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Lars Nordenlund: “Don’t compromise on hiring the best team”

…The platform delivers live and predictive situational awareness of individuals and crowds using multi-sensor technology to detect when people are less than six feet apart, congregating in groups, running a fever or not wearing masks. It’s a technology that is based on the innovation of self-driving cars, a highly advanced autonomous solution combining video, thermal, […]

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…The platform delivers live and predictive situational awareness of individuals and crowds using multi-sensor technology to detect when people are less than six feet apart, congregating in groups, running a fever or not wearing masks. It’s a technology that is based on the innovation of self-driving cars, a highly advanced autonomous solution combining video, thermal, voice and biometric sensors with optimized hardware, software and AI.


As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewingLars Nordenlund.

Lars Nordenlund, CEO of Cognize, is a global top-management executive with more than 20 years of CEO, VP and strategic leadership experience from leading technology enterprise companies like Microsoft and Canon, as well as start-ups and mid-stage pre-IPO organizations with global growth ambitions in the United States and Europe — all with special emphasis within the technology, AI, IoT, enterprise software, cloud video, SaaS and media advertising sectors.


Thank you so much for doing this with us Lars! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I am driven by what’s next. Technology has always inspired me since it can open new worlds and opportunities that have never been broadly accessible to us. I’m highly interested in how computer science is exponentially accelerating innovation. At an early stage of my professional career I had the opportunity to lead a corporate strategy management consulting practice in PricewaterhouseCoopers for technology and media companies, which spurred an interest and affinity for the tech industry. In 2002, I was spearheading a practice in Northern Europe for technology companies, and one of the clients we worked with went through an IPO global merger and was eventually acquired by Microsoft. They asked me to join in establishing the Dynamics Business Solutions division, which brought me to Microsoft HQ in Seattle. That is when the start of almost two decades of a professional life in the technology industry emerged.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Cognize enabled me to be able to ideate, incubate and bring a passion and big idea to fruition. I was able to develop a company into a full-blown business to solve some massive problems in this world with the wonders of cognitive computing. Essentially, applying technology to optimize and create better businesses and a safer and healthier public life. I appreciate this opportunity to make a difference in this world and a contribution to help us do better.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We have built an AI cognitive learning platform that can understand patterns of behavior in physical spaces, for both people and situations of relevance to mitigate risk, improve health and expand customer experience. Our mission is to innovate and explore the wonders of cognitive learning to better realities. Accepting the fact that improving your reality starts with fully observing it, gives us the ability to prevent undesired events, while concurrently improving experiences using cognitive awareness solutions.

Cognize recently launched the new People, Health and Safety platform, supporting compliance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 guideline requirements for social distancing, mask screening and body temperature checks. The platform delivers live and predictive situational awareness of individuals and crowds using multi-sensor technology to detect when people are less than six feet apart, congregating in groups, running a fever or not wearing masks. It’s a technology that is based on the innovation of self-driving cars, a highly advanced autonomous solution combining video, thermal, voice and biometric sensors with optimized hardware, software and AI.

How do you think this might change the world?

It is our mission to better reality by observing and immediately improving situations of a critical nature. Right now, our priority is to provide a solution to support companies and institutions in getting people back to work faster and as safely as possible. As many of us face challenges on how to pivot and address critical business and health concerns, so we have applied our technology to meet and automate COVID-19 compliance requirements, including: social distancing, mask detection and body temperature and heart rate check.

The Cognize situational awareness platform reduces risk and ensures compliance with CDC guidelines by integrating multi-sensor fusion data with cognitive learning to provide critical context and recommendations. The fully automated sensors eliminate the need for manually monitoring and provide real-time alerts with images that can be routed for proper action.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Cognitive situational awareness is an evolution of co-existence with technology, taking advantage of AI and cognitive learning to improve how things are done, and at the same time being highly respectful of data integrity and personal interference.

Multi-sensor systems can understand very complex situations that the human mind cannot keep up with or maintain attention to — including small details and patterns of behavior that can help us predict and resolve issues before they become larger public health and safety threats. Just like the first industrial revolution in 1775 to the IT, internet and AI revolutions, humans have shown their ability to adapt to advancements in technology to ultimately lead to safer, healthier and better lives. At the same time evolution helped us adapt new technology inventions to the human values and ethics, instead of letting the technology take over.

Private data integrity is a top priority. At the same time, we realize that the exposure of data and behavior in businesses such as routine surveillance, is already happening in public places as well as online by platforms like Facebook and Google. However, the benefits of such technologies far outweigh the threats they may present.

We treat data with extremely high degree of sensitivity and privacy. For instance, we do not store personal data related to names or individuals, and sensitive data never leaves the site. All Cognize solutions adhere to data privacy regulations, are GDPR compliant and can be customized for specific business and industry needs.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I realized that everything I had been working with in my past professional life was based on what had already happened. It was all based on historic data and a forensic approach. From there, I started to explore the wonders of cognitive computing and autonomous sensor technologies with a more proactive approach versus reactive in situational awareness. We could use available technology to do live “here and now,” and predictive systems could indicate “what’s next” and prevent situations before they occur, optimizing experiences and streamlining functions and staff. This was the goal and mission that led to our breakthrough.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We are aiming at establishing strategic partner adoption for specific industries and verticals of relevance to work alongside us to learn, improve, optimize and innovate. We will lead customer driven innovation one industry at a time, such as retail environments, education and university campuses, entertainment venues, hospitality, healthcare, smart safe cities and critical infrastructure.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We have used online media and blogs early on to discuss the convergence of technology from autonomous cars to physical spaces. We have also leveraged press opportunities to build awareness and develop an online presence within the industry. Additionally, we have implemented a successful ambassador program that engages advocates to evangelize our solutions. We are truly devoted to spreading the knowledge of such technologies for the betterment of society.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have a group of trusted advisors and mentors that I look to. I am a believer in having multiple mentors that you can go to for different perspectives. These are people that I have worked with and built trust in over time. Cognize has a strong advisory team for the same reason.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

By creating Cognize, I feel I am set up to do good in this world. Our technologies are aimed at changing the world in a positive way, creating improved realities to make the world a better and safer place.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Lead by Core Values. Trust, integrity and honesty are imperative to successful relationships and businesses. Ensure that your leadership is transparent, truthful and operates on a high-level of integrity. I’ve had situations where people haven’t been upfront or have omitted partial truths about a position or a company at least a couple of times. Once I was lured to a high level CEO position, moved my family out of the country, and the company quickly ended up on the edge of bankruptcy and sold off. I have also hired and engaged people that I thought had shared values and later came to learn their values did not actually align with what they expressed early on, which led to a disappointing, unhealthy environment that I did not want in my workplace.
  2. Don’t compromise on hiring the best team. If you are scaling an organization in a fast-growing company, it is tempting to recruit a talented person who doesn’t quite fit. Don’t do it. If someone doesn’t feel right or doesn’t fit your value set keep looking until you find the perfect fit. A short-term solution at the expense of long-term objectives can do more harm than good. It’s critical to engage in a high degree of vetting and to develop networks that allow for fostering connections prior to hiring. When I haven’t done that with executive teams I’ve hired, I’ve seen a shift from an individual I saw as being open and accommodating to one that turned out to be toxic and greedy. Hire carefully.
  3. Advisors make a difference. Build a diverse group of trustworthy mentors and respected friends. I’ve done this over time, and these are the people I go to in critical times for different perspectives and subject matter expertise. I also look to my established advisors and mentors for referrals and to help evangelize our mission and spread the word about how we can make a difference in this world
  4. Have a plan to prevent and respond to litigious actions. I am a big believer in visionary leadership, core team competencies and strong strategy execution in sustainable deployment and delivery. A company can do its best for its customers and employees and implement a high degree of responsible leadership, but it will most likely encounter a situation where they need to respond legally. I hired an executive in the past that changed drastically — like day and night. Ego and greed can change people’s behaviors and impair the success of the overall team and company. You have to be prepared to mitigate that risk and take action to protect yourself and the company in such situations.
  5. See into the future. It’s fair to say it’s hard to predict the future despite attempts to correlate historic events with future results. Looking backwards gives you some indication of potential future outcomes, but for a business I still think the best way to prepare for the future is to create it yourself and drive breakthrough innovation to shape the future in your own scenario planning. The power of this approach is the discipline that forces us to explore uncharted territory. You must bypass market uncertainty, believe in yourself more than a perceived reality, and try to manage your own cognitive biases –which often foil these attempts to take the long view

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Cognize is a data science and technology company that enables institutions and companies to revolutionize their health and safety situations and improve customer and patient experiences. Using AI cognitive technology and IoT to observe, predict and act on everything that happens in their environments is the next big thing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” ― Steve Jobs

Cognize is built on the vision to make a difference and imagine how things can be better. I left a corporate world to start a new company ground up because that’s my passion and my intuition tells me this will be a game changer.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Our company is seeded to a fast track trajectory of business growth to global leadership in a 78 billion dollars market opportunity in intelligent systems by 2022.

We have addressed a key problem for enterprises in entertainment, hospitality, healthcare institutions and other industries experiencing a major problem with handling complex customer or staff situations, because of the fact that the human attention span is very low, and the brain has limited capabilities to detect critical situations.

At Cognize, we combine bleeding edge AI technologies with multi-sensor fusion as the backbone of our platform — video, thermal, radar, audio, heart rate, environmental sensors and biometrics detection, plus more. And if the infrastructure is the backbone, the brain is artificial intelligence. Cognize is the first and only situational awareness platform to integrate sensor data with a cognitive learning engine to absorb and analyze vast amounts of data — including live and historic data — with human-like thinking to mitigate risk and even predict critical events. We deliver relevant situations in real-time and predictive observations 24/7/365 to provide meaningful patterns of behavior using the OODA situational awareness model, with an ability to see, analyze and understand the world around you in context of what you are trying to do.

We’re Cognize, and we help companies engineer better realities that improve their safety and customer experience and drive growth using the power of cognitive learning.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: Cognize Inc.

Twitter: lnordenlund

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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