© 1702ai

About 1702ai

  • Founders: Joe Levy
  • Founded in: 2017, Zurich, Switzerland
  • Employees: 6
  • Money raised: via bootstrapping, investments and subsidies
  • Ultimate goal: Prevent (mass) shootings with the help of our SAMSON weapon detection software, and be a benchmark in this sector

Cameras that can detect weapons in the street. This could help security services prevent attacks, according to the Swiss start-up 1702ai. Founder and CEO Joe Levy explains what he and his team have developed.

What does 1702ai do?

“We have been developing AI software that enables security cameras to detect weapons. During our first test that attempted to detect knives, 1702 images of real-life knife attacks surfaced in our dataset. This is also where our name comes from. Now we are focusing on small firearms.

In threatening situations, the software recognizes a weapon and automatically alerts the security services. They receive a photo and a video from the software system in which the weapon is circled in a delineated area, a sketch of the suspect and an indication of the situation on their cell phone. If you have a shooting in, say, Amsterdam, the officers who respond to it already have a good idea of the situation because they have footage. “

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How did the idea come about?

“I always wanted to do something with video analytics, but I didn’t want to become a police officer. After wandering around Apple, IBM and after a stint as a director in Hollywood, I ended up at the best forensics lab in the world in Lausanne, Switzerland. I showed them our weapons detection MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and explained what we were doing at 1702ai. I understood that there was an appetite for weapons detection software. There I got to work with videos of real attacks.

It’s also a personal concern. Someone I worked for 20 years ago was murdered. For twenty years, I toyed with the idea of developing software that would enable you to prevent something like that by detecting a weapon. After several collaborative projects with the Swiss government and the Red Cross – where we used VR to simulate dangerous situations, I got into a conversation with the chief security officer of Ben-Gurion airport in Israel. His account of the shortcomings in camera security was the final push we needed.”

In which situations could software from 1702ai have made a difference?

“Do you remember the attack on Charlie Hebdo in France back in 2015? There, two terrorists went into the newspaper offices heavily armed with Kalashnikovs. People called the police about the shooting and then an officer with just a pistol was sent in. Suppose this police officer had received images on his cell phone of the terrorists with their machine guns. Then he would have immediately called for a SWAT team. That’s how you save lives.”

What challenges did you face when developing your concept?

“Getting and keeping a good team together. We were blackmailed by a former employee who claimed that everything we developed was his. So I decided to start all over again from scratch with programming our software. The key is to persevere and never give up. This also applies to investors. If they show interest but then we don’t hear back from them, the key is to ditch them immediately. If they are interested then they are willing to schedule a follow-up meeting right away and talk about money matters. And look where we are now: we are talking to big companies who want to use our software.”

How do you see the future of 1702ai?

“I’m making some long days right now. I hope to eventually make enough money with 1702ai to take my wife and kids on vacation twice a year. And I’d love to put a down payment on a house. I guess that’s not a crazy dream. When it comes to 1702ai, I want us to become the best and most well-known weapons detection software company out there. That we can provide the best solution to combat firearm violence.”

Read previous instalments in this series here.

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