsburgh at an event on Thursday.
The startup is fully owned and funded by the Bosch Group, though it remains independent of the technology services company, which itself has a research and technology center here. The Azena accelerator is adjacent to that center, filling out another spot in the Strip District’s Robotics Row, where Aurora, Argo AI and Petuum also have offices.
“We now have a team of more than 120 employees worldwide [with our] headquarters in Munich, Germany, and our engineering team in Eindhoven, Netherlands,” said Adam Wynne, the director of the Innovation Accelerator for Azena. “And now we have this team here in Pittsburgh, called the Innovation Accelerator, and so we’re very excited. We’ve grown geographically, and we’re really starting to make a mark on this industry.”
That industry is one of smart security camera applications. Azena offers a library of applications in artificial intelligence and computer vision from development companies that can work on any camera model. Some of those include software that can detect whether or not someone is wearing a mask, seat occupancy monitoring, traffic pattern analysis for pedestrians and vehicles alike and falls prevention observation.
Once customers decide on an application, they can customize it to their needs, Wynne said, and put responsive measures in place, like blocking the opening of a door when someone isn’t wearing a mask.
Some of the applications caught the eye of the Pittsburgh Penguins, where team leaders envision use cases for similar camera monitors in the PPG Paints Arena.
“We intend to use many of the features and applications such as heat mapping, queue detection — which speaks directly to the beers and restrooms and hotdogs and things of that nature — ingress and egress monitors so it’s easier for you to get into and out of the arena, parking flow improvements and other technologies that will continue to allow us to excel in a multitude of variables,” said Erik Watts, the CTO for the team, at the press conference.
Wynne shared that Azena has already rolled out some of these features for soccer stadiums in Europe.
There were no other local partnerships that Azena could share publicly, but Wynne emphasized that the purpose of the Innovation Accelerator in Pittsburgh is to provide a central place for problem solving across software developers, camera manufacturers and security system integrators or installers.
The space features the typical combined open plan and closed-off individual offices of a coworking space, including a full kitchen and large windows providing a view of the surrounding neighborhood. The Innovation Accelerator also uses some of the security technology Wynne described, including the mask detection feature for anyone entering the space.
Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald were both at the unveiling event, and commented on the significance of an increased presence from Bosch in the city, as well as potential applications of Azena’s tech for public safety purposes.
“We’ve instituted a ShotSpotter system throughout the City of Pittsburgh, in which we are now able to find people who have been shot, in some cases when a 911 call never comes in, or much before a 911 call comes in,” Peduto said. He added that he has hopes that the city will continue to partner with Azena on future applications that will bring Pittsburgh closer to being a smart city.
Fitzgerald underscored the significance of Azena choosing Pittsburgh as its first U.S. office, saying that, “We welcome people from all over the world because Pittsburgh really is that place where the next the next thing is happening.”
Chris Martin, the director of research and development at the Bosch Research and Technology Center later added to that sentiment, saying, “Pittsburgh is the best place, certainly in the U.S. to bring an R&D dollar, and we hope to repay that tenfold.”
Local political and tech industry leaders aren’t alone in seeing the potential of Pittsburgh. Earlier this week, Startup Genome released its highly anticipated Global Startup Ecosystem Report, which ranked Pittsburgh in the top 25 emerging markets. The report also lauded the city’s performance, access to funding and strong foundation in advanced manufacturing in robotics.
“But the real important thing — forget about all of that,” said Fitzgerald. “I just want to know when I go to a refreshment stand [at a Penguins game] to get a hot dog, and I want to know how long it’s going to take to get back in between the break, that the Penguins will now be able to tell us that.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-