Supporting Innovative Small Businesses: One Drone at a Time

The growth of drones and artificial intelligence is gaining a large presence in today’s fast-paced technology landscape. In fact, ABI Research estimates that drones will be an $8.4B industry by 2018 and the FAA estimates that private drones alone will be a $90B industry within a decade. Moreover, enterprises are hungry for images, video and sensory data which drones and machine learning (AI) can collect and analyze far more efficiently than humans.

Erik Day, executive director & GM, North America Small Business at Dell, recently caught up with Daniel Rodriguez (above), CEO of Dell customer, Animusoft, to discuss the world of drones and how Dell is supporting the company’s growth. Animusoft is an enterprise data analytics company that utilizes drones and robots.

Daniel also joined Dell as a speaker at its recent Small Business Meetup in Miami. He discussed how his small business uses drones to help small businesses, and how his industry and company is growing.

Animusoft’s Alive enterprise drone solution set recently launched as a product, service or on-demand.  Alive is an end-to-end solution designed explicitly for enterprise use of drones, robots and the data they collect. This includes:

  • Hardware: Fully autonomous, enterprise-class vehicles that enable safe, efficient visual and sensory data collection via air or land.
  • Software: Patent-pending software stack for building, testing, operating and extracting data from robots and drones.
  • Analytics: Alive.Mind, a cloud-based machine learning (AI) engine that translates raw data into actionable intelligence and integrates with back-office customer systems.

Dell is thrilled to have a small business customer like Animusoft. Not only are they on the cutting edge of technology and innovation, they are creating positive change for farmers and agriculture.

Check out this Q&A with Erik Day of Dell for Small Business and Daniel Rodriguez of Animusoft

1.     How do you use Dell technology in your day-to-day operations?

We use Dell technology throughout our organization—servers, workstations, laptops, desktops, switches, monitors, printers and projectors. At Animusoft, we have a great deal of complexity dealing with robotics, drones and machine learning. The hardware we use must be extremely stable with little to no worries about potential failures. Much of this new technology in robotics and drones is very troublesome and not standardized. Using unstable machines to develop, test and release against only makes matters worse.

Moreover, Dell is a trusted brand for us. We have experienced little to no failures in our systems. Some of our servers have been running for more than four years without issues. This reliability is something I have come to expect from Dell. Put simply—it works, and works very well.

As for monitors—hands down the best around for everyday business use. We conduct software development, CAD, 3D printing, graphics, database work, just about anything you’d expect from a technology company. The Dell Ultrawide monitors made it possible for us to replace two monitors with one, even though some engineers prefer to have two Ultrawides.

As a startup, we often buy things second hand, off lease or refurbished. Dell is the only brand that is reliable new or used; even the oldest laptop in our office is still running strong as ever five years later. A minor upgrade or two allowed it to perform as well as today’s machines. Other devices, from my experience, just fall short of what Dell has to offer.

On the machine learning points of our business, we’ve leveraged Dell PowerEdge Servers and Alienware PCs for the great graphics processing units (GPUs). We found them to be very cost effective and saved us thousands by not having to break the piggy bank for development machines.

When it comes to visualization, we previously deployed VMWare, followed by Open Stack and then KVM / Proxmox. Today, we’re likely making a move toward Core OS. Our rack consisting of Dell PowerEdge Servers (some older than 10 years and some as new as three years old) has been rock solid with little to no downtime.

Lastly, we use various operating systems, including Windows, Debian, Arch Linux, Ubuntu, Core OS and a few other lesser known options. We know for a fact that no matter what OS we throw at a Dell machine, it will handle it and then some. The hardware is extremely compatible with modern OS’s as well as inter-component wise.

2.    How has that been a competitive advantage for you?

Dell has given us a big upper hand when it comes to saving resources and keeping the engines running smoothly. Downtime for a technology company—especially a startup—is painful.  Knowing that we are always running strong with little to no downtime while keeping our costs low by getting off lease or refurbished quality products has allowed us to scale our teams at a good price.

Lastly, Dell is a rock solid PC company. There are many PC manufacturers out there and we have tried them. When working in the robotics and drone space, we have to interface with thousands of exotic components that just aren’t supported by other systems. With Dell, we never have an issue.

3.     What do you see as the biggest opportunity in your industry?

There are many opportunities in our industry, but what we see is that the demand for faster, better servers is just around the corner. We aren’t building basic websites with some commerce site or blog—we are conducting machine learning analytics. This is the heart of our systems. The biggest opportunity for us is to be able to handle massive amounts of data and spit out actionable results at a very fast rate—far faster than what is being done today. With a rock-solid Dell infrastructure we know we can handle this and more. It’s network intensive, data intensive, CPU intensive and GPU intensive all at the same time. The opportunity in a nutshell is to capture that and spit out results fast.

4.     How do you see your industry evolving in the next several years?

Our industry is growing and will be growing at a very fast rate. There is a huge amount of data about to hit our systems in the next two to three years. The industry will first take on the role of processing petabytes of video and delivering results. Overtime as this becomes the norm it will flow to all data consumed and gathered by drones.

The second phase of this—after consumption of mass data becomes the norm—will be to take action. This is where things get really interesting.

For example, today we inspect thousands of acres of farm land. With machine learning and computer vision analytics over the data we collect, we find diseases and illnesses and predict crop health and yields. However, in the near future these drones that are capturing the data will integrate with existing autonomous tractors so they can perform specific tasks like spraying precisely over specific trees. Moreover, the drones themselves will switch from a passive role to an active one. A passive role is what we see forming today—gathering data. The active role of tomorrow will be where the drone captures data, processes it in real time, and then does something based on that. For instance, if this tree needs fertilizer, spray it right then and there.

Today the buzz is around quad-copters, but the reality of this is that drones are more than that. Drones work on land, sea or air. Expect to see drones everywhere—in the sky, on the side walk, on the road, on the water, under the water and beyond.

About the Author: Andrea Rodgers

Andrea Rodgers is the Communications and Influencer Program lead for Dell Small Business. She also manages PR for Dell’s Inspiron and Vostro product lines as well as holiday and special deals press. Andrea is passionate about the small business world and believes entrepreneurs are critical to facilitate the improvement of communities worldwide. Andrea holds a B.S. in Business Management from Purdue University and an MBA from Texas A&M University. At Purdue, she completed a minor at the Brian Lamb School of Communications and completed the Burton D. Morgan Certification in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She has participated in the C-Span Archives project, been a student researcher for Bkr, collaborated on the editing of a sales textbook, participated in 3 Day Startup, and volunteered for various charitable organization. Prior to coming to Dell, Andrea held positions in digital marketing technology at Tagman (now Ensighten), worked as a promotional products manager at Innerworkings, and was a teaching assistant at Purdue University. Andrea lives in Austin, Texas with her dog, Remi. Andrea is committed to faith, family, hard work, and positivity.