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Hades - Going Deeper Underground


Every city you’ve visited, every city you’ve found breathtaking and beautiful holds its own, unrevealed dark secrets. Sewages, I’m talking about sewages, the underground areas of a city no one wants to mention or see.

To dive into the unchartered waters of the underground, Dominik Boller co-created something to ease the mission of dealing with the gloomy and sticky nature of the sewage systems.

Drumroll, please! Enter Hades! An artificial intelligence system that explores fractures, deficiencies, and blockages in sewers. In Greek mythology, Hades is the god of the Underworld. How neat!

Dominik Boller is the co-founder of Hades. The young man jokingly says that just like Hades in Greek mythology, his company also looks after the modern underground.

If you’re interested to know all about the modern-age Hades and the vast world of the underground, stick around and reveal the story of Dominik Boller.

Environmental Engineering Is the Future

Dominik Boller has shown a passion for engineering since the youngest age. Being a curious child, Dominik was interested in all things engineering. As years passed by, young Dominik had the opportunity to explore more on the subject of engineering at ETH in Zurich, Switzerland.

Dominik entered the field of study of Environmental Engineering, and his main focus was Hydraulic Engineering Acoustics Analysis. To attain a Bachelor’s degree, Dominik had chosen the Emery optimization of wastewater treatment plants thesis, where he successfully opened his path toward future educational successes.

Dominik continued his education at Loughborough University where he earned himself a Masters’s degree in Science (MSc) in the field of Water and Environmental Management. Not long after, Dominik took an internship with the Water, Engineering, and Development Center (WEDC).

Continuing his interest in environmental issues and being sure in his abilities to improve water waste management, Dominik enrolled at ETH Zurich once again, only this time he was getting his second Master’s degree.

His second Master's degree in Science (MSc) was for Environmental Engineering, focusing on Urban Water Management and Water Resources Management.

Obtaining his Master’s degree was supported by his thesis about the localization of sewer assets in street-level images using deep learning.

Dominik’s co-founder to be, Anton Middelhaufe began his studies in Zurich, Switzerland, at the Swiss Federal University of Technology (ETH). His field of study was computer science. Once he graduated, Anton got his degree as Bachelor of Science. While he was a student at ETH, Anton went to Israel on a student exchange program to spend a semester there, studying. Anton studied computer science at the Israel Institute of Technology. The experience he got there made him dream bigger, leading him to Hades, as we’re about to discover.

From Intern to Founder

Dominik started his career as an engineering intern at Hunziker Betatech AG. He attained the position as part of the internship program in the Department of Process Engineering. Next, Dominik’s talent and skills got him a position as Project Collaborator at Eewag Civil Service, in the Department of Sanitation Development in the Water and Solid Waste sector.

Dominik’s career took a slightly different path when he got a position at ETH Zurich as a teaching assistant. He was working for the Chair of Urban Water Management, teaching young minds about the ways of water management. Then, Dominik transferred back to his original career and got a research assistant trainee position in the Department of Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development. Dominik was a contributor to the 4S project - Small-scale Sanitation Scaling-Up.

Young Dominik continued developing his skills and was hired at Hydrosolutions Ltd. During this time, Dominik was working on a project in China about modeling flash floods in semi-arid basins of China.

After finishing the project in China, Dominik was once again hired by Eewag, but this time in the Research Department. He was working and investigating how could computers help with sewer problems. Dominik turned his attention to the automated localization of surface-level sewers’ infrastructure. He had the public access and street-level approach to this problem. Thanks to his dedication and knowledge, Dominik also managed to automatically detect any defects that the sewer system might have had. This project was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

This brings us to his latest endeavor. In 2018, together with Anton Middelhaufe, they co-founded Hades. This latest invention comes out of necessity and is on the path of making city works much more efficient, cost-effective, and easy to do.

Anton Middelhaufe started his career with a very interesting internship. He was working for Airbus as an intern in Germany for one month. After the internship time ended he jumped to the next opportunity to work for his alma mater. At ETH he started a new position and a course assistant for Design od Digital Circuit where he spend five months in 2016. When this project was over he got a second job opportunity at ETH once again. This time his position was once again the same as the previous one, a course assistant. The project was the same one as before Design of Digital Circuit.

When this chapter was over, Anton met Dominik, and after some time hanging out, they have found that they have spoken the same language regarding their intertwined passions for design and engineering. In 2018, they co-founded the now reputable company, Hades.

Hades Is Born

Hades’ reach goes well beyond Switzerland, given that URBAN-X, the MINI-funded urban tech startup accelerator, in Brooklyn, New York has chosen to provide financing for the startup. Up to $150,000 is to be invested in Hades, for the support and guidance in product development.

In Germany and Switzerland, Hades’ technology is already established, though the inventors are not going to specify certain sites where that information could be found. Dominik claims the technology helps to prevent human mistakes and save time with inspections. The outdated infrastructure, the aging of the labor force, and high precipitation resulting from climate change are threatening sewer systems, globally.

As per service and fee, each remote sewer is analyzed and at a monthly cost. Also, the data collected by Hades is easily shared via a web app.

As by the words of Dominik, Hades performs its best when combined with human input, meaning, when the AI machine is unable to reach a conclusion, an employee is asked for specific feedback. According to Dominik, physical sewer system inspection might tend to overlook or misclassify 25% of faults on average. One client remarked that Hades allowed him to perform a sewer evaluation three times faster than by using traditional approaches.

Hades is so necessary on the market for many reasons. The first one is the old facilities. Most sewers have been established long ago and nearing the end of their service lives. The typical US sewer is 45 years old, but it already looks like it's 50-80 years old. Also, change in climate increases rain occurrences in frequency and amplitude. Moreover, urban development generates sealing in more areas, and with the higher population density, everything leads to increased wastewater drainage.

And the third reason for Hades’ importance, and maybe the most astonishing one is the aging of the workforce without being replenished. An army of people has ensured that our sewers work continuously every day. However, substantial portions of today's workers are to retire and the expertise is lost in the coming decade.

Setbacks and (Under) Road Bumps

Startup companies, as always, face setbacks on the road to success. Hades, as a startup company itself, had faced challenges but not in the traditional form.

The infrastructure specialists who report the problems with the sewers by hand must then look at recorded films to find the flaws. In contrast, Hades’ technology could find all sewage flaws automatically, providing less error-prone and more objective outcomes. This concept of using modern technology to solve problems from the past is what makes investors doubtful.

Sewers have been underfunded in the past, as have most infrastructures. Now, however, a major part of them are coming to an end and are ready to collapse. This means there will be more and more frequent failures such as collapses, sewage spills, and leaks. In the next several years, the US and Europe must invest billions in preventing disasters.

Even though most sewers are inaccessible, the major basis for decisions about how to maintain them is the visual video captured with Hades during an inspection utilizing a remotely operated vehicle employing a camera.

With more and more sewers checked by Hades, its database is expanding and evolving, helping to identify the need for sewer repair and averting leakage pollution. Using Hades could solve a billion-dollar problem, thus making the technology much cheaper and accessible.

Hades Today

Although Hades started small, today the company has raised $2.2 million in funding.

To become the necessity it is today, Hades had to face the competition coming from companies like Aqua Robur Technologies, Aquarius Spectrum, and Acoustic Sensing, among others.

The founders, Dominik and Anton, decided to keep their current location as their main base for Hades, which is Zurich, Switzerland. Both being Swiss nationals is a huge advantage point because their local authorities hugely invest in the public infrastructure.

Hades counts 18 employees for now, but as the company grows, it is expected to reach a higher number. This growth is expected not only in their headquarters but worldwide, too, by opening branches in the major metro areas, worldwide. Taking into consideration how cost-effective and user-friendly this technology is, we are sure that we will hear more often about Hades.