Reading the supply chain

Selected as the cargo logistics finalist to join this year’s IAG Hangar 51 global innovation programme, AllRead Machine Learning Technologies (MLT) is a startup providing automatic, accurate extraction of structured text, symbols and bar codes in supply chains. We caught up with the company’s CEO, Miguel Silva-Constenla, and COO, Adriaan Landman, to find out more.

How does the technology work?

Using the latest advances in deep learning – an artificial intelligence function that imitates the human brain in processing data and creating patterns for use in decision making – we have created  software that processes images taken by mobile or fixed cameras and digitally extracts the relevant alphanumeric information in a single ‘look’.

Our recognition model is “trained” to read the specific codifications of our clients, and the software is easily integrated in the existing processes. For instance, connecting our software to a security camera to read the IDs of containers passing by and send the data to the existing information management system. The software can also be used through a mobile app, empowering the user to extract, in a single shot, the codification appearing on a product. There is no need for any specific hardware.

What can you measure using the tech?

AllRead MLT spots, reads and digitises a wide range of information including serial numbers, sensor or meter readings, bar codes, vehicle registration plates – you get the idea! We believe that it takes character recognition technology to the next level to improve tracking and monitoring tools in supply chains.

How and why did you develop it? What inspired the tech?

Our reading solution is the result of five years of investigation in the field of computer vision at the Computer Vision Center at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). This scientific innovation has been published, patented and fully implemented in our software.

What stage are you in development and what is your outlook for the future?

The software’s solution was initially used to read meters for a gas company. Following this we spoke to over 100 companies in different industries – from pharmaceuticals to automotive – but it was the logistics industry that stood out to us.

Our short-term goal with IAG Cargo is to reduce inventory taking time by 80% using a mobile app that captures and instantly digitises container numbers. The existing process involves writing down the number of containers on-site and reintegrating the findings manually into the server. In the long-term, we want to use fixed cameras to ‘see’ and monitor in real time where every container and pallet is with the click of a button – removing the need for inventory.

By establishing the most efficient use of containers and pallets, we believe that we can use this technology to help airports and airlines improve fleet management, reduce bottlenecks and increase customer satisfaction.

What do you see as the biggest benefit of the technology?

Companies are under immense pressure to digitise their operational processes and increase their efficiency. Despite living in the modern, digital era, text is still omnipresent in value chains and supply chains ­– for example, serial numbers, ID codes, sensor readings, expiry dates. These all represent valuable data and convey important, semantic information that needs to be digitised.

By reducing manual tasks and replacing inaccurate, expensive technologies, our solution increases efficiency and boosts data management. Most importantly, our solution is “frictionless”: it adapts to the existing processes, and offers accuracy exceeding current industry benchmarks without the need for major investment.

How did the Hangar 51 programme go? How did you find working with IAG Cargo? 

We believe the programme came at exactly the right moment for us. We have enjoyed a great balance of professionalism and fun when working with IAG Cargo and they’ve ensured that key partners have been involved every step of the way, which is essential for a startup as you want as much exposure to important stakeholders as possible.

The cross-department support that we’ve received from IAG Cargo has propelled our business forward and we’ve not only learnt a lot about the airline industry, but also about organisational structure, processes and the little things that help to make businesses run smoothly on a day-to-day basis.