(l-r) Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, David Dunn, chief executive of Sunderland Software City and Dr Selvakumar Ramachandran
A tech trailblazer, who has overcome incredible adversity to achieve academic excellence, is now on the pathway to success, after launching a business out of Sunderland Software Centre.
Born and raised in Tamil Nadu, Dr Selvakumar Ramachandran - or Selva, as he is known - has moved his life from one that saw him crawling the streets of his home city to founding a Sunderland-based business. Kerckhoffs Ltd. has produced a product – Identiteye - that will keep some of society’s most vulnerable safe.
Owing to a disability caused by contracting Polio as an infant, and with no wheelchairs in India to help him move freely, the 38-year-old pushed himself to achieve a Masters degree in Software Engineering from Blekinge Tekniska Hogskola in Sweden and a PhD in Information Science from the University of Rome Tor Vergata. He has now developed Identiteye, which aims to use a specially fabricated, discreet ‘chip’, installed on the doorstep of vulnerable people, to screen people at their door to ensure they are official and they are who they say they are.
Selva developed his thesis on assistive technology - particularly around safety - and how it could change lives. He explained: “There are 17,000 crimes on UK doorsteps every year. That’s bogus officers and people claiming to be someone they’re not - persons who target vulnerable, often older people. How can we live in a world full of technology and not use it to address this problem?
“With Identiteye, an individual will have a device in their home and when someone - say, from a social care team - visits, they will scan the chip at the door, which will, in turn, alert the person living there that someone is at the door and will also provide information on who that person is, confirming their authenticity.”
Selva is also exploring how the technology could feed into the data systems of the officers who could use it, allowing electronic records to update automatically with details of their home visits.
Selva continued: “My ambition is to test the technology in Sunderland first. I live here, and I want to help support the city, as well as hopefully creating a growing business and lots of jobs here.”
It is from Sunderland that Selva has been able to access support to begin to develop his concept into an alpha system that will soon be ready for testing.
“I have had so much support", Selva said. "I am going to be working with the University of Sunderland’s FabLab, to develop a prototype ‘chip’ that is effectively a QR code that a smartphone can recognise and ‘shake hands with’ and have had incredible support from Sunderland Software City. I was keen to move into the council-run Sunderland Software centre to continue to work with a number of great support organisations in the centre.”
Selva hopes to develop the product further, working with students from the University of Sunderland to refine the technology once it is tested.
“Hopefully, if I can commercialise it, money means jobs and I can support the economy here. Sunderland has given me life and I want to give something back", Selva said.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Selva’s story is a fantastic example of how much can be achieved through sheer determination and hard work.
“Not only has he managed to overcome the challenges that have come with his disability, but he has also been able to use it to develop a business which could help so many other people who are vulnerable or disadvantaged.
“Kerckhoffs has huge potential for growth and we’re delighted that the company has chosen Sunderland Software Centre as it embarks on its next chapter.
“We look forward to working with Selva as he continues to grow the business and we are excited to see what the future has in store for his business.”
To find out more about Sunderland as a place to do business, or its business centres, including Sunderland Software Centre, visit www.makeitsunderland.com.
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