This SA startup uses data-driven storytelling to help organisations make better decisions

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South African startup The Awareness Company is using data-driven storytelling to help people, communities and organisations to become more efficient and impactful.

The Awareness Company was formed in April 2018, with the team having previously worked together within research, development and innovation in the public sector. 

“We built a technology demonstrator that is used by national parks in South Africa in the fight against rhino poaching,” Priaash Ramadeen, co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of The Awareness Company, told Disrupt Africa.

“That is when we saw first hand the value of innovative technology being used to solve real-world problems. Thus from that and other experiences we created this startup to be flexible, agile and quick to bring operational and industrialised solutions in data and situation awareness to the market.”

The startup’s goal is to disrupt traditional approaches to technology or digitise these approaches where there are none, helping its customers to improve processes and increase their impact in whatever space they operate in. It does this by using data-driven storytelling, and leveraging data and information for insights and proactive decision making. 

HYDRA, its technology, combines AI, IoT and data analytics to create solutions for agriculture and conservation, safety and security, and smart buildings and cities. 

“It does this by taking an influx of data into an organisation and transforms it into stories that are easily understood and interpreted into action,” Ramadeen said. “HYDRA platform uses advanced data aggregation and fusion engines, alongside other technologies, to enhance operational efficiency and digital transformation.”

Organisations need to make sense of multiple sources of information from people, sensors and systems to get a clear picture and make quick and effective decisions. The problem is, there is either too much information or too little. 

“Add to that being unable to analyse data and poor use of technology and organisations have the perfect storm of inefficient operations, misused resources and rising costs,” said Ramadeen.

The Awareness Company was founded to address these issues. Ramadeen said while most other apps and services in a sector are niche and only look at a specific aspect of the solution, his startup takes a holistic view towards problem-solving. 

“Since adoption and success are critical towards technology-based interventions, we walk the journey with each and every customer. From a technology perspective HYDRA is completely sensor-, system- and data-agnostic. This together with our HYDRA brain – data storytelling engine – that looks to infer meaning from data, provides a unique solution,” he said. 

HYDRA is deployed at over 20 sites across Southern Africa, with The Awareness Company currently running projects with farms in livestock grading and farm awareness, in conservation and wildlife, with smart buildings in energy and water data insights, and more.

“We are also engaging with large corporates on mining, environmental and agriculture solutions,” Ramadeen said.

The startup, which offers HYDRA via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model and also provides data advisory as required, is self-funded, but at the start of this year began the process of securing investment. It is still engaged in investor relations, but in the meantime has clocked up the landmarks, including winning agriculture app of the year at the MTN App of the Year Awards, and being the only South African startup to pitch at Africa Tech Summit Kigali.

Like most startups, The Awareness Company has had to think about how it can contribute to the fight against COVID-19. Within three days, Ramadeen and his team built and launched a COVID-19 Public Awareness Dashboard, that is available for the South African public to use here.

“The last few weeks have shown us how important it is to be smart and aware, not just for the advancement and evolution of humans, but for our survival as well. Data is what makes us smart. Getting insights and telling stories from that data is what makes us aware,” Ramadeen said. 

“It’s crucial now that we get the right data so we tell the right stories at the right time. This will help us make decisions based on insights and take quick action to protect ourselves, stop the spread and flatten the curve.”

In a post-coronavirus world, however, the startup will revert to helping customers in the agriculture and conservation, safety and security, and smart places sectors become “smart and aware”, using AI, IoT and data analytics.

“We have operational solutions active in each of our target markets and are looking to scale within South Africa, Africa, and globally. There are no current limitations to us deploying globally,” said Ramadeen.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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