Meet the SA Startup Whose Artificial Intelligence Tech is Being Utilised by Mercedes-Benz SA

Updated on 29 October 2018

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AI systems are not just changing how we interact with our devices and digital virtual assistants; they are also impacting production efficiencies in the manufacturing sector – and the automotive industry is no exception.

In 2017, Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) together with startup incubator LaunchLab launched an Innovation Challenge in search for South African tech startups which were great at applying machine learning within the manufacturing sector. The challenge called on local tech startups to present their solutions and DataProphet was chosen as the overall winner.

DataProphet is one of Africa’s most exciting tech startup, their technology seeks to help advance South Africa’s manufacturing sector and help the country become a globally competitive manufacturing hub.

The startup was founded by Frans Cronje and Daniel Schwartkopff in 2012 and is now amongst companies that are empowering MBSA with artificial intelligence by using machine learning to improve productivity.

The Cape Town-based machine learning company develops and implements product development solutions to a wide range of industries, with a specific focus on the manufacturing sector.

Frans and Daniel met at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and were brought together by the hypothesis that machine learning would be increasingly valuable to businesses.


The technology developed by DataProphet has a potential to be utilised by Mercedes-Benz plants globally

The technology

DataProphet has developed a technology now known as OMNI, which is an artificial intelligence system that determines the optimal process parameter set points and control limits in any complex, multi-step manufacturing process. The result is a dynamic process control plan for engineers to eliminate defects, scrap and improve yield.

The technology developed by DataProphet has a potential to be utilised by Mercedes-Benz plants globally.

According to Isaac Matsa, sales executive at DataProphet, this would not have been possible without the support from LaunchLab and its programme. He said: “The programme played a critical role in connecting us as a solution provider to MBSA.”

The startup incubator through the innovation challenges serves as a connector between startups and corporates. It enables the corporates to have access to startups and innovators and at the same time enables startups and innovators to access the market.

Since the win in 2017, DataProphet has also secured funding from local venture capital firm, Knife Capital which will be geared towards their growth on the international landscape, focusing on Europe, North and South America.

In 2018, MBSA has again partnered with LaunchLab to search for local talent. Local innovators are called upon to apply for the 2018 LaunchLab Ideas Challenge. The slight difference this year is the focus on ideas instead of established startups with sophisticated solutions.

The Mercedes-Benz South Africa Ideas Challenge

The Mercedes-Benz South Africa Ideas Challenge will target interested students and professionals to pitch their innovative ideas around a set of challenges, tailor-made to advance manufacturing as well as relevant industry topics, as identified by MBSA.

The challenge spans various focus areas – ranging from big data and machine learning for manufacturing, the digitisation of logistics and production, machine learning, Industry 4.0 and many more.

The deadline for submissions is 31 October 2018, thereafter, a shortlist of candidates will participate in an ideas bootcamp to further refine and validate their ideas. Selected finalists will have the opportunity to present their ideas to Mercedes-Benz South Africa decision makers in November.

This is an opportunity for local innovators to follow in the footsteps of innovators at DataProphet and also have massive support to scale their solutions.

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