Level of Indo-Russian cooperation in the IT sector is insufficient: NtechLab's Artem Kukharenko

Artem Kukharenko, Co-Founder and R&D Director of NtechLab, a startup from Russia working in the area of face, emotion, gender and age recognition technology, spoke to ETs Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury about Indo-Russian cooperation in the IT sphere, as well as the obstacles to the development of bilateral innovation cooperation.

What are your thoughts on cooperation between Russia and India in the IT segment? What are obstacles?

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Despite many years of cordial relations between our countries, the level of cooperation in the IT sphere is, regrettably, can be called insufficient. We are aware of the achievements of certain companies on the Indian market such as the barrier-free toll collection system developed by Russia’s RT-Invest Transport Systems on the New Delhi-Mumbai highway. Nevertheless, for such advanced IT-wise countries, these isolated examples of cooperation clearly do not demonstrate its full potential.

I would say that one of the main obstacles in the development of relations between our countries has nothing to do with some special attitude of Russian IT companies to the Indian market, but rather it’s their general inertness. Despite the internationally recognized talent of Russian programmers, only a few Russian IT companies achieved substantial results abroad worthy of inspiring their peers to get out of the comfort zone and go beyond the CIS market. I believe that our company is among these few, because NtechLab’s technology is being actively implemented in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, as well as in Latin America and the European region.

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Why are innovative companies such as yours still rarely involved in cross-country cooperation? How do you propose to develop cooperation between startups, small and medium-sized businesses from our countries?

At the present stage, there is no single universally recognized platform for communication and interaction between medium and small businesses in our countries. The language barrier, an innate scourge of Russian business, is also a major factor. When a certain critical mass of Russian companies enters the Indian market, the rest of them will follow, realizing that this is profitable and there’s nothing to be afraid of. This process can be also accelerated through word of mouth.

Does your company have plans to enter the Indian market?

Certainly. the Indian market is one of the top priorities for our company in the nearest future. We are closely following the development of legislation in India concerning biometric data. I know that the idea of creating a unified biometric system at the federal level with the data of all of the country’s residents has been discussed – more or less the same thing is currently being implemented in Russia, where there is a Unified Biometric System (UBS), with NtechLabas one of the technology providers.

Another very promising customer for us is Indian Railways. Unfortunately, at this stage, we are not ready to disclose any details of the negotiations we are having with commercial and state structures in India.

How would you rate the current development of facial recognition algorithms? What can such systems offer now and what is still beyond their capabilities?

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Facial recognition is a field of computer vision surrounded by the greatest number of myths, both beneficial and detrimental to the development of the technology. The truth is that algorithms capable of recognizing faces and establishing a person’s identity in photos and videos already surpass the human brain, even if we are talking about a specially trained person. One of the most advanced algorithms, to which I have the honor to attribute the developments of our company, has an error rate of less than 1 in a million.

Furthermore, our algorithm can search through photo databases consisting of 1 billion images in about 0.5 seconds. If we talk about real urban conditions, our algorithm is able to work on any number of cameras simultaneously, and their number will not affect its speed and accuracy. It is important to mention that the HD quality of the video streams is not a fundamentally important factor – our algorithm can successfully work with cameras of lower resolutions.

However, it should be noted that our company does not collect and keep any information about the searches performed by our clients. We do not own any databases, we only provide a convenient tool for the work of city services such as criminal search, analysis of the distribution of people flows, and control over the housing and utilities infrastructure.

Tell us about your latest developments?

We have expanded our efforts from facial recognition to recognition of other aspects related to a person – a silhouette, the model and license plate of a car, the object held in a hand. Combined with facial recognition technology, these complex analytics will make it possible not only to identify criminals and their accomplices after a crime has already been committed, but also to prevent them.

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The next stage will be the recognition of actions on video, such as fights, falls, abuse of children and animals. If city services can receive such information promptly, they will be able to help people who suddenly collapse due to health problems as well.

What breakthroughs can you anticipate in the industry over the next five years?

In the last five years, there has been a real revolution in the industry. When we started, just five years ago, no one believed in the very possibility of distinguishing people’s faces and identifying them in real city video streams.

Today facial recognition has already become a kind of commodity, and all the companies in the market are trying to push it further – each in their own way. In any case, in 5 years, we will definitely be closer to giving artificial intelligence full-fledged vision. I am absolutely certain that this fully robotic vision will be used by people for good, to help other people – as has happened before with other breakthrough technologies. We are on the verge of a safer and more comfortable future, and computer vision is its most vital component.


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