Aizatron, winner of the Innovation Concepts Award in the medium enterprise category
Let’s face it, crime should not pay
When the City of Cape Town started replacing electricity meters in households in 2020, criminals were quick to spot an opportunity. Posing as employees of the CoCT, opportunists gained access to many residents’ homes and committed a spate of daylight robberies.
This is exactly the kind of social problem that artificial intelligence can help solve, says Ansu Sooful, managing director of technology fusion company Aizatron.
Not only was Aizatron willing to provide a solution, but it was also willing to do so at no cost to the City.
“At that stage, we were building a facial recognition doorbell and we thought, Let’s make this technology available for free,” says Ansu.
Aizatron promptly designed an app that anyone with a smartphone can use. All the authorities had to do was upload the faces of the employees who were officially representing it on the meter replacement drive. Then, when anyone knocked on a resident’s door claiming to be from the CoCT, the resident concerned could open the app, which would then verify whether or not the person was indeed who they said they were.
Making smart technology available free of charge in this way fits Aizatron’s profile as social entrepreneurs who use technology to solve societal problems.
It is not entirely altruistic, however, says Ansu.
“The more faces we have on our system, the better artificial intelligence becomes at identifying people,” he says. “South Africa is an awesome country to build a facial recognition system because we have such a heterogeneous, mixed pot of facial types.”
This is in contrast to less-diverse countries such as the United States and China, where facial recognition programs have shown racial bias in their inability to identify black people in particular. South Africa, with its abundant diversity, could potentially be far more effective in making facial recognition technology work.
Meanwhile, another solution that Aizatron has developed to combat crime, especially sexual and gender-based violence, is its Awêh Guardian App and Awêh Panic Button. (Note to reader: Awêh is pronounced “aware”.)
Community members who download the Guardian app (free from Google Playstore or iOS AppStore) become part of a community-wide network of Guardians willing and able to assist victims of crime within two minutes of an incident.
Guardians are alerted to a call for help when a member of the network presses their Awêh Panic Button, a keyring-sized device (for sale from Aizatron) that can be set to send an alert within a radius of between 50 meters and 500 meters.
Ansu describes Awêh as a safety system that mobilises entire communities to keep people safe. “When pushed, South Africans stand together,” he says.