Q&A: The caring side of AI

This week we chat to the Gold Coast’s Kane Sajdak who overcame his bumpy first steps foray into the world of IT – Kane broke the family’s first PC within 48 hours of it entering the household – to build a successful career in the industry. Kane’s latest venture, HomeGuardian, leverages AI (Artificial Intelligence) to immediately alert carers in the event of an elderly person having a fall at home, in an aged-care facility or in hospital.

ISB: Please tell us briefly how you first got involved with the technology sector.

KS: I got my start in technology by accidentally breaking the family computer. I had grown up in a caravan, so technology wasn’t really something I had exposure to, but when my mum started to study, we saved up and bought a computer. I broke it almost straight away and was told I had to figure out how to fix it – and I did! That was at age 11.

From there my entire career has been technology focused – from working for Australia’s first cloud-computing company, to managing the systems for QLD Airports. Technology has been my passion for as long as I can remember.

ISB: And what was the “lightbulb” moment that sparked the idea for your latest venture, HomeGuardian?

KS: It was when my co-founder – Adam Carroll, a genius of a man, came to me while we were working on another project. His wife is an age-care nurse and came home one night upset that a resident she looked after fell five minutes after Adam’s wife left her room. The woman was badly hurt and couldn’t get up but wasn’t found until nurses were doing the rounds again, hours later. Adam came to me with the concept for an Artificial Intelligence (AI) device that would watch a room and the concept clicked in my head.

My wife has several chronic medical conditions which means she is susceptible to passing out and falls. So, I saw the practical application almost instantly, and we set about commercialising the idea.

ISB: As an experienced entrepreneur, in what ways was setting up this tech venture different from your previous start-ups?

KS: The company I founded with Bernard Mangelsdorf, BITS Technology Group, was fundamentally something that we learnt as we went. We started from the spare room of Bernard’s parent’s place and grew it to an international technology firm supporting some of Australia’s largest businesses in a few years with no investment – it was blood, sweat and tears

from day one.

With HomeGuardian, I took the learnings from running that business, and approached some of the best businesspeople in the country to get involved – the likes of Karl Brown from Instyle Solar and Tomas Steenackers from National Veterinary Care Ltd. Together we raised capital and HomeGuardian hit the ground running. We have a plan, a roadmap and a team that has a proven track record.

ISB: What role does Artificial Intelligence play in the venture, and would HomeGuardian be feasible without it?

KS: No. HomeGuardian is completely AI driven. In fact, the patents we hold are specifically around the AI. HomeGuardian works by us teaching our AI what all the objects in a room are – so it knows what a table is, what a bed is, what a chair is, what a human is, etc. – and then we taught it what normal interaction for those objects are. For example, it knows its normal for you as a person to interact with a bed by laying in it, but laying on the floor? That’s not normal.

It analyses interaction of people with people, people with objects and their surroundings. With this, we’re able to use our AI to make alerting decisions on a range of undesired or abnormal behavior. As no images or video are sent outside of the device the technology maintains the user’s privacy and dignity – we can put our HomeGuardian units in bedrooms, bathrooms, showers, and there is no risk of it listening to or watching what you say and do and sending that off to “Big brother”.

ISB: What is your vision for the venture in the next couple of years?

KS: We aim to be a household name in the aged-care industry – both residential and in-home – in Australia, and globally. It was important that we built our technology to work globally from day one to facilitate rapid expansion.

ISB: Finally, what is the number one lesson you’ve learnt on this journey you’d share with others looking to start their own business?

KS: Get your team and strategy right. If you have a great idea, that’s fantastic, but if you can’t execute on that idea, get people involved who can help you. You don’t have to be the best at everything, but if you have weak spots, fill them with people that are better than you. When you do this, and play to people’s strengths, the value of the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts.

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