September 1, 2017
Interview by Rosemary Newton
Michel Allegue, co-founder and CTO of Aerial.ai, took some time to chat with us about the future of home security, connecting academia and industry, and the journey he’s taken since becoming an entrepreneur in 2015.
Total home awareness with Aerial.ai
Michel’s company, Aerial.ai, uses standard Wi-Fi signals to monitor and detect movement within an environment. Using your Wi-Fi devices at home, it has the capability to monitor an entire home.
“We can sense motion, sudden movements, speed of motion, all these through device-free technologies. You don’t need to be wearing anything on your body for us to detect these actions,” explains Michel.
Unlike other home security systems, our technology requires zero setup and doesn’t use sensors or video cameras. It works with the existing Wi-Fi signals in a home to distinguish who is home, and when. It’s accompanied by an app that provides notifications to alert users to suspicious activity in real time.
Aerial can detect when someone is in a given environment, how many people are in the environment, and how they’re moving. It can also identify people using factors like the way a person walks, moves their hands, and their size and shape.
Moving forward into elder care
Aerial’s first product is a home security system, but moving forward Michel sees no limits to the possibilities for the technology. The next planned application is one he’s especially passionate about.
“We are really excited about the next line of products because they’re going to be focused on the elderly population, especially those who are living alone.”
Using the technology to branch out into elderly care could mean improved support by caregivers and detection of incidents like falls, he explains, allowing the elderly to stay at home longer.
Aerial is also able to distinguish between people and pets, and has already implemented integrations to allow it to control at-home smart devices.
From the European Space Agency to entrepreneur
Michel’s background is in the world of academics. He was born in Havana, Cuba, where he received the Engineering Degree in Telecommunications and Electronics. He worked as a professor in Cuba, then received a scholarship to study in Spain, where he earned a Masters and PhD in Electronics, Signal Processing and Communications.
While completing his Masters, he started a permanent residency application to Canada.
Meanwhile, he was offered a position with University College Dublin (UCD) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
“We were essentially giving more life to the satellites there, we were improving the communication links with the satellites by doing digital signal processing from earth.”
After a year in that position, he moved to Canada with his wife.
He was on the cusp of applying for post doctorate scholarships when Prof. Carlos Vazquez, Associate Professor at École de Technologie Supérieure, and Tara Akhavan, co-founder and CTO at IRYStec, introduced him to TandemLaunch. He saw it as the perfect opportunity to merge his love of academia with more practical, market-based applications.
“In Europe, I was working with the University and the more industry-focused European Space Agency, so I wanted to find something similar, and TandemLaunch is exactly that. They’re the best at connecting academia, research, and industry,” he says.
Connecting research and industry
Michel had always thought he would stay in academia, but he knew it would be tricky because he wanted to be closer to practical research, something he achieves in his current position as CTO of a tech startup.
“The opportunities enabled by connecting research and industry are unbelievable, and I’m responsible to make that link happen.”
His advice for those looking to get into similar work is to focus on what is good about their technology and the actual problem they are solving with this technology.
He says the freedom to create something new and different from what is currently on the market is rewarding.
“You enable people on the street with amazing technologies that are working right now in the lab. You’re able to bring that to the people – that’s what inspired me and moved me to keep working.”
Following a special request from Michel, for whom collective work is essential, we add a final quote about his team:
“My most important merit has been to assemble our team, starting with Negar Ghourchian. She trusted me from the first day, when I offered her to complete her PhD with Aerial, resulting in a long-lasting collaboration and a very strong PhD thesis. I was then able to recruit Mathieu Rozon, a very talented engineer who has become a member of our R&D team, and Francois Morel, an experienced VP Engineering from whom we all learn every day. We found the best CEO we could have dreamed of for our company – and, to me, probably the best CEO TandemLaunch has ever seen–, David Grant. We were also joined by our revenue guru Juan Felipe Gonzalez, one of TandemLaunch’s Limited Partners, and former Senior VP of Global Sales at iBwave. Finally, our Product Manager Jon Drucker, a relentless product thinker, was not able to resist being part of the team. Thank you to all of them who make Aerial what it is today.”
The Aerial team continues to advance the technical foundation of its products: this year, they published scientific papers at IEEE INFOCOM 2017 and IAAI 2017. In July 2017, Aerial also announced it had raised $2.25M.