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

The food and drink cart that rolls down the aisle is a welcome treat in the middle of a flight. But what seems like a snack to most passengers, seems like a golden opportunity to David Hailey

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

There he first saw the possibility around the drinks cart.

Whether it’s food, beer, or spirits, airlines spend a lot of money and resources on in-flight inventory. Traditionally, managing that inventory has been incredibly manual, Hailey told Hypopotamus. his startup countifi uses computer vision to improve the way that inventory is “counted, managed, and recorded.”

Computer vision is an area within artificial intelligence that focuses on training a computer to extract important information from an image. Countifi tries to take those images and create a library in which image recognition software can track usage over time by SKU.

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

“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 carried on the plane. Every kilogram carried on an airplane has a fuel coefficient, so they can also save on weight or fuel savings.”

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

“If the pandemic has taught airlines anything, it’s that they need to be more cost-conscious… and 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 airline projects in the US and Dubai, Hailey admits that timing wasn’t necessarily on the startup’s side. “We’ve started in the middle of a pandemic and we’re about to start raising capital at the start of a recession,” he said.

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

Hailey was quick to point out that while growing such a startup during a pandemic was not ideal, he relied heavily on Atlanta’s startup infrastructure to compete for being a first 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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