The New Campus Life Means New Technology for New Situations

Besides all the serious consequences the pandemic has created, this crisis has also been a time for pioneers, a time for new approaches and ideas, for innovation, and for courageous progress. TUM Campus Heilbronn not only focuses on the research of, but also on the implementation of these newest innovative approaches and digital technologies on campus as well. As such, at the TUM Campus Heilbronn we have begun a project with the company KINEXON for the winter semester 2020 to ensure students have a safe return to campus while adhering to prevailing distance regulations, with the help of technology. We spoke with Prof. Dr. Helmut Krcmar, Founding Dean and Delegate Officer of the President – TUM Campus Heilbronn, and Dr. Oliver Trinchera, Co-Founder and Managing Director of KINEXON, about the innovative technology and the use of the KINEXON SafeZone at the TUM Campus Heilbronn.

The KINEXON SafeTag is a portable sensor that precisely measures the current distance to the next SafeTag

“With SafeZone, we strove to create the most effective digital solution to protect employees and keep companies up and running. Healthcare organizations around the world emphasize the importance of maintaining a minimum physical distance and rapid quarantine of infected individuals to reduce the risk of infection. This is exactly what SafeZone aims to do,” says Dr. Oliver Trinchera, Co-Founder and Managing Director of KINEXON and alumnus of the TUM School of Management. The heart of the solution is a smart wearable, called the KINEXON SafeTag. It is a portable sensor that precisely measures the current distance to the next SafeTag using UWB technology and at the same time ensures maximum data security. “In contrast to past pandemics, such as the Spanish flu, we now have a decisive advantage: The achievements of digitalization, which provide us with valuable options for dealing with the virus. We use these with SafeZone for the well-being of coworkers, enterprises and society,” explains Trinchera. 

Innovation-driven management played an important role in the development of SafeZone. “Innovation-driven management aims to quickly identify emerging problems and take decisive action, even while accepting a certain, calculable risk. In this specific case, we quickly realized the need for digital technologies for keeping distance and tracing contacts if necessary. We then put together interdisciplinary teams of experts to tackle the task. However, of course, developing a new product and adapting it to the needs of a pandemic did not come without its challenges: One of the challenges was to function 100% – i.e. five days a week – as a virtual organization. After all, we had ordered all employees into the home office long before the official lockdown, as their protection was our top priority. Remote work on this scale was unfamiliar to us at first. Overall, however, the new situation was received very positively by our employees, and all processes – including the formerly analog ones – were mastered digitally,” says the TUM alumnus. In order to develop a product suited to the needs of a pandemic, KINEXON had a decisive advantage: “In principle, we had gathered all the relevant ingredients at our premises,” Trinchera says. “On the one hand, our numerous industrial customers gave us a profound insight into the needs of companies. Their concern was protecting their employees and the continuing their operations even in the event of a coronavirus outbreak. During these discussions, we quickly understood how we could help. On the other hand, our customers in the sports industry have given us significant expertise in the realization of wearable sensors. Furthermore, we did not have to develop new sensors, but could rely on existing models that had already been tested by the customer and were internationally certified. Last but not least, we had software experts at our disposal who were able to quickly implement new functions, such as the distance warning. In order to provide help as fast as possible, we paid great attention to an agile and fast implementation. This was the only way to turn the product vision into reality within a very short time.”

Dr. Oliver Trinchera and Dr. Alexander Hüttenbrink

At the TUM Campus Heilbronn, a project featuring KINEXON SafeZone will be launched for the winter semester 2020 to ensure our students and lecturers have a safe return to campus while adhering to prevailing distance regulations. “On the one hand, we would like to see a training effect in keeping distance to one another at all times, even if it is dynamic. We want to support each individual student in better determining and keeping the appropriate distance from their fellow students,” explains Prof. Dr. Krcmar, Founding Dean and Delegate Officer of the President – TUM Campus Heilbronn. “Furthermore, we want to make sure that distance is maintained even when everyone is on the move.” The aim is to test and demonstrate how the use of modern technology can help in coping with the virus. “We want to signal that we are taking the issue seriously: We want to do more than tape 1.5 meter distances on the floor,” says Prof. Krcmar. The already proven and fully implemented technology and precision in distance determination, the compliance with German and Bavarian data protection regulations, the practical bundle offers, the software variety, and the possibility to use the tags in different ways, convinced Prof. Krcmar of the technology that will help the TUM School of Management in welcoming its students and teachers back on campus in Heilbronn.

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