BELLUNO. With their start-up Visua in Dublin, they are leaders in the specialized market that needs image recognition. And they work successfully to combat the counterfeiting of the most varied products (such as shoes, toys, T-shirts) and computer piracy, which kills many unwitting victims every day.
In short, from Belluno to Dublin to plan the future, starting with artificial intelligence: this is the path taken by the young Alessandro Prest (born in 1983) from Belluno and his friend and partner Luca Boschin from Udine (1986), with a curriculum of excellent studies behind him (economics in Lugano for Luca , a doctorate in artificial intelligence in Zurich for Alessandro, after graduating in computer science in Udine) and above all the desire to test himself to create his own future.
“We left,” he explains Alessandro Prest, «From the idea of trying to develop automatic recognition of logos. And LogoGrab was born in 2014, a sort of even smarter QR Code. Yes, because the QR code (in English Quick Response Code, invented in Japan in 1994, but widespread all over the world since the end of 2000, ed) “
And once you’ve read the aforementioned logo?
«A company can decide, for example, to link the launch of a product, a competition, a prize, a discount reserved for those taking part in the initiative. Point your smartphone on the logo and directly access the contents that that company has reserved only for those who connect with this system ».
This was the departure, and then what?
“Then at the end of 2019 Visua was born, or artificial intelligence applied to vision: a new identity, a new name”.
What are you doing?“Many things, with the common denominator being visual artificial intelligence, that is, images and videos. At the level of companies, for example, the need to monitor their brand online has grown a lot. Let’s think about the analysis of sports and the sponsorships of events: how to understand the real returns of an investment? How many times does a brand appear during a football or American football match? We, with our technology, are able to provide precise answers, acting as a link between the team and sponsors ».
«We work on product authentication. Both online and in physical commerce, there has been a real explosion in counterfeits, from children’s toys to shoes to high fashion clothing. When is a product real and when is it fake? Some brands apply holograms on the product, which are difficult to duplicate. Our technology, on the other hand, allows us to understand if a product is original with the simple help of a mobile phone ».
Do you have your own app?
«No, our model is licensing, that is, we incorporate our technology into our customers’ apps, without trying to reach the end customer, it would be too complex ».
«For e-Bay we scan the various auctions to understand if the products (which, I remember, are offered for sale by the platform users themselves) are authentic or not. And it is fundamental, because the regulations today are much more stringent for these sites, which must monitor what passes through their online store and are responsible for any scams “.
«We are actively working in the increasingly important field of cyber security. Not a day goes by without hearing about big computer scams and one of the most used systems is that of phishing, or an email, apparently arriving from a bank or a company, asking you to provide your personal data. How many still fall for it. Cyber security companies have put a first stop, using a filter based on the search for keywords such as password, reset, lost data, identity card. The criminals then, instead of sending a text, now easily monitored by a classic scanner, started sending images. We have the technology to read the same keywords in those images that indicate a possible scam ».
You have based your office in Dublin, why? And would you do it again?
«Because it is a city that had bet on becoming the European capital of new technologies by 2020. And it has succeeded by attracting innovative companies from all over the world, thanks to low taxation and adequate services. Near us have their European offices, for example, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Oracle, Ibm, Yahoo, Microsoft. Then here, it should not be forgotten, there is one of the most qualified universities in the world, Trinity College, and also a good quality of life, which has its importance. And then they believed in us ».
“The Irish government gave us 250,000 euros at the beginning, on condition that we move here. We presented our project, along with 500 other applications, it took them just a month to select it and get us a first check for 125 thousand euros (never had so much money in our hands before …) and the rest arrived as soon as we started hiring. And today we are fifteen, of eight different nationalities. In short, the choice of Dublin was fundamental because we can find talent in the city ».
How do you beat the competition from big names like Google and Amazon?
«By offering a tailor-made service for the customer and trying to understand him and his needs. The big names say: this is our product. We say: we build the right product for you together. Because man still counts a lot in the optimal configuration of artificial intelligence too ».