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AI spinout RoboK raises £1.7m to scan CCTV for unsafe workplaces

Hao Zheng, co-founder & CEO at RoboK
RoboK CEO & co-founder, Hao Zheng. Image credit: RoboK

RoboK, a University of Cambridge spinout using AI to analyse security footage for incidents in real-time, has secured $2.1m (£1.7m) in grant and equity funding, the company told UKTN exclusively.

The idea behind RoboK is to create a “third-person view” of incidents captured on CCTV, said the company’s CEO and co-founder Hao Zheng.

Autonomously identifying patterns between people, vehicles and other objects means it can spot problems such as unsafe work behaviour or dangerous conditions.

Zheng lost a close relative in a marine-related accident, which provided the inspiration for RoboK. She then spoke with people who have survived serious workplace accidents but left with life-changing conditions.

“One observation we found was they felt most of the time that many accidents could be avoidable,” she told UKTN. “What that really means is there were probably a lot of potential near misses before anything more severe happens.”

The Cambridge-based company says its computer vision technology can detect potential safety breaches as they appear on CCTV feeds, understand the behaviour of people on a site to avoid future accidents, and identify incident hotspots.

It works with critical national infrastructure clients such as the Bristol Port Company, which applied the software to half an hour of security footage and found approximately six potential safety issues.

It was then applied to security cameras 24/7, uncovering employees not abiding by safe walking routes and not wearing personal protective equipment.

Network Rail, National Highways and Transport for Wales also use RoboK’s safety monitoring technology.

RoboK began life as RoboX – because “everything sounds cooler with x”, Zheng explained – but the name was changed because it was already taken by another company. The ‘K’ comes from King’s College, where RoboK span out from in 2017.

The AI company’s latest financing comes from lead investor Cambridge Enterprise, accompanied by Bristol Port Company, U-blox AG, Amadeus Capital Partners, Martlet Capital, the University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund overseen by Parkwalk Advisors, Deeptech Labs and angel investors.

Amadeus Capital Partners first became aware of RoboK when the investment firm’s co-founder Hermann Hauser was judging a competition at King’s College, Cambridge.

Innovate UK and the Department for Transport were among those who gave grants in the round, with RoboK receiving £133,000 from the government’s Freight Innovation Fund.

RoboK’s balance sheet shows net assets of £477,676 in its most recent accounts, which cover the period up until April 2022.