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AI sewer mapping start-up Subterra closes first round of funding

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Subterra AI has successfully raised $1.42 million in the first round of seed funding from XTX ventures as the start-up looks to accelerate its technology roll-out.

Meet the Cincinnati start-up

Cincinnati start-up Subterra AI has successfully raised $1.42 million in the first round of seed funding from London venture capital firm, XTX Ventures.

The investment comes as Subterra AI looks to accelerate the development and growth of its proprietary cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) platform in North America.

Also participating in the first round was San Francisco’s Anorak Ventures along with other reported strategic investors.

Analytics Vs Terralytics

Subterra AI's flagship technology is a camera agnostic system called Terralytics.

Essentially, it is a system that can import any type of video inspection that users may have with its system able to turn action cameras, such as a GoPro, into fully operational inspection cameras.

The action cameras are fitted to the sewer scanning device and record video footage of the sewer. Plus, it can stream footage in full 360 degrees of the underground network, allowing for fuller inspection.

Terralytics allows the user to simply drag and drop the footage into the cloud where the footage can be assigned, analysed, and archived.

“SewerScout allows users to inspect, tag and report on the condition of the pipe all from one platform.”

Subterra AI also has inspection reporting built into the platform, meaning there is no need for third-party inspection software.

Other systems Subterra AI is developing are its SewerScout and VScout devices. The SewerScout has been designed for gravity-fed sanitary sewers with a battery life of between two to three hours.

The device can be lowered into a sewer system and conduct sewer inspection captures geolocated HD 360 degrees video, similar to Google Streetview but instead for sewers.

Working with Terralytics, the SewerScout allows users to inspect, tag and report on the condition of the pipe all from one platform. It has onscreen telemetry that is overlaid giving information on distance and location.

The data that the SewerScout captures can be converted into actionable data including a 3D reconstruction of the sewer environment, meanwhile, measurements like water height can be extracted at any time.

The battle beginning under our feet

Despite being critical infrastructure, sewers are vitally important to our society yet are often not given the attention they deserve.

In recent years, sewers have attracted more ideas for innovation, with several companies seeing an untapped market.

VAPAR, standing for Video Analytics Processing And Reporting, was also founded in 2018 by Amanda Siqueira and Michelle Aguilar from Australia. The system works by using an algorithm to auto-code CCTV videos using AI.

After working in the inspection team as an intern for utility Sydney Water, Siqueira saw an opportunity to digitalise the CCTV inspection of sewers.

VAPAR secured a place in the second cohort of the United Utilities Innovation Lab programme and is also working with UK utility, Anglian Water.

Another entrepreneur to see the value of sewers was Erin Rothman, who saw an opportunity to create StormSensor and deliver her mantra of creating the “GoogleMaps of sewers”.

After attracting investment from Burnt Island Ventures, Rothman told Aquatech Online that the company has deployed networks in Deerfield, Stokie, River Forest, North Miami in Illinois, North Miami in Florida, Norfolk in Virginia and Anaheim in California.

Also joining the party is Indian/US-start Fluid Robotics, which developed a small army of robots to scan sewer infrastructure for defects.
As robotics hardware and software engineers working in Silicon Valley, Asim Bhalerao and Nidhi developed a prototype AI-based wastewater surveillance robot with the ambition to map underground networks, inspect water quality and flow and capture pipe health.

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