Antwerp-based smart mobility startup AYES has picked up €1 million in pre-seed funds, driving take-up of its smartphone camera-enabled software that helps the visually impaired cross the road safely.
The round is led by pan-European early stage VC id4 Ventures and unnamed angel backer, with further contributions from Flanders innovation board VLAIO and existing AYES investors Manuel Thurner and Konstantin Mehl.
Data provided by AYES suggests it costs $50,000 on average to make busy urban intersections safe for the visually impaired to use.
Meanwhile campaign groups are leaning harder on cities to make visual accessibility a reality. In New York City, there was a disability settlement agreed last year to make all of its physical infrastructure disability friendly over the next 10+ years, up from 3% at present, AYES says.
The AYES product uses artificial intelligence to tell the customer's smartphone camera when to cross the road and even which bus or tram is arriving at their transit stop.
Advances in edge computing played a big role. The app is able to store algorithms locally on the user's phone — WiFi dropouts would render the system useless, so the local execution is critical.
Having launched in 20 or so countries, AYES says visually impaired users have crossed 200,000 urban streets with its software. With the €1 million in new funding, AYES expects to reach another 70 million users.
Ivan Petrovic, investment partner at Id4 Ventures, said: "We believe that putting AYES’ advanced technology in the hands of millions of users will help them enjoy their cities as much as any other citizen.
"AYES has the perfect solution for visually impaired people as we see increased expectations on inclusion and accessibility.”