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Social Impact Tech: Chris Piche of Smarter AI On How Their Technology Will Make An Important Positive Impact

An Interview With Jilea Hemmings

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Piche.

Chris Piche is a Canadian computer scientist and technology entrepreneur. He is an expert in computer vision, P2P, and scalable video technologies, having created services including AT&T TV, BBM Video, Poly Video, and STUN/TURN/ICE. Piche has been awarded Best of Internet World, Canada’s Top Young Leader, and Top 40 under 40. Piche is the Founder of Smarter AI, the leader in software-defined AI cameras and enablement software.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I was born and raised in Canada. My mother was a librarian who encouraged my early interest in reading. Through my mother’s work at our community library I met Don Mattrick, a gaming industry pioneer, who introduced me to computers. This led me to programming my first computer, a Radio Shack TRS-80, and then to teaching computer programming at our local community center.

I started college early, at age 12, and I was later involved in public ICT policy, serving as Canada’s representative to the APEC ICT Forum. Before founding Smarter AI, I developed connected video services including AT&T Video, BlackBerry OS, and Poly Video.

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

In the early 2010s, I was running Eyeball Networks, the leader in NAT traversal and real-time communications software. We ended up as part of BlackBerry OS and spent one year building the first BlackBerry smartphones. Unfortunately BlackBerry was too late and in the span of that one year, its market share declined from almost 40% to less than 10%, while Android and iOS market share increased from nothing to almost 90%. This was a first-hand lesson in the speed at which a technology transformation can lead to a market disruption. I’m applying this lesson at Smarter AI — be the disruptor, not the disruptee.

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?

I’m grateful to my parents, who (almost) always encouraged me to pursue my dreams.

I am also grateful for the values they instilled in me. My parents wanted me to have a sense of responsibility and a strong work ethic. Every summer they would assign me a home improvement project, from painting the house to building a fence.

Can you share a story about that?

Growing up, my mother worked as a librarian at our local public library. Sometimes she would ask me to stop by after school. This usually meant shelving books — remember the Dewey Decimal System? One day her library was hosting a book talk and my mother introduced me to the “author,” Don Mattrick. I asked him the name of his book and he politely explained to me that he wrote software, not books. I asked Don what software was and he showed me Evolution, his popular video game that was running on his Apple II. This was the first time I’d seen a computer and I was instantly hooked. I spent the rest of the afternoon quizzing Don about computers and how he’d learned to program them.

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

“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never work a day in your life.” — Mark Twain

Building technologies, teams, and businesses takes a lot of commitment and is not without its challenges. I’ve learned that when I am passionate about the work I am doing, the obstacles are easier to move through and the effort and sacrifice is well worth it. When you enjoy what you are doing you become more committed and engaged, which leads to greater success and fulfillment. For me, following my passions has led to the greatest rewards in my life.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I believe that passion, commitment, and “leading from the front” are characteristics of all successful leaders.

Passion — Building technologies, teams, and businesses is hard work and certainly not for the faint of heart. However, over the years I’ve learned that following my passions has led to my greatest commitment, success, and overall fulfillment. Passion for the work you are doing is crucial, as it gives you purpose and drives you to succeed, especially during the challenging times.

Commitment — I often refer back to the Tom Clancy quote, “An overnight success is 10 years in the making.” No one is an overnight success. There are years and years of unseen work and commitment behind every success story. Success takes time and successful leaders demonstrate continuous commitment to their goal.

Leading from the Front — Successful leaders demonstrate passion for their vision and strategies by “leading from the front.” In good times or bad, successful leaders must always be visible, engaged, and accountable. They must understand the objectives and identify key resources to accomplish the goals. It’s about having a clear mission and providing guidance and support to your team to ensure they are empowered to get the job done.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive social impact on our society. To begin, what problems are you aiming to solve? How do you think your technology can address this?

Smarter AI is the leader in AI cameras and enablement software with precision AI for trusted data and decisions. By incorporating AI, we’re transforming CCTV cameras and their use cases. Because each use case requires unique AI models and programming, Smarter AI software-defined cameras:

  • Program AI like apps on a phone, and are
  • Supported by AI Store™, our growing ecosystem of AI models and developers, to
  • Scale AI camera use cases and networks.

By making cameras smarter, we can increase safety and efficiency across industries including public safety, smart cities, and transportation.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause? How do you think this might change the world?

When I was involved in the development of the BlackBerry smartphone, I saw firsthand the positive impact of smartphone technology on society, including access to learning, productivity, and ubiquitous communication. Years later, I foresaw a similar technology transformation in the camera market — from CCTV to smart cameras — that could similarly benefit society with automation, convenience, and public safety.

Because they can be programmed to detect objects, people, and actions, AI cameras support many new form factors and use cases, including bio thermal cameras, bodycams, and dashcams for public safety, smart cities, and transportation.

The pandemic accelerated the need for public safety and Smarter AI Bio Thermal Cameras offered a solution by enabling mass temperature screening, social distancing, and contact tracing for safe reopening. Additionally, AI is being incorporated into dashcams to detect and prevent complacent and distracted behaviors such as texting while driving.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Information technology always comes at the expense of personal privacy. It’s important for public officials to understand AI technology and its implications to develop effective regulations.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Three things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”?

  1. Technical skills — Creating successful technology products and services requires leaders with technical skills, whether it’s in biology, computers, or any other field of engineering or science. Having the knowledge and ability to create the products is key.
  2. Marketing — For your technology to have a positive social impact, you must have the ability to bring it to market so that it’s seen by the right people at the right time with the right influence.
  3. Passion — Building technologies, teams, and businesses takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice. While I have learned that following my passions has led to my greatest success, it has not been without challenges. Having passion for your work and your goals enables you to push through obstacles and setbacks. It drives perseverance and commitment, which are building blocks for success.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Justin Timberlake said it best in his song, “What Goes Around…Comes Around.” It may sound cliche, but I believe that what we do today will come back full circle. Every action has a consequence, so if our actions are positive, the outcomes will be too. We are paving the way for a positive future not only for ourselves, but for the rest of humanity. Making a positive impact has the potential for a domino effect, inspiring others to do the same.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I would like to meet with Francis Xavier Suarez, the Mayor of the city of Miami. I am impressed by his efforts to transform Miami into the new Silicon Valley, cultivating a business-friendly culture that is attracting entrepreneurs, investors, and venture capital influencers. He has generated a tech boom in the city, bringing Miami to the forefront of the tech industry and attracting fintech, bitcoin, finance, venture capital, and private equity firms. I am equally impressed by his passion and his leadership style; he has a mission and he’s working hard to keep the momentum going to spark new opportunities for the city.

Social @MiamiMayor

How can our readers further follow your work online?

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Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.



In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Jilea Hemmings

Founder Nourish + Bloom Market | Stretchy Hair Care I Author I Speaker I Eshe Consulting I Advocate For Diversity In Beauty