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Philadelphia startup will put AI software to work protecting schools as part of new partnership

Video surveillance systems are often a primary line of defense in securing just about any large facility from elementary schools to international airports.

With $1.5 million in seed funding behind it, and a future Series A round ahead, Kognition’s goal is to make them smarter, and as a result, safer.

The Philadelphia-based company announced last week it’s partnered with school safety tech company to integrate Kognition’s artifical intelligence-powered software into schools’ existing security systems.

Getting different devices and data sets to work together well is something Kognition Founder and CEO Matias Klein knows well. The bulk of his entrepreneurial and enterprise tech career has been in health care-focused enterprise software, meaning interoperability — a main barrier to implementing SaaS products like his that have to work with a range of different hardware and existing software systems — is his thing. So is growing a company.

He sold his first startup, Ethidium Health System, to Portico in 2008, and then led Portico’s tech operations until it was acquired by McKesson for $90 million in 2011. He left McKesson, where led product management for McKesson and RelayHealth’s $100 million SaaS business, to found Kognition.

“I like to tell people health care is a lot more complicated to be interoperable,” he said. “The human body is perhaps the most complicated thing we know. A light switch is either on or off, it’s not as complicated as your genome.”

So as Klein saw school shooting after school shooting in the news, and thought of his 9-year-old and 8-year-old daughters, he thought there had to be a way to make the existing technology more effective. According to gun violence prevention organization Everytown, there have been at at least 72 instances of gunfire on U.S. school grounds in 2018.

“That was kind of the Northstar for me, to say, ‘What can I do with the talent I have to make a contribution?’” Klein said.

He paired up with Internet of Things (IoT) industry veterans, and the company’s now grown to about 10 employees and contractors working full time on its product in Manayunk. The enterprise software platform is billed as smart property management that lays on top of existing systems. In addition to video, Kognition’s software can analyze data from, and control, thermostats, lights, locks and other connected devices that might still be existing in their own silos.

By pulling all systems into one platform, Klein said managers of high-security areas like critical infrastructure sites, school campuses, government and military facilities, among others, are able to find out exactly what is happening on their property in real time and act immediately.

Kognition’s software pulls in data input from sensors throughout a facility, analyzes it, automatically responds and then learns from that event to predict future ones. Its software could enable a school video system to detect the presence of a person carrying a gun in the parking lot, for example, and immediately lock down the school and alert authorities.

That’s where the partnership with comes in. The Tampa, Fla.-based company is a fellow Dreamit startup, as Kognition was part of Dreamit UrbanTech’s spring cohort this year and is a Dreamit alumnus. Previously named PikMyKid, the company creates an app that automates the often chaotic, congested school dismissal process, equips faculty and staff with panic buttons, allows them to message parents and receive tips about potential threats.

Adding Kognition into the platform is designed to enable all of those systems to work together with others and add on the ability to analyze data and predict outcomes.

“While access controls and physical barriers can provide a basic level of safety, unobtrusive and intelligent technology is the answer as we continue to evolve,” Foudner Pat Bhava said in a statement.

Klein is aware that his high-end, enterprise-level software isn’t cost effective for many of the schools that need the tools the most, he said, so he’s working on creating a 501(c)3 nonprofit that Kognition will donate a cut of profits to and then use those funds to provide the tech to schools in need.

“We’re just going to give it to them, and we can get closer toward our mission of making the world safer and more secure,” Klein said. He’s aiming to get the application process going by the beginning of next year.

Describing the startup as “on the launch pad, burning fuel, and lifting off,” Klein said Kognition counts about a half-dozen clients and built an active pipeline with some “very, very big Fortune 500 accounts,” without naming names.

Its $1.5 million seed round — sourced from a mix of angel investors, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Dreamit and Alumni Venture Group — allowed Kognition to focus on building the product and increase sales. Klein expects to start raising a Series A sometime in the second half of 2019.

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