This is a guest post by Tobias Heger of EIT ICT Labs
The symbol of the Idea Challenge is a paper plane – and appropriately enough, some great ideas are taking flight at the contest’s different finals. Held at the same time as the smart space event in Helsinki, the cyber-physical systems category had its final in Munich last week together with organiser EIT ICT Labs‘ partners Siemens and the Center of Digital Technology and Management (CDTM).
The city may be mostly famous for lederhosen and dirndls, beer and the Oktoberfest, but Munich also has an innovative and fast-growing technology community.
Moreover, it is also the biggest economic centre for biotechnology, software and manufacturers in the south of Germany and is home to the world’s biggest scientific and technical museum, the Deutsche Museum.
The nine teams gathered the day before Tuesday’s final to get to know each other and to participate in workshops at the Siemens News Ventures Forum. The finalists had the opportunity to improve and refine their business models with the help of Siemens management consultant Uwe Splettstößer and to discuss how to hire A-players with Michael Baum, CEO of Founder.org.
Based on his wealth of entrepreneurial experience, he recommended they “hire slow and fire fast” because “good is not good enough.” It’s not always an easy concept to realise – but Baum should know what he is talking, as he has successfully managed to sell multiple companies to the likes of Yahoo!, and took Splunk public.
The pitch event took place in the heritage-protected Gaszählerwerkstatt venue. Hoping that the old spirit of the workers of the former assembly hall, built in 1906, would bring inspiration and energy, the nine teams had a last opportunity to fine tune their presentations in the morning.
In the afternoon, it was finally time to pitch the idea to a jury of seven experts from EIT ICT Labs, Founders.org, SoundCloud, British Telekom, Siemens and Fortiss, with the finalists explaining how they want to break down the boundaries between the physical and the virtual in the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and online services.
These were the teams:
3D printing has been big news for a while now – the world has moved on from putting simple black ink onto white paper, to printing real material objects. 3YourMind is a German startup for 3D prints, located at the Technical University in Berlin. Its vision is to open this new technology to every creative mind and to help avoid the weeks of learning difficult and complex 3D printing modeling and restrictions, and of preparing printable files.
They provide 3D prints of building models in every shape and size for companies in the area of architecture, industry and property advertisement. Just a simple click on a button and you can order a professional 3D printout based on common CAD program output. An example of their work – a little white building made out of nylon – was presented during the pitch by Stefan Kühr, CEO of 3YourMind.
He said: “With just one click you can upload it [the model] to our portal, do some selections, choose some options and get a beautiful 3D printout of your project.”
The two managing directors of Kinexon, Dr. Oliver Trinchera and Dr. Alexander Hüttenbrink from Munich, pitched their innovative real time location and motion sensor that detects the condition and status of people and objects with a live demo on stage.
While Trinchera explained the theoretical background and the technical details, Hüttenbrink walked around with the Kinexon cell sensor, the tiny, lightweight core of the system. His movements were documented as a black moving trail in their program, shown on the big screen.
The accuracy of their solution (approximately 1-5 cm) and its seamless operation in indoor and outdoor environments were both impressive. With the package of hardware, software and service, the customer is able not only to measure the movement, but also monitor the data with the help of a cloud-based smart analytics application that can be accessed from an Internet-enabled device.
One usecase is for the movements of athletes – Kinexon can provide real-time insights in terms of tactics, technique, performance and health of the athlete. Measurements like this are Kinexon´s vision “to help people of all performance classes realise their full potential.”
Everyone has seen the warnings at ATMs to cover the keypad while typing in your PIN. And Amnon Samid, co-founder of Israeli startup BitMint, also knows the prediction that by 2020 about 70 billion things will be connected. This will require a massive transfer of data – a large part of which will be sensible data.
BitMint’s vision is to preserve the online and offline privacy of money transactions and protect customers against violation by digitalisation of cash money. The secure robust framework provides a safe, digital online and offline payment solution. By not keeping the database of their customers’ financial accounts it does not attract hackers while replacing the need of carrying around a credit card.
The German-Swedish team behind VirtualGrasp is hoping to make the dreams of science-fiction fans come true. Using movie scenes from Minority Report and Iron Man to illustrate their aims, Kai Hübner explained that the futuristic interaction of your hand and electrical devices could become more and more part of our daily life.
Hübner believes that VirtualGrasp is interesting in the context of CPS because it connects the virtual world with the real world through movements of your hands. He said: “Imagine you want to grasp something that is in your computer or interact with it like a piece of lego […] that is where we have the technology, the solution to enable this kind of feeling for lots of developers and end-users.” This should come in quite handy in video games but can also be helpful for medical control and physiotherapy. As a software solution, VirtualGrasp is cost-effective for developers, flexible to use, and compatible with many existing and upcoming input devices, like Kinect, LeapMotion, Myo, or just the common keyboard and mouse.
The idea of the Italian startup Snapback is a perfect example of CPS, i.e. the interaction of reality and electric devices. Now that society has embraced touchscreen, Giuseppe Morlino, CEO and co-founder of Snapback, wants to go one step further: “I don’t want to touch it anymore, I just want to move my arm or my hand!”
Snapback is a cross-platform technology with a user-friendly interface based on voice and intuitive gestures that eliminate the need of getting stuck on smart devices. In a live demo, they even showed how you can interact with you device by snapping your fingers, pointing a smart wristband to a point of interest (POI) or even by blowing on it – all of which is based on leveraging existing technology in new ways.
TST inno from Teichert Systemtechnik produces different kind of shape sensors. In addition to shape sensors for large objects like boats, planes and windmills, and surface shape sensors, the company also develops cable-like shape sensors interaction cables, or InCas. InCas are sensors which digitalise 3D positions and directions on the fly. Application areas comprise monitoring of packaged cable or hose assemblies.
Demonstrating the different cables and sensors to the audience, founder Jens Teichert added that capturing the shape of cable-like objects is new to the market and that his technology is unique and patented. The flexibility of the helically coiled sensors provides a basis for new innovative objects, especially in industrial environments.
If you want to do well in pitches, it’s usually good to grab the attention of the jury – and the Australian representative of Swedish startup Evothings did just that not only with a funny and self-confident introduction, but also revealing that he had only joined company a week beforehand.
In that time he had, however, completely changed the presentation slides, although the dreaded technical problems did afflict his live demo.
Still, he did get across the Evothings aim of providing an easy online solution to create mobile applications for the IoT in an easy, fast and fun way. At a time where most people rely on a smart phone and downloaded apps in their daily life, a fast way of developing those applications is very welcome.
Evothings not only cuts down the costs and the development process, but is also made to to manage the technologies of the major players like Google and Android, Apple, Blackberry and Samsung. The company says that developing 100 different IoT targeted at three different mobile platforms concurrently can cost €10 million – but that with its solution, development time can be cut fivefold leading to savings of up to €8m.
The four young CDTM students from Munich were highly motivated when it was their turn to pitch on home turf, and they presented their idea of an optical measurement solution for mechanical sensors.
They claim that their technology is “faster, more robust, simpler and also adoptable to a wide range of application areas.” With the help of a patent-pending light filter, Konux can measure up to ten different mechanical measuring units and convert it to a digital signal. By changing the position of the filter, the light changes and provides the relevant information to reconstruct the movement of the object. The modular design of the angle, the pressure, the slip angle and position sensors, and the use of simple electronics enables them to reduce costs and complexity.
The last finalist to pitch was Arnaud Legrand, CEO of Energiency. The young French startup is located in Rennes, Paris and Lille. Its product is an innovative online software platform for intelligent energy management in industrial environments. Energiency runs big data algorithms and machine learning routines that continuously scan all information systems in factories (production, maintenance, energy, etc.) and provide real-time energy monitoring assessment and executable action plans on different devices.
With the user-friendly software as a service (SaaS) solution, customers can achieve up to 20 percent energy savings without any investments in hardware. Thus, they not only help to save money but can also claim some green credentials by decreasing energy consumption.
And so the winners!
First place in the EIT ICT Labs Idea Challenge in the Cyber-Physical Systems category was awarded to Konux. The young team convinced the jury with its fresh and enthusiastic pitch, filled with energy, self-confidence and willpower.
Michael Wax and Vlad Lata didn’t show any sign of insecurity in front of the international audience but demonstrated good communication skills and a confident body language, and persuaded the jury that they are committed to the topic and certain about what they want to achieve.
They took home €40,000 as well as coaching and mentoring from EIT ICT Labs, integration into its big network and office space for six months.
Second prize went to Kinexon – who won €25,000 along with the rest of the package – and 3YourMind bagged the bronze, which comes with €15,000.
Andreas Kunze, head of business at Konux, said: “We will accelerate our product development with the prize money, and we are looking forward to creating new possibilities and a great future together with the EIT ICT Labs network and in the offices.”
Finally, then, it was time to turn to some of Munich’s better-known traditions, with a few bottles of well-earned Bavarian for all involved.