A Bird’s-eye view for sustainable decision making

Published on 2023-09-22

Startup Story

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Birds.ai's AI innovations transform industries, delivering cost-effective solutions for manufacturing and energy with precision.


In the early stages of Birds.ai's inception, there existed a dedicated student team whose mission was to employ drones for the noble cause of safeguarding rhinos in South Africa. Birds.ai, as it stands today, emerged as a spinoff from that pioneering endeavor. Within the realm of Birds.ai, we have harnessed the same technological prowess to lend invaluable support to the manufacturing industry in making informed and sustainable decisions. Our primary focus lies in sectors such as the glass bottle industry, where the prevailing challenge is the coexistence of human employees and pre-programmed machinery on the production line.

The crux of the matter here is that when humans labor alongside these automated machines, errors inevitably creep in, leading to defects in the production process. Furthermore, manufacturing facilities frequently grapple with a glaring absence of accurate data concerning their output. This deficiency in information can be attributed to the inadequate precision of their production systems. The last, but certainly not the least, issue that plagues the industry is the scarcity of skilled personnel, which exacerbates the overall predicament.

The cumulative effect of these difficulties is a cascading one. Incorrect production data results in ill-timed interventions, ultimately leading to reduced production output. The intricate interplay of these challenges creates a ripple effect, culminating in escalating operations and maintenance costs within the factory. This, in turn, directly impacts the factory's business model, leading to a pressing need for innovative solutions. At Birds.ai, our mission is to provide those solutions and mitigate the operational hurdles faced by the manufacturing industry, ushering in a new era of efficiency and sustainability.

Birds.ai: Customized Solutions for Diverse Industry Challenges

Our approach at Birds.ai is highly tailored to meet the unique needs of our clients. We embark on a comprehensive assessment of their specific requirements, which serves as the foundation for designing a customized process. This client-centric approach is at the heart of our operations. Let me delve deeper into how our process functions and the types of data we gather.

Across various industry verticals, we strive to assist our clients by addressing the challenges they face. The solutions we offer can vary significantly based on the nature of the problem at hand. For instance, in the case of a glass bottle provider, our primary task is to count the bottles efficiently. To achieve this, we employ artificial intelligence (AI) to perform the counting. Our solution typically involves the installation of cost-effective hardware, which is both easy to configure and highly adaptable. Subsequently, we train AI models to recognize the specific objects in question—in this instance, bottles.

In practical terms, we set up a camera system, which captures images of the passing bottles. These images are then analyzed in real time by a processing board, which has been trained to identify and track the bottles as they traverse a predefined virtual boundary. The system meticulously counts each bottle, and this valuable data is seamlessly integrated into the client's manufacturing system.

Our versatility extends beyond bottle counting. We can apply the same principles to different scenarios, such as recycling lines, where we might monitor wooden snippets or detect the presence of pollutants. The core elements remain consistent—a camera, an AI model, and a thorough understanding of the client's data and application requirements.

Broadly speaking, we offer three main applications to our clients:

1. Counting and Analytics: We track and provide statistics on the number of objects passing through the system.

2. Defect Detection: We identify and flag defects in objects as they pass through the process.

3. Process Monitoring: Our system continuously monitors the process, alerting the client to any irregularities or malfunctions.

Our commitment lies in not just providing solutions but in crafting tailored, data-driven strategies that empower our clients to optimize their operations and drive efficiency across their diverse manufacturing processes.

Tailored data solutions for diverse industries

Our solution can be applied to very different kinds of industries and sectors: precision and flexibility are key aspects of our approach. In the case of the glass bottle industry, we furnish our clients with a tailored dashboard that offers real-time bottle counting, along with a plethora of customizable statistics. The specific metrics we provide depend on the client's needs and the nuances of their production process. For instance, within the context of bottle manufacturing, clients often seek data on throughput and buffer levels at different stages of the production line. Our system efficiently captures and presents this vital information.

In contrast, when we shift our focus to recycling applications, the calculations may revolve around the volume of materials processed. However, the underlying foundation remains consistent—the wealth of data we extract from the camera images serves as the basis for these calculations. Whether it's counting bottles or gauging material volume, our technology adapts seamlessly to meet the diverse requirements of our clients. This adaptability is intrinsic to our commitment to delivering precise, data-driven insights that empower our clients to make informed decisions and optimize their processes effectively.

Promoting sustainability through Waste Prevention: Bottle manufacturing example

One of the notable benefits of our solution extends beyond cost reduction and operational efficiency—it also holds the potential to make a substantial environmental impact. Allow me to provide an illustrative example of how our technology can contribute to a more sustainable industry, specifically in the context of bottle production.

In the realm of bottle manufacturing, a critical concern is the minimization of production waste. Here's where our solution plays a pivotal role. Through accurate bottle counting, we gain precise insights into where and when bottles are lost along the production line. Previously, these losses often went unnoticed, and their root causes remained elusive. By implementing our technology to count bottles at various points within the production process, we can swiftly pinpoint the exact location and time of bottle losses. This proactive approach enables us to identify and address issues much more efficiently.

For instance, consider the scenario where a production mold for bottle caps has a flaw. Without our system in place, this issue might only become evident after an hour of continuous production, resulting in significant waste. However, with our solution, anomalies can be detected in real time, allowing for immediate intervention. This not only prevents production waste but also enhances the sustainability of glass bottle manufacturing by reducing resource consumption and environmental impact.

In essence, our technology serves as a powerful tool in the pursuit of sustainable industry practices, ensuring that resources are utilized efficiently and waste is minimized, ultimately contributing to a greener and more eco-conscious manufacturing landscape.

Harnessing technology for precision agriculture: additional applications of Birds.ai

Our solution has broader applications beyond manufacturing. We've explored its potential in sectors such as energy and agriculture, where it can offer valuable insights and benefits. 

One notable example is our research in greenhouse environments, specifically with strawberries. In this scenario, we deploy cameras within the strawberry greenhouse. These cameras capture real-time data, enabling us to make accurate predictions regarding the ripening of strawberries. This predictive capability allows for more precise planning of harvesting schedules, ultimately reducing food waste and ensuring higher-quality strawberries.

The initial focus of this application is on forecasting the quantity of strawberries that will be available for harvest. However, our future endeavours in this domain aim to further enhance the quality of the strawberries and optimize their distribution within the supply chain. By leveraging our technology, we strive to create a more efficient and sustainable agricultural production process.

Optimizing solar energy efficiency with drone inspections

Our solution's versatility extends well beyond the confines of manufacturing and finds valuable applications in diverse sectors. One compelling case study involves our foray into the energy sector, where we utilize a similar solution but with a dynamic twist. In this context, we deploy cameras mounted on drones to conduct inspections of solar plants. These drones traverse the solar plant, capturing images of the solar panels.

What sets this application apart is our ability to analyze the thermal spectrum of these panels. By closely examining temperature variations, we can identify panels or sections thereof that are underperforming or damaged. The principle behind this is straightforward: panels that are not efficiently converting solar energy into electricity tend to generate more heat. Through thermal imaging, we pinpoint these anomalies.

This capability has significant ramifications for solar plant owners. Our inspections provide them with a comprehensive report detailing which panels require maintenance or replacement. By addressing these issues promptly, owners can enhance the overall efficiency of their solar plants. This proactive approach not only optimizes energy production but also extends the lifespan of the solar panels, ultimately translating into improved sustainability and cost-effectiveness.

Client’s feedback: Data-driven transformation

One of the key takeaways from our clients' experiences is their newfound ability to collect data more frequently and effectively, addressing specific needs and requests with precision. The feedback we've received paints a compelling picture of the impact our solution has had.

One noteworthy aspect is that our clients have embraced more frequent data collection, thanks to the seamless integration of our technology into their existing infrastructure. This addition, which often involves the installation of cost-effective cameras, provides them with a highly accurate and invaluable data source. This heightened data granularity has proven to be a game-changer for them.

For instance, when we consider the case of bottle manufacturing, our solution offers several advantages. It is not only cost-effective but also inherently safe, as it operates without human intervention. Clients benefit from a comprehensive overview of potential issues along their production line. These issues can be swiftly and efficiently addressed since they can be transmitted to a human operator for immediate action. The end result is a reduction in errors and improved overall process efficiency.

AI Implementation Challenges and Future Prospects

The journey of developing and implementing our AI-based solution has presented its share of challenges. One of the foremost challenges we encountered is rooted in the fact that AI technology is still relatively new and evolving. Educating stakeholders about the true potential of this technology has been an ongoing endeavor. While we can demonstrate the feasibility of our concepts through proof of concepts and prototypes, the real challenge lies in translating these initial successes into sustainable, long-term solutions.

For instance, in the case of our solar plant inspections, we have conducted numerous successful projects in the Netherlands and Austria. However, the transition from a proof of concept to a large-scale, long-term implementation within sizable organizations has proven to be a complex undertaking. Such endeavors require time and careful navigation of the constraints inherent in large corporations.

Nonetheless, we remain committed to overcoming these challenges and eagerly anticipate a future where we can more seamlessly roll out our solutions within manufacturing facilities. Our determination to harness the potential of AI technology for the betterment of industries drives us forward, even in the face of these obstacles.

Expanding opportunities with affordable hardware

We’re living in an exciting phase as we embark on the rollout of our bottle solution. What makes this opportunity truly compelling is its potential to transcend bottle manufacturing and find applications across the entire supply chain. Breweries, for instance, also operate facilities where they fill and clean beer bottles. They too have a vested interest in tracking the whereabouts of their bottles, albeit for different use cases. Nonetheless, the underlying need for similar information aligns perfectly with the system we provide for manufacturing.

The hardware landscape is evolving in a way that augments these possibilities. Cameras have become incredibly affordable, costing just a few hundred euros, and processing boards have followed suit in terms of affordability. Assembling a system with a camera and processing board is now within reach for a fraction of the cost. What's essential is the software that leverages this hardware to derive intelligent insights.

This trend of increasingly affordable hardware opens doors to transformative improvements within the industry's various processes. It's a development I find particularly intriguing and one that holds the potential to enhance numerous facets of industrial operations.

About the author

Camiel R. Verschoor

Founder & CEO at Birds.ai