Artificial intelligence

From accountant to counting inventory in the sky … with computer vision

The food and beverage cart rolling down the aisle is a welcome treat in the middle of a flight. But what appears as a snack break to most passengers looks like a golden opportunity to David Hailey.

Hailey, an accountant and graduate of both NC State and Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, spent nearly two decades in corporate America working in risk management and auditing. While working as a General Manager for Delta Air Lines, Hailey oversaw the in-flight and on-board services inventory management procedures for the airline giant.

That was where he first recognized the opportunity surrounding the beverage cart.

Be it food, beer, or liquor, airlines spend a lot of money and resources on in-flight inventory. Traditionally, managing that inventory has been incredibly manual, Hailey told Hypepotamus. His startup Countifi is leveraging computer vision to improve how that inventory is “counted, managed, and recorded.”

Computer vision is a field within artificial intelligence that focuses on training a computer to derive key information from an image. Countifi looks to take those images and create a library where imagine recognition software can track usage over time by SKU.

Accurately counting the number of Coke cans on a flight might not seem that innovative. But as Hailey explained, it can have major business implications for an airline. Countifi’s cameras and computer vision technology can help airlines “understand what passengers are consuming on the plane” and help teams better plan inventory moving forward.

“This does three things,” Hailey explained to Hypepotamus. “It helps save money on inventory costs by reducing the amount of inventory needed, it can reduce labor costs, and it reduces the weight brought on the plane. “Every kilogram brought on a plane has a fuel coefficient, so they can save on weight or fuel reduction as well.”

Perhaps that could help alleviate those terrifying price tags associated with plane tickets in the future. But in general, Hailey sees this type of technology as key to moving the airline industry towards a more sustainable future.

“If the pandemic taught airlines anything, it is that they need to be more expense conscious… and that they need to care more about the environment and sustainability.”

Lessons learned, in the air and on the ground

While Countifi has already completed successful projects for airline companies in the US and Dubai, Hailey admits timing hasn’t necessarily been on startup’s side. “We started in the middle of a pandemic and we’re about to try to raise capital at the beginning of a recession,” he said.

But Countifi found customers outside of the airline industry which helped the bootstrapped startup grow over the course of the pandemic. Healthcare and construction quickly emerged as important use cases. Countifi’s cameras are used in places like Duke Hospital to count medical devices and other items in storerooms. This has helped hospitals track historical trends around inventory usage and needed adjustments.

Hailey was quick to point out that while growing such a startup during a pandemic was not ideal, he relied heavily on the Atlanta startup infrastructure to navigate the struggles of being a first-time founder. Countifi’s first office was in Atlanta Tech Village and the team now runs out of The Russell Center.

The company is also part of Goodie Nation and was recently selected as a member of Endeavor Atlanta’s 2nd ScaleUp ATL cohort.

From Countifi’s home base in Downtown Atlanta, Hailey has assembled a team of computer vision engineers, developers, and designers ready to scale the platform in the second half of 2022.

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