GIS Cafe Interview with xyzt.ai CTO, Bart Adams

If you prefer to watch the interview you can do so here.

GIS Cafe: Hi, this is Sanjay Gangal from GIS cafe. I’m here with Bart Adams, Chief Technical Officer at xyzt.ai. Thank you so much for joining us, Bart, so tell us about xyzt.ai.

Bart Adams: xyzt.ai is a software technology company. We are bringing to market a Big Data location analytics platform for our customers to gain insights into large amounts of location data from GPS, Bluetooth, location tracking, or other tracking technologies.

GIS Cafe: Tell us a little bit more about your solutions.

Bart Adams: It’s a SaaS solution that runs in the cloud, and what’s special about our solution is that it scales to billions of location points while still maintaining interactivity. It’s a visual analytics platform that allows you, for example, to do hotspot analysis on location records, for example, from connected cars, and then analyze where there are issues with traffic jams or where traffic changed over time due to changes in the road network; and that’s just a few examples. It can also be used with people-flow data, and one of the challenges is that the data gets very easily, very, very big. So really, billions of location records.

GIS Cafe: Give me a few more examples. I want to see what application areas you excel in.

Bart Adams: A couple more examples, like what we’ve seen from being in the GIS domain for a long time, is that classical databases, and classical data structures, have problems scaling to large amounts of location records, while on the other hand, if you think about how a car moves or how a person moves, it’s not random, there’s a lot of coherency in the movement, which can be exploited if you exploit this information. And that allows us to compress the data very well so that we can load a lot more data into the application and still allow visual analysis. Another example is in the maritime domain since the early two thousand vessels have to report their GPS location and that’s done to a system called AIS (Automatic Identification System), and that generates lots and lots of data, especially since now there are receivers, of this information, placed on satellites. There’s global coverage of this data, and it’s really difficult for people that want to get insights out of this data to handle the data just because it’s so big, and that’s what we specialize in. So with our platform, you can just push the data to the platform and, within a day or so, you can analyze billions of points, apply time filters, space filters, attributes filters, and analyze all the data.

GIS Cafe: You have a partnership with autonomo; what exactly is this partnership?

Bart Adams: Autonomo is a cool company. It’s a connected car data company, and I don’t know if you know, but many cars are becoming like a cell phone. They have sensors all around, and they communicate all this information through the cloud. Autonomo combines data from different providers, from different OEMs and sells this data to all types of customers, for example, customers that exploit this data for smart city applications. Autonomo is a data company; we (xyzt.ai) are a software technology company. The partnership brings us together because we can benefit their customers and our customers by providing a visual analytics platform. For them, they can provide the data to our customers. So we are very complementary, and that’s something that we see happening a lot these days because you need an ecosystem of companies working together to tackle problems. One company specializing in data is probably not the best company specializing in geospatial high-performance visualization software. So that’s why we come together, and we did a very successful webinar together. It gave a lot of traction in the smart city industry and the traffic management industry. People now realize that they can start looking at the data before starting implementing algorithms, and that’s where we come together.

GIS Cafe: How is this connected car data relevant to the geospatial community?

Bart Adams: Connected car data is location-enabled. So with every record that is stored in the database or communicated by the car, there’s always a longitude and latitude position, there’s a timestamp, and then there are tons of attributes. For example, cool attributes are like, are the fog lights on or not, are the wipers on or not, and this is all information available in near real-time to their platform. So it can be used really in near real-time to get insight into, for example, the weather situation in a city. So, it’s all spatially enabled, and temporaly enabled, which makes it for many, many, solutions challenging to handle, and it’s a stream of data. It’s IoT, moving IoT data.

GIS Cafe: What is the biggest challenge that you solve for Autonomo and its customers?

Bart Adams: The biggest challenge is, on the one hand, to handle the large amounts of data, like a small data set is a couple of millions of data points, and a typical data set is a couple of hundreds of millions of data points. So that’s one challenge. The other challenge, what we see is that the data analysts that are using this type of data, the solutions that they use now are the classical BI solutions like Power BI or Tableau, and those solutions also have difficulty scaling to lots and lots of data. They want the flexibility of a BI solution, but working with these hundreds of millions of data points, which’s really what we solve for them. Our solution makes the data visual, which makes that they really can first see and see what’s happening in the data before they start. What they typically do is implementing algorithms to automate specific data processing or data flows.

GIS Cafe: And who are their customers?

Bart Adams: In many different domains, it goes from the city, like the department of transportation officials or data scientists. It also goes to insurance companies. It goes to startups that build smart solutions to in real-time report open spot parking spaces because that’s also some information that they sense with the cars. So if you look at their customers, it’s covering a very wide range and many different verticals. For example, it’s also fleet companies that rely on their platform to collect the data and make the data accessible.

GIS Cafe: Are there other data providers other than Autonomo that you might be working with? Any satellite companies, any other, massive data providers that can benefit from your analytical capabilities?

Bart Adams: We are working with several Data Providers with different data sources. So, for example, one of the focus domains for us is also the maritime domain. And there we work closely together with a company called Spire global. I believe they also have an office in San Francisco and close to us here in Luxembourg. What they do is satellite AIS, which means that they launch nanosats that relay the GPS locations and the status messages of vessels. That’s one example.

Another example is mobile app data providers. So we’ll be with billions of people carrying mobile phones, and there are many use cases also in exploiting location information of users of mobile phones and as companies that are active in that. And then we’re looking mostly at, for example, marketing analysis, and a good example is trying to analyze how COVID and the change in our behavior, the change in our work-life situation changed how people move in a city and change how people visit shops and so on. And with mobile app data, you can get insights into how this store got affected and how the other store got affected. It allows, for example, retailers to build a strategy and adapt to the situation. So that’s another use case of big data.

GIS Cafe: There was an announcement recently that xyzt.ai announces the closing of its first round of funding with business angels. So tell us about that.

Bart Adams: That’s correct. So until now we were self-funded and carrying all the costs ourselves of the development and so on. so we founded the company with two, also with Lida Joly. We both have been in the geospatial industry for over ten years, and now we are fortunate to have Eric LaFortune and Heidi Rackles, who are investing in our company. And both of them also have a history in the geospatial community, having worked with us about ten years ago. but in the meantime, they also founded their own company, called Guardsquare, which is a mobile app, security company, and they successfully grew it to a scale-up, so they are smart money, so they’re helping us not only financially, but they’re also helping us, with all the business aspects and even the product aspects

GIS Cafe: What is xyzt.ai’s exit strategy?

Bart Adams: Excellent question. We are just starting now, we are one year, busy. So we want to spend a little time with our baby first. But we plan, we have a very international strategy and want to grow. We want to be a player that can compete with the companies that offer BI solutions or geospatial solutions. So for now, I think in the coming five to ten years, we want to grow the company, have some, really nice customers, because that’s what we are focusing on now is getting traction with relevant customers to learn what’s going on in the market, what they need, what their pain points are. But yeah, never say never; what happens, we don’t know. But it’s still very early.

GIS Cafe: What is the best way for people to find out more about xyzt.ai on the internet?

Bart Adams: Our website is xyzt.ai. The X, Y, and Z stand for location, T is for time, and AI for artificial intelligence. So if you go there, you can find us, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter or otherwise you can also find us on LinkedIn, where we are very active.

GIS Cafe: So why don’t I ask you a couple of personal questions, is that okay? What do you do for fun outside work, or what is your passion outside work?

Bart Adams: I have two beautiful daughters, which take up a lot of my time there, like eight years and eleven years old already, so it’s a wonderful age, and the youngest one is trying to play guitar, and that excites me a lot. Also, I like to be outdoors a lot, running or biking. I’m now in Belgium, which is like a bike country. But I was also in San Francisco, and I love biking there as well. I miss it a lot, biking, across the golden gate and in the mountains. That’s something I miss a lot, but here in Belgium, we have beautiful scenery and go biking.

GIS Cafe: Do you do local biking or daily biking or long stretches as well?

Bart Adams: Usually, it’s in the weekends that I go, and it’s like stretches of about 15 miles, something like that, so it’s typically in the local neighborhoods. I live in the neighborhoods where some of the Flemish races are so, and it’s really fun to go out and about. Once in a while, we take the car, and we go to Switzerland and Austria, well, before all the COVID, lockdowns, to go biking in the mountains because that’s what I like, to be in the mountains.

GIS Cafe: That’s awesome. Well, myself, I like to bike, but not uphill, mostly on flatlands. Can you also tell us something about yourself that most people at xyzt.ai don’t know about you?

Bart Adams: Within the company that they don’t know? That’s a difficult one. We’re so small. Well, four people now, with the investors six, so I think most of them know me very well now. Maybe one thing is that I have a very high feeling that everything has to be right so that how people are treated, and that’s something I find extremely important. It’s something I carry from my childhood that I feel everything has to be fair and just, and that’s how I also like companies that treat people fairly within the company.

GIS Cafe: That’s a great value to have. Thank you so much for taking the time to record this interview and have a great day and stay safe. Thank you from GIS cafe.