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Digital drug test eyes billion dollar market

New AI software for fast, simple and safe alcohol and drug testing has been developed by a Gothenburg startup, Sightic Analytics.

“The first electric scooters [Ryde] equipped with Sightic’s software are rolling now – and soon our software may be in every Volvo near you,” say Stefani Najafi and Jenny Johansson, both with long and previous careers in law enforcement. Photo: Samuel Unéus

For law enforcement, and of course substance abusers, any advancement in the process of identifying if a person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be lifesaving. Usually, it is a difficult and time-consuming process of sampling bodily fluids.

Sightic Analytics has developed AI-based software that uses image analysis of the eye and its surrounding area to ascertain with up to 95 percent certainty whether someone is under the influence or not.

“There is a great need for fast, simple and safe solutions for alcohol and drug testing,” says Stefanie Najafi, who together with Jenny Johansson founded Sightic Analytics in 2019.

It was Stefanie’s background as a police officer, and Jenny’s training as psychologist, and their joint work for the police back in 2018 that laid the groundwork to pursue new solutions for substance abuse testing.

“We noticed that even experienced police officers had a hard time determining whether a person was under the influence or not. It is often a cumbersome process to get a reliable answer,” says Jenny Johansson.

“We began to think about whether we could develop a better and more reliable digital test.”

Five years on, Sightic’s extensive R&D, market analyses and software development has attracted investors including the European Innovation Council with a SEK 27 million grant, (with an option for another round). The Norwegian electric scooter company Ryde is first to include Sightic’s software in its app.

“Alcohol is the number one cause of injury on electric scooters. More and more municipalities are therefore choosing to limit the possibility of renting when people are likely to be under the influence. By logging into the app equipped with Sightic’s software, people can be screened to rent if sober, and recommended other means of transport, if not,” says Johansson.

The founders have no regrets about leaving steady government jobs to become entrepreneurs.

“We have been busy getting everything into place, met many great people and a lot of challenges along the way. We’ve been fortunate to have received help from the Sahlgrenska Science Park and RISE, and from the industrial innovation hub Mobility XLab, which includes the Volvo Group, Volvo Cars and Ericsson. Without this support, we would not have made it this far in such a short amount of time,” says Johansson.

At the moment there is no other actor that has developed a ready-made algorithm specifically for drug and alcohol screening.

“We have identified a niche with a potential billion dollar world market and we want to be a leading player there.”

In short: Sightic Analytics

Business idea: To develop digital drug tests based on image analysis of the eye area.

Number of employees: 14.

“Operating out of Gothenburg is a big advantage offering a large concentration of industry players and a distinct collaborative culture,” say Sightic’s co-founders Stefanie Najafi and Jenny Johansson.

The SIGHTIC software was initially developed for the iPhone platform, but it can also function as an integral part of a larger security system.“Our system is available for use within a wide range of applications where there is a need to monitor the influence of drugs or alcohol,” says Johansson.

“And it is not just the transport and vehicle industries that are in need of this. Other possible high-risk applications include nuclear power plants, mines and the chemical industry.”

Dangerous combination

Alcohol, drugs and driving don’t mix. According to the Swedish Transport Administration, Trafikverket, 20 percent of annual traffic deaths are caused by alcohol or drugs in the body. This rises to a full 35 percent in single vehicle accidents.

Text: Sven-E Lindberg

This article was first published in Magazine Gothenburg

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