We talked to Gary Ng of viact.ai on automating construction monitoring and this is what he had to said.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Gary Ng: I am very fortunate that none of my family got infected with COVID till today. They are all doing good, except my daughter cannot go to school every day and needs to attend online classes. Under the new normal this year, everyone stays longer at home and spends more time with family and less social activities with friends and peers.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded viact.ai.
Gary Ng: I graduated as a building engineer 20 years ago, then joined an engineering consultancy firm for a few years while undergoing training. Then I made a huge career change to shift my career path to focus on technology companies’ business development. Ten years later, I became the top senior management (Managing Director, Sales Director, and Regional Manager) in both listed NASDAQ companies Stratasys (largest 3D printing company in the world) and EFI Optitex (Leading 3D software companies for the fashion industry), where I helped both companies to set up offices and establish their Asia expansion including Singapore, South East Asia, Japan, Korea, India, and Australia. At 35, I heard John Ma said 35 is the best age to start your entrepreneurial journey, so I quit my high paying and stable top management role. I started my company focusing on deploying new technologies for big enterprises. Since my background is in engineering, in 2017, I convinced a few large construction companies to have a pilot and trial on AI monitoring solutions for construction. After a few projects, we realized the time and resources spent on building an AI model is too much for construction companies. We decided to build a standardized project that is an AI cloud platform for construction, helping construction companies deploy AI solutions in minutes.
How does viact.ai innovate?
Gary Ng: We go to a construction site every day to observe, talk, and listen to our client’s current problems. We develop solutions that can improve or solve by our AI solution and discuss them with the client. Then we will build a proof of concept in a week and test it on the client site. Based on the feedback, we will improve until it becomes a deployable solution.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Gary Ng: It affected us more during April and May as some construction sites had to shut down, but the overall construction project is still ongoing. During the time, we focus more on refining our solution and focusing more on RnD to create new solutions to the market relating to COVID. We are the first Asia company who launched Face Mask Detection for a construction site back in Jan 2020.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Gary Ng: We make choices to get an order that can stay alive or focus on the long-term goal of our product development. The lesson we learned is that survival under a difficult time is more critical.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and viact.ai in the future?
Gary Ng: I learn this during my previous employment in an Israeli company called Stratasys. When you are under high stress, make sure you keep your routine every day. In the morning, wash your face, keep yourself clean, and make yourself look smart. It is an Israeli army technique. This routine will help you stay focused on what is ahead of you every day and make a good self-reflection that you are under control and more robust to face challenges.
My goal is to use AI technology to save a construction worker’s life and make construction less expensive for the general public. Our company goal is to become Asia’s’ no.1 company to provide autonomous construction operations.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Gary Ng: Our key competitor is based in the US, and our market is focused in Asia. We have one of the largest construction domain databases in Asia and the largest team with core domain knowledge in construction.
Your final thoughts?
Gary Ng: This year has been a massive challenge for everyone, but it will create new opportunities in every market for deploying new technologies. Construction is the same, and we think it is time to disrupt some old habits in the industry and create a new digitized smart construction environment for better and safer.
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