Just about everyone who drives has known the struggle of finding a parking spot in a busy downtown area. Sometimes you have to circle around parking lots or whole blocks until you find something, or you might stake out a likely spot and wait for someone else to leave. It’s also possible that you have to venture farther away from your destination than you planned.
What if artificial intelligence could be used to show you what parking is available when you’re on the hunt and lead you to the exact spot? That was one of the first use cases for Moii, an AI software startup launched by two Broad Spartan alumni.
“We wanted to create an app that no matter where you are, you could look at the location that you were going to and it would tell you where to park and then navigate you to that location,” Madhu Posani (MBA ’18), co-founder of Moii, said. “This is just one application that we have found for our AI-based technology.”
Since its founding, Moii has pivoted to occupancy and human movement patterns, which encompasses many different use cases. The first seeds of the business idea started when Posani and Deepak Upadyaya (MBA ’18) met in the Broad College’s Executive MBA program — where they literally ran tests in a parking lot on campus during weekends.
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Posani’s journey at MSU was unique because he became a student after having a career as a serial entrepreneur, successful businessman and executive.
“I decided to do the program late in my career, which was fun for me,” he said. “I have had a career in engineering in the automotive industry, serving as a global director of engineering, and while in the EMBA program I was president of a recruiting company. But I always wanted to do something on my own, even while working at these companies, and so my time at MSU in the EMBA program helped me connect with others and bring these ideas to life.”
Posani and Upadyaya’s main idea was to use AI to understand occupancy and human behavior to improve people’s daily lives. So, aside from parking, what does this look like? As it turns out, there are a whole host of applications and situations where their software can shine.
Upadyaya, who is an expert in data analytics, is passionate about leveraging technology and data. He sees the unlimited potential of this new and previously unavailable information to improve people’s daily lives.
“The technology framework is flexible enough to attack problems related to operational efficiencies, residential comforts, all the way to security,” he said. “The last 10 years saw the birth of the technology, and the next 10 years will see the exponential application of this technology.”
“Throughout the process, MSU and Broad’s support has been great,” Posani added. “We started exploring energy savings with MSU’s Civil Engineering Department using our technology, but when the pandemic hit, projects were shut down and we had to pivot.
“We were seeing how occupancy was becoming an increasingly important topic as companies and their employees were figuring out how to return to work — and that was an opportunity we could tap into. Our technology has now enabled companies across the country to understand how people use different spaces and at what times.”
Moii software has also been used in residential settings such as luxury apartments in Florida, where residents can see the current occupancy of their building’s fitness center, lounges and pools — and decide when might be best for them to use those spaces.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Posani and Upadyaya’s startup is that it relies on existing hardware: They tap into whatever security camera feeds are already in place. The self-learning AI is modeled after automotive technology for self-driving cars, detecting objects and understanding movement behaviors and patterns.
“For property owners and managers, for example, it costs them over $3,000 to get a new tenant when they lose one,” Posani said. “Our software is cost effective and allows for their betterment of operating efficiency.”
With an eye always on the future, these two Broad Spartans are busy discovering how the Moii software might be applied to other settings, like understanding shopping behavior in a retail setting, preventing crime and improving security systems and even assessing activity at dog parks. Across all these contexts, the software understands human movements, helping to predict activity and inform decisions from others trying to use or manage the space, as well as providing metrics around asset and human resource utilization in the same space.
For Posani, MSU holds a special place in his heart. It’s not only where he was able to follow his dream of starting his own venture but also a lifelong connection. Currently, he’s exploring how the Moii technology might help address pedestrian safety issues at rail grade crossings with Nick Little, director of railway education in the Broad College’s Center for Railway Research and Education. They hope to identify sites for testing and data gathering for further evaluation.
Posani has also stayed involved with the EMBA program, serving as a judge for the entrepreneurship class beginning in 2019, where he was able to apply some of the course’s learnings to Moii. In addition, he has been an invited presenter for FI 859: Mergers & Acquisitions, where he has shared his expertise around topics like bankruptcy restructuring, international mergers and acquisitions and planning for growth. Topping it off, he’s also passed the torch to his daughter, who graduated in 2019 with dual degrees in physiology and anthropology.
“The Broad Executive MBA program brought Deepak and myself, two immigrants with different backgrounds, to the same team as cohorts,” Posani said. “You spend so much time together that you know each other’s strengths. One has to look for such opportunities since life is full of them.”
Moii’s first-in-the-world concept is just one example of how Broad Spartans like Posani and Upadyaya are working together to inspire a positive impact on business.