Dr. Max Ruffo, CEO & founder of Terabee tells us about all-in-one sensors for touchless solutions.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dr. Max Ruffo: We are very fortunate to live and work just outside of Geneva, where we have access to open countryside, lakes, and mountains. In this regard, it has been easier for us to endure the lockdowns than for those in large cities and densely populated areas.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Terabee.
Dr. Max Ruffo: I have 20+ years of experience in the fields of aerospace, advanced manufacturing, 3D printing, R&D, business/process optimization, and strategy consulting. I’ve always been at the forefront of innovation and high technology. I worked at Boeing as an R&D department leader and was also influential in 3D printing when it was in its infancy. In 2012 I founded Terabee as a drone services company for complex inspection projects, and this took us into the new and exciting arena of Time-of-Flight sensor technology. Today Terabee is a leader in this advanced technology, digitizing movement for Smart Building, Smart Agriculture, and Industry 4.0 applications.
How does Terabee innovate?
Dr. Max Ruffo: We master our foundation technologies from physics to the final devices. Our goal is to bridge the physical world with the digital (and web) by adding the layer of understanding of what happens in a specific scene. To accomplish this, we need to capture shapes and movements. For us, this is primarily using the Time-of-Flight principle to perceive what is going on in the environment around us without using traditional cameras and machine vision technology. We use the latest semiconductors and technologies to create the best products possible at a given size, weight, and price-point. Then, in collaboration with our valued clients, we develop algorithms and utilize smart edge computing to meet the specific needs of our target markets and customers. In this way, whilst our products do create data, we go beyond that and translate data into usable business intelligence.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Dr. Max Ruffo: We have seen a slow down in sales cycles in some sectors. However, the pandemic has also created an opportunity for us. In the spring of 2020, when the pandemic first arrived in Europe, we harnessed our technology to develop Covid-19 mitigation solutions. We now offer an advanced wearable for social distancing and contact tracing called “the Proximiter.” As well, we have solutions to control people density in indoor environments, ensuring this does not exceed the recommended quota, plus some contactless fever screening solutions.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Dr. Max Ruffo: Luckily, we have been in the position to maintain our full workforce active. Like most organizations today, we have some people working remotely, from home, even if not optimal. For those who need to work onsite, each staff member is equipped with the Terabee Proximeter wearable to help maintain safe working distances and contact tracing should a positive Covid case occur in our workforce. In fact, the virus hit us a couple of times, and thanks to our device, we were able to trace all people who had been in dangerous proximity to the infected person and force those people to self-isolate for a period. Without the Proximeter, we would have quarantined a large number of staff members, with clear disruption to our operations.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Dr. Max Ruffo: Google Meet video meetings are the norm for us now, as they are for most organizations. We have seen our staff and customers happily leveraging technology to keep discussions and projects moving forward.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Dr. Max Ruffo: We have just completed a large Horizon 2020 project funded by the EU. This funding was in place before the pandemic arose, but we can say that having it in place has surely helped to buffer us from some of the initial impacts of Covid. Also, we received Aerial Core funding in France starting in Dec 2019 for a duration of 48 months.
Your final thoughts?
Dr. Max Ruffo: Covid has had an impact in some of the sectors we serve and has reduced our sales opportunity, while it has slowed down decision-making cycles and project progress. However, by adapting our existing technology and building products that help organizations mitigate Covid risks, we have compensated for the losses in other areas. In that regard, we have been ‘lucky,’ although it has taken a lot of creativity and hard work to rapidly develop new solutions capable of having a positive effect in reducing the impacts from Covid-19.
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