Written by Anne Dequeker

10 May 2023


ELLONA in “DIX”, the impact podcast by La French Tech Toulouse

04/17/2023- Jean-Christophe Mifsud was with Gaëlle Allehaux at “La Cité de l’Espace” for the recording of an episode of DIX, the Impact Podcast by La French Tech Toulouse. This monthly podcast highlights inspiring start-up leaders in inspiring places. These entrepreneurs come to talk about their impact projects, that meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Listening the full podcast below:

Jean-Christophe Mifsud, President and CEO of ELLONA, was the guest on this podcast in mid-April to explain how our company is evolving at the heart of SDG 11, one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, for a sustainable city and community. A rendez-vous in front of one of Toulouse’s most touristic scientific places, “La Cité de l’Espace”.

Gaëlle Allehaux – “We are at the foot of Ariane 5, at “La Cité de l’Espace”, a site you know well because you have installed sensors there. Can you briefly present your activities?”

Jean-Christophe Mifsud – “I am a chemist by training, a neuro-chemist, and for about thirty years, I have been passionate about the human senses and how to measure them. I had the chance to develop, with my teams, electronic noses, electronic tongues, and electronic skin. In the context of climate change and environmental emergencies, whether indoors or outdoors, ELLONA develops measurement systems that will allow, through connected objects, to understand what is happening in the environment. We will measure gases, particles, vibration, light, etc.”.

GA – “How do you do that concretely?”

JCM – “Today I brought you a small connected object, measuring 10 cm by 10 cm and which can be hung from the ceiling, placed on desks, on urban lighting, on all urban furniture, on bus shelters, etc., to be able to measure all the ambient parameters. ELLONA was born from 2 observations: the first is that you can only improve your environment if you can measure it. And so, we provide these measures. And the second observation is that we must provide “remediation” data, that is an ability to act. It is precisely what we are doing. We are not only going to measure gases but also odors, not only particles but also allergens, not only noise but also sounds, etc., to understand what is happening and to be able to act concretely and as effectively as possible on our environment”.

GA – “We imagine very well that it is important to collect all this data, but what do we do with it once collected?”

JCM – “Networks of sensors create these data. For example, in Toulouse, on the “La Cité de l’Espace” site, we have about twenty of them. Also, on the “Halle aux Grains”, at “Mirail” site, around the “Cité des Géants”. This data will go up in the cloud where we will be able to carry out a real-time analysis allowing us to act: act, for example, on air filtration, inside buildings, act on public lighting, on road signs depending on pollution, on bus shelters when we detect insalubrities, etc. The objective is to connect with remediation systems in real-time and therefore be able to act on public health, on the efficiency of the processes, etc. It is our job”.

GA – “We talked about data collection and use. What about securing them?”

JMC – “It’s an important subject with all GDPR and cybersecurity rules at the heart of our activities. We work with secure servers and keep confidential data, individuals, and processes. Our activity is secure”.

GA – “How long have you been specializing in this sector?”

JMC – “For my part, it’s been about thirty years. ELLONA was created in 2017. We are building sound databases, for example, which will allow us to determine whether the 100 decibels detected on Place Esquirol concern a Harley Davidson, a jackhammer, a car accident, or a gunshot. Depending on this, the remediation will be different. We are developing signal intelligence on sounds and smells with 400 odors, including around 100 detergents. Thanks to these databases, we contextualize all the anomalies and malfunctions allowing us to act in real-time.

GA – “What are “La Cité de l’Espace” site applications?”

JCM – ” “La Cité de l’Espace”, like any building open to the public, is aware today of chemical and viral problems on health. And therefore, the need today to control and measure the air quality in real-time is one of the priorities of places such as the “La Cité de l’Espace”. We measure gases, odors, particles, allergens, noise, and the level of light, etc., to help the site operate better and reduce its energy footprint (no need to ventilate if there are fewer people over a given time). We help improve health in the short and medium term”.

GA – “How do you train the sensor to recognize all this?”

JCM – “It’s like a baby who has just been born. He has a nose, eyes, ears, and intelligence but doesn’t have a database. So, we will be his parents, in him explaining that such a smell is vanilla, strawberry, etc. We educate the system. A certain number of smells or sounds are already pre-learned, but there is a certain number that will have to learn. We put, therefore, the learning system”.

GA – “How are you involved in SDG 11?”

JCM – “We are very close to the concept of a sustainable city and to the other constituent objectives of the 2030 Agenda, such as energy saving and public health. We indeed contribute to the components of SDG 11. A sustainable city is a city that will adapt to its use. Today, the elements of the city, whether transport or energy (lighting, heating), are set according to arbitrary criteria such as the lighting from 9 p.m. to 6:15 a.m. We offer a real-time measurement capacity that will allow the city to adapt to its use and reduce its energy and carbon footprint with the associated pollution. We play on two aspects: the short-term elements, energy and associated costs, and the medium-term elements, health and citizen engagement in their environment”.

Many thanks to Aurore Giovannini and Juliette Gabrieli from French Tech Toulouse as well as Jeanne-Marie Ayraud and Gaëlle Allehaux from Media Meeting.

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