In a serendipitous twist, Queensland AI Hub first met the 27-year-old when he landed a contract at the Hub overseeing its fit-out as construction site foreman.

Tim’s true passion as a self-taught disruptive tech pioneer – working construction contracts to fund his development of Safe Face Aus. A Queensland startup literally set to change the face of safe and secure access to any physical space, thanks to an AI-enabled facial recognition platform (100% locally designed and developed), complete with ‘COVID-Safe’ temperature detection.

Underlining the Hub’s role as connector, our team has since introduced Tim to potential industry partners in a bid to help him take Safe Face Aus to market.

As a result, Tim is currently in talks with a major Queensland construction organisation to trial his platform aimed at ensuring health and safety of all workers and visitors on site.

We’ll keep you updated on progress. In the meantime, watch a video on Tim’s Story.

Keen to find out more?  

We caught up with Tim for a deep dive into his Safe Face Aus platform, and what makes him tick. While he wears a few hats, as construction site foreman and e-commerce entrepreneur (the latter to keep funding development of Safe Face Aus during COVID19 slow periods), his dream role is Founding Director & Chief Technology Officer of Safe Face Aus.

Tim Volkman speaking to the Hon Stirling Hinchcliffe at the launch of the Queensland AI Hub.

Tim Volkman demonstrating the SafeFace system.

What was your dream job, growing up?
I wanted to be an inventor. I always liked making things and being creative in a way that solved problems, made things easier, more enjoyable and efficient. Sometimes, I even liked making things that didn’t really solve a problem, but where fascinating to look at… like marble runs. My father used to buy me remote control cars for Christmas. I’d break them after a few weeks, which resulted in me stripping out all the electronics and reusing them in combination with Lego to make my own remote control vehicles or devices. As a kid, playing with technology and electronics, seemed more like magic.

Do you come from a family of tech innovators?
Not really. I have mostly sourced my knowledge from friends, online resources and work experience. In saying that my Dad knows how to use an iPhone. So, if you ask him, he’s a tech geek. I didn’t go to University. Instead, from about the age of 10, I just loved pulling things apart and trying to repurpose or create new inventions. Trial and error only got me so far. I’m lucky that broadband became the norm when I was about 13, giving me access to YouTube and a vast array of online resources. It also helped me search for products and devices that I thought must exist, but I didn’t have the networks or education to immediately know where to find them. These days, you can find just about anything you need for a reasonable price to build your ideas, which is a good thing.

Tell us about Safe Face Aus?
I formed the company in early 2020, and initially funded its development via e-commerce ventures and personal savings from years in construction. Safe Face uses a combination of camera and infrared strobes to scan your face. That scan creates a secure digital file that is added to a Cloud stored profile, which is updated with every scan to help the system consistently account for growth and change. From this generated data the Safe Face system allows users to enter and exit premises and allows management to ensure everyone is safe and healthy. I think one of the positives about the platform is that is removes admin management for new users. Most facial recognition systems require a lengthy sign-up process (think about setting up an iPhone), which I wanted to avoid and make the system easy to use.

I also think facial recognition can be a bit overwhelming and, for some people, a scary thing… especially if you’re being scanned at a public location and not on your own device. The current status quo is facial recognition via your own device to allow payment via your phone for example. With Safe Face, we scan via a shared device, so it’s important to give people assurance that everything is done in a safe and secure way. I thought the name Safe Face was a good grounding for that vision.

It’s so important to me that Safe Face operates in a way that is secure. I have spent a large amount of time investigating what could go wrong, and how, and putting safeguards in place. Once operational Safe Face will be monitored 24/7 by our team, including security engineers.

Your biggest dream?
To take Safe Face to market, and by doing so, to establish a market-leading company that helps businesses of all sizes operate in a more efficient, safe and effective way, along with making employees’ lives less stressful. While the construction industry is a great place to start, I believe there are so many industries we can help innovate by streamlining daily operations. I also see a market in aged care facilities, commercial office spaces and 24hr gyms. Anywhere really where it’s important to safely and effectively determine identity, safety and health of people on site.

How has the connection with Queensland AI Hub helped you progress Safe Face Aus?
Meeting the Hub, and gaining access to the AI community and industry contacts, has been incredibly helpful in providing direction when I was not sure exactly how to move forward and take Safe Face to market. I’ve met some amazing people and I hope to collaborate with them in the near future. I also loved meeting people who, like me, are following their passion as tech innovators.

Your advice to others who may feel intimidated by tech (use or creation)?
From a user standpoint, I would encourage people to look for better solutions to their problems more actively and not be comfortable in their existing ways of doing things. As a creator, when dealing with problems, odds are someone, somewhere has had the problem before and has been nice enough to document how to fix it. Go online and ‘ask Google’.

Do you believe in AI as a transformative technology intended to augment human potential for the good of all people and our planet?
Yes, I love automated things and spending less time doing repetitive tasks and more time undertaking rewarding or challenging tasks. I would love to spend my car trips planning meetings and projects on my laptop while a self-driving car takes me to work. I have a robot vacuum not because it allows me to spend more time watching Netflix, but because it means I can put more time into my projects and hobbies and less into repetitive tasks like housework.

Anything else you’re developing outside of Safe Face?
I’m also currently working on a very basic Virtual Reality game and looking to get into 3D printing

Anything else people may be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a bit of a thrill seeker… when I have the time. I love doing things like skydiving and, more recently, learning to fly a helicopter.