Startup in Residence Northern Netherlands: analyzing traffic with Mindhash

Scanning and analyzing the traffic flow of a busy intersection with LiDAR technology. Startup in Residence participant Mindhash is helping the Province of Friesland to make its roads and intersections a safer place, by monitoring the behaviour of cars, trucks, cyclists and pedestrians. How are things going so far? We catch up with Mindhash founder Lasse Licht to discuss the pilot, the challenges and future plans.

As a company, Mindhash is a regular jack of all trades when it comes to software and hardware innovations. The startup helps companies like Volvo Netherlands, Liberty Global and Victron Energy with all kinds of short-cycle innovation projects. “I worked for a big web agency, before I started the company in 2018”, Lasse says. “But software is a little repetitive for someone like me, because I’m an industrial designer by trade and a total nerd at heart. I love making things, coming up with new ideas and creative solutions, so I decided to start my own company.”

Powering African villages and lucking out

A quick glance at their online portfolio will show you just how diverse and versatile the startup really is. For example, one recent innovation Lasse is particularly proud of is the GlobalLink Mindhash co-created for Victron Energy. “They’re active worldwide and create off-grid energy systems for pretty much everything, like fire trucks, ambulances, back-up power for hospitals, even entire villages in Africa. We created a device for them that connects these systems to the internet, so you can check things like performance data or roll out hardware updates across all these systems worldwide. It was incredibly cool to be a part of that.”

For the Startup in Residence Northern Nederlands program, they’re testing StreetAnalytics, one of the startup’s latest innovations. “We wanted to do something that had more of a societal impact and signed up for Startup in Residence Overijssel last year. We joined the Wildcard challenge, but it was a little difficult to find the right challenge owner and then of course the pandemic happened, so we couldn’t really test it, because the country and the province came to a standstill.” 

Fortunately for Mindhash, the Province of Friesland provided a challenge this year that felt like a perfect match. “We really lucked out on that one”, Lasse says. “Not just because the challenge was a perfect fit, but also because the Province of Friesland is just wonderful to work with. And because their challenge is so well defined, that really helps us find the right focus.”

Analyzing dangerous traffic situations

StreetAnalytics uses LiDAR, a laser-based scanning technology that was also used for both the Moon and Mars landings. “We use it to identify and track road users, from pedestrians to cars and bikes. And because it’s laser based, it’s all anonymous”, Lasse explains. “We’ve just done our first round of testing at a busy intersection in the town of Drachten. That particular intersection without road signs or markings can be pretty chaotic during rush hours, with a lot of near accidents. So we could observe people getting off their bikes and crossing on foot for example, or just going straight through traffic and trucks sometimes having to wait 5 minutes before they could cross, things like that.”

“All levels of government, from national to local, spend millions on new traffic measures and awareness campaigns to help reduce accidents and TrafficSense can be a great tool to see just how effective they really are, with baseline testing for example. For us, the biggest challenge right now is processing all that data. To give you an idea, one minute of recording is about 2.5GB worth of data, so we’re going to have to come up with a smarter way to process all the information.”

Finding the right business model

Aside from just testing and refining TrafficSense as an innovation, Mindhash is also currently exploring ways to expand it as a business. “That means making sure it adds real value to organizations using it and that’s why working with the Province of Friesland is so great, because you get to do it together and find out which specific problems we can solve and make it as relevant as possible.”

“As for the coming years, we’ll see how it goes”, Lasse continues. “We’re not looking for outside investors to scale up fast. We want to grow organically and hopefully Friesland and Overijssel will be on board and we can expand from there.”