18th May 2020

Meet the founder: ArchEO

Claire Corlett

We’re finding out more about Iris and her business ArchEO, one of the startups to join our Accelerator Programme in cohort 10.  

Q: Who are the founders of your startup, and what are your backgrounds?

A: Iris Kramer graduated with a BA and MSc in Archaeology from the University of Leiden and the University of Southampton, and is currently finishing her PhD in AI at the ECS department at the University of Southampton. She has presented her research at numerous conferences and has become an active member in the community surrounding the use of deep learning in archaeology.

Q: Tell us the story behind your startup – why did you start your company?

A: As an academic, Iris has promoted the application of AI in archaeology, which has become a thriving research community in Europe. However, this is yet to lead to the adoption of AI methods within commercial archaeology, despite this being the largest market in the archaeology industry. To protect heritage there is a legal requirement to assess potential damages incurred by land development. Currently this process is manual, time-consuming and dependant on individual expertise. As a result, 1 in 1000 construction projects encounter unexpected archaeological sites that result in costly delays.

With AI technology, we circumvent individual bias, look at more sensory data, in less time, which results in instant, high accuracy detections. So, it was really a no brainer to start ArchEO after completing the PhD!

Q: What does success look like for you?

In the short term, ArchEO will produce a bespoke, custom product for each new customer, but ArchEO will be truly successful when we’ve developed a web application where customers can get instant interpretation of archaeological objects seen on remote sensing data for their specific research area.

Eventually, we want ArchEO to be the leading force behind the mass discovery of archaeological sites, thereby saving both time and money for the construction industry as well as saving heritage for future generations.

Q: What’s your biggest achievement so far, and why?

A: We’ve held a pilot for automated site detection with Historic Environment Scotland on the Isle of Arran. We used LiDAR data and discovered hundreds of previously unknown sites. The best part is that we had relatively few false positives and that each false detection had reasonable doubt or was a misclassification with other archaeological sites. Our pilot coincided with an intensive project of manual LiDAR interpretation followed by fieldwork to verify possible new sites. I was really pleased to find out that despite this intensive research we still managed to find so many sites with our automated approach!

Q: What are your plans for your startup over the next six months?

A: I’ve proven the need and usefulness for my product in heritage management but I’ll need to find product market fit in the commercial archaeology industry. So, even though I’m trying to move away from academia to become a business woman I still need to do lots of research to get there!

Q: Tell us something interesting about yourself!

A: In my spare time I love to garden. It’s great to be offline, reconnect with nature and watch my plants slowly grow whilst my AI models are doing the hard work finding new sites back in my office.