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Knowledge is capital

Researchers group themselves together in order to create a technology based company

A technology and consulting company with clear commercial aspirations and ambitions of conquering market shares, made up only of personnel holding masters and doctorate degrees and dedicated to research, is beginning to show its colors. In April, three prototypes of projects under development by the researchers linked to Cientistas Associados (Associate Scientists) will be presented to potential clients, some of whom have already signed contracts during the experimentation phase.

Founded just over a year ago by the initiative of five young doctorates with professional experience in technology companies, Cientistas Associados, with its headquarters and partnership at the Foundation Park of High Technology (ParqTec) in the town of Sao Carlos, has brought together 33 members and pretends to work within different areas for the development of products and services in robotics, automation, interactive systems, intelligent systems, optics, photo-optics, biomedical engineering and bioengineering.

“The greatest capital of our company is knowledge”, excitedly emphasizes the manager of the Interactive Systems Division of Cientistas Associados, Antonio Valerio Netto, a doctorate in Computer Science and Computational Mathematics from the University of Sao Paulo (USP) and one of the founders of the initiative. “I’m thirty-one and believe that I must wager on my dream of making ideas come true here in Brazil rather than going abroad, or limiting myself to an academic career”, he adds.

And since dreams do not pay taxes, Valerio is demonstrating his faith in the current project, forecasting that if everything goes along the right path, in ten years Cientistas Associados could be rubbing shoulders with the large internationals in the segment of high technology. “Who knows? We might even turn ourselves into a native IBM”, he dreams, taking into consideration not only his own personal performance but the fact that Cientistas Associados has an incentive policy of valuing human capital among its collaborators, in such a way as to group together intellectuals who are passing on enthusiasm for the growth of parallel institutions.

The company has a hierarchical structure composed of a technical manager and development teams in each specialized area. Each team is responsible for the evolution of a product or service and has a technical coordinator with overall responsibility. Sustaining this structure is carried out through judicial, financial and personnel management boards, as well as boards in business, marketing and the intelligence market. This final board is responsible for going out into the marketplace in search of those who may be interested in what the company has to offer.

Among the administrative characteristics that the Cientistas Associados stimulate is competitive cooperation among its collaborators. In order to occupy the position of director-president a candidate needs to have a doctorate degree and the condition of founder member or emeritus. The position, chosen by acclamation of the Associated Council, has a term of three years. At the end of this period, there will be new elections, in which the members of the Associated Council participate. Of the current 33 members, 5 have their doctorate, 6 are in the process of their doctorate, 7 have their masters and 15 are in the process of their masters and all are graduates.

Of the projects in an advanced phase there are proposals developed with the support of FAPESP’s Small Business Innovation Research (PIPE) program, as well as with the support of partnerships with the Science, Mathematics and Computing Institute of USP, with the Federal University of Sao Carlos (UFSCar), with the Engineering School of Sao Carlos, also of USP, and even with the collaboration of Absolut Technologies, a national company that supplies hardware and software in the area of virtual reality and systems. The three projects that inaugurate the working of Cientistas Associados propose innovations in the areas of energy, training and robotics.

Electrical energy
The project, related to the energy market, intends to offer to companies of the size of, for example, the Companhia Paulista de Força e Luz (CPFL), computerized systems that reduce the losses in the energy distribution networks by using an interface in virtual reality. The idea is to work with advanced algorithms, computed for the reconfiguration of the circuits. Among the results originating from the application of the proposed system are: an increase in income for the energy distributing companies and an improvement in the quality of the energy supplied to the consumer.

The proposal seeks an interface that allows the manipulation of the system’s resources, turning the application commercially attractive. In order to achieve the objective, a solution based on virtual environments was used. This has allowed for major revolutions in what is referred to as the relationship “man-machine”, both in the solution of scientific problems and industrial problems.

As well as the easiness in dealing with large quantities of data, an interface as a proposal allows for whole view of the electrical system. Data such as the location of highways, railroads, rivers, bridges, hospitals, major industries etc. are important in the operation of an electrical system for the distribution of energy. In order to illustrate this type of information, Valerio points out that it is necessary to consider the location of hospitals. “The quality of the energy in the region of a hospital must not be downgraded, under any hypothesis, in benefit against a reduction of energy losses.

Expensive and high technology equipment could well be damaged and as a consequence medical treatment could be damaged, placing patients at risk. Consequently, the development of an interactive interface will produce technical advances in the manipulation of electrical distribution systems both in relation to the quantity of information to be considered and in quality”, he explains.

The main expected result with this project is the creation of conditions for the commercialization not only on the internal market, but also in exports to Latin America by the end of a two-year period. Furthermore , there is beginning to appear the possibility of by-products, such as the use of modules of intelligent systems and of a graphic interface to optimize and manipulate various types of information related to other public services such as water and sewage, telephones and waterway traffic, with the objective being the planning of these systems.

The work of Cientistas Associados focused on training is aimed at security companies and also law enforcement agencies that offer public security services. The project involves creating an interactive system that “transports” these professionals into a reality that is closer to their daily work, thus allowing the performance of functions in a “real” manner as a more efficient measure of security conditions. This system promotes a degree of learning that is much greater than the simple transfer of knowledge, since a system that promotes visual, sound and interactive stimuli, makes possible a gain in quality in the learning of the user.

The training systems in the area of security currently in use do not permit much interactivity. Professionals are placed in situations where the targets are fixed or immobile, not giving them the sensation of the reality with which the professional will truly have to face when providing the service. More sophisticated systems are only found in the United States and Europe, at prices much higher than those of the national market. Data from the Private Security Companies, Electronic Security, Escort Services and Training Courses Union of the State of Sao Paulo, indicate the existence of around 1,600 companies involved with property protection, security and armed escorts, 25% of them concentrated in the State of Sao Paulo.

In the area of robotics, the ambition of Cientistas Associados is to enter the market of training and education as a first step. “The project envisages an environment integrated with mobile robots and software for the support of programming and the development of its applications. This environment will involve the development, application and transfer of technology to three sub-areas of Information Technology, namely: Intelligent Robotics (IR), Artificial Vision (AV) and Automatic Speech Processing (ASP).

In these areas, the most advanced technologies in relation to communication man-machine by voice and artificial vision are being researched by way of scientific and industrial partnerships. The relevance of this project lies in the innovative combination of state of the art technologies in IR, AV and ASP for developing a national kit of hardware and software, applicable to educational and training robotics”, Valerio explains.

Robots have been manufactured for quite some time for industrial applications. However, due to the high degree of autonomy necessary, only over the past few years has this technology been applicable to the development of domestic robots. The product that Cientistas Associados intends to develop will initially be composed of a software package and a basic platform, made up of an autonomous mobile robot with a 16 bits and 8 MHz processor, a modem-radio of 160Kbps and motors. The robot could be configured by the user by way of other modules with different sensors, action parts, arms, shooting mechanisms for robot football and video cameras, among others.

The control software will be based on a graphic interface, set up to allow the programming of the control of the robots by laymen users, but with a degree of freedom as such that it will make possible the use of Artificial Intelligence techniques by more experience users. This fact will facilitate the application of the product in environments both educational and in research. The system will allow the use of various robots, which will be interconnected to a central computer by way of a modem-radio. From the central computer the user could program and remotely control the robots by way of a computational interface.