Building intelligence

Surrey Research Park-based Direk’s advanced occupancy monitoring and location tracking capabilities go from strength to strength

On 17 October, the 2023 Surrey Business Awards ceremony took place, a dazzling event dedicated to honouring the best innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs in the county. The night proved to be a resounding success for Direk, a dynamic software development company based at Surrey Research Park in Guildford, with the team scooping the “Highly Commended” accolade in the coveted ‘Business Innovation of the Year’ category.

Direk’s distinctive value proposition centres around AI-based occupancy-centric building management. Leveraging proprietary indoor radar technology and advanced AI engine to optimise resource allocation within buildings, it ensures an ideal equilibrium between occupant comfort and energy and carbon efficiency.

Working closely with design consultancy firms, BMS providers, healthcare professionals and universities, the startup is on a mission to help businesses tackle energy saving, space utilisation, health and safety and indoor navigation challenges. In pursuit of this goal, Direk has developed the Direk Positioning Platform (DPP), which, covering all localisation needs – both indoor and outdoor – has been designed to leverage existing IoT infrastructure in the building and reduce deployment costs.

When Direk launched in 2017, the company’s primary objective was to pioneer indoor location technology, filling the void in GPS accuracy within indoor spaces where existing systems fell short. Led by Dr Amir Taba, the team innovated a cutting-edge technology that set a new standard for precision, boasting an impressive accuracy of less than one meter in indoor environments.

Dr Amir Taba

While presently exploring applications in gaming and even 6G, Direk initially grappled with the challenge of limited application availability. “It was during the Covid outbreak that we began contemplating alternative uses for this technology,” elaborates Dr Taba. “Amid the pandemic, applications for monitoring individuals’ proximity to curb the virus’s spread emerged. The NHS introduced an app, but many people refrained from downloading it due to concerns about battery drain and privacy. We thought about how to contribute and came up with the idea of transforming our solution into an indoor radar technology. The radar removes the need to install an application and instead uses buildings’ existing infrastructure to accurately count the number of people in a given space.”

In 2021, the company underwent a strategic shift, responding to the market’s demand for a solution to reduce energy consumption in buildings. Direk applied its technology to manage heating, cooling and ventilation systems, enabling organisations to customise resource allocation based on the precise location and number of people.

To date, Direk’s patented occupancy monitoring and location tracking solutions have been validated by hundreds of organisations worldwide. Notably, a major project with international design and consultancy firm Hilson Moran resulted in a remarkable 30% energy cost reduction following an independent analysis of a large-scale deployment.

The research and development team are constantly striving to discover the most up-to-date technologies to optimise and expand their solutions. Collaborating with esteemed institutions such as the University of Surrey, Imperial College London and Brunel University, they are focusing on integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques. “We are expanding our technology because it’s scalable, accurate, easy to use and has a significant saving for building managers and operators,” says Dr Taba. “We are also using AI and combining different sources of data to help them to understand where our sources of energy base are in their building and how they can become more compliant with regulations.”

Direk’s presence at Surrey Research Park is instrumental in facilitating the startup’s growth. Dr Taba highlights the invaluable support received, particularly through mentorship provided by Keith Dixon from SETsquared Surrey. “Keith has helped us with everything we needed – our strategy, networking and even guidance on our pitch deck,” he says. “The ecosystem at the Park is brilliant and there are very good programmes for networking. We are very pleased to be a part of such a dynamic community.”

While the Surrey Business Awards win adds to Direk’s string of successes, it holds particular significance for the team. Reflecting on the experience of being “Highly Commended” for ‘Business Innovation of the Year’, Dr Taba shares: “The ceremony exceeded my expectations. The recognition and exposure we have received as a result have been incredible. We could see that the number of people visiting our website and social media massively increased. We also met a lot of interesting organisations as a result. One of them was so interested in our solution that after a couple of days, we signed an NDA with them and are working to form a joint venture and take this technology to another level.”

In the realm of long-term objectives, Dr Taba underscores the company’s commitment to providing a comprehensive solution for buildings, leveraging the power of data and AI to enhance efficiency. “Gradually, we plan to introduce different features to our platform,” he explains. “Now, we are mainly focused on the space, but the next phase would be looking into different aspects of the building, including HVAC controls – embracing lighting, heating and more. As we move forward, we will progress to make more systems intelligent inside the building. There are exciting times ahead for Direk!”

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