Start-up of the Day: Spaceflow digitizes a platform for tenants and landlords

Czech start-up Spaceflow is introducing technology to one of the most old-fashioned sectors – that of residential and office property rentals. “Our aim is to help digitize life in buildings for their occupants by providing easy access to all services, shared resources and the communication flow in the surrounding areas,” says Lukas Balik, company co-founder and CEO.  Spaceflow was set up 3 years ago by a former economy student and two experts from the real estate sector. “They knew that change was just around the corner. Together we saw that we could make a difference with a technological platform for tenants,” says Lukas. It seems that they were right. Today the start-up operates in 12 countries, including the US, UK, Denmark, Germany, and Japan. Recently it raised €1.6 million in funding.

What exactly is Spaceflow?

Lukas Balik: We are a property technology company. Spaceflow is an app that connects buildings with their tenants. It enables communication between a tenant and building owners or managers as well as with other tenants. The app can help you to book common spaces such as meeting rooms, parking spots or amenities such as a barbecue, or report maintenance issues to the building managers. It can facilitate connections to services in the area, for example dry cleaning, food delivery. Also, it is a hub for further smart building integrations such as smart access.

Are these things really such a problem for tenants that they need a special app to book a parking space or report a leaking faucet?

Firstly, if you, as a landlord, want to attract and keep tenants, you must react to current trends when tenants increasingly want top-notch services and a range of amenities. As a landlord, you can offer them various services, like fitness, wellness, food delivery and so on. Technology can help you to do that. More importantly, landlords can get new streams of revenue this way. Through the app, property managers can streamline payments for services and keep an eye on margins.

What is about the innovation that makes you different from your competitors?

The app has a number of components and modules. For example, we connect our platform with other smart building solutions. To give an example, we can connect it with digital lockers, a parking system or an access system so you don’t need to use physical cards to open the door. Instead, you do that with your phone. Also, we have an in-house team of community managers. This is crucial, because sometimes landlords don’t have the capabilities or the time to deal with new technologies. So, our community managers can help them to bring the project on board and acquire the right content and services for the users. They also help to evaluate what works well, get the right data from the platform and curate the best possible experiences for the tenants.

What was the best moment in the company’s history?

Recently. That relates to our latest investment round with solid partners who helped us scale our platform for the new markets. Another big thing for us is that we have just launched our first project with Allianz. Who, apart from being a major insurance company, is also one of the biggest real estate owners globally. The company has more than 60 billion assets under management. Our first project for Allianz is in their flagship building The Icon in Vienna.

And what was the most difficult moment?

I think it was when the company just started out, when every mistake that you make can hit you quite hard. When we started the first pilot, we chose an external IT company instead of building our own IT team. Yet an external agency is always a step too far. We had to figure out how to put our own IT team together. If you want to build something for the long term and for a global market, you have to be close to your developers in order to be able to design the best features and the best product.

What are your plans for coming year?

Obviously the most important thing is to have as many happy clients and users across the market as possible. For that, we’re strengthening our business development teams in several locations. Our focus in this round is on penetrating the European market and we also want to have our first large projects in the US. I’d love to see a lot of progress within a year. We might potentially be able find partners in the US in the next investment round.

What do you want to do in 5 years?

Our ultimate goal is that Spaceflow will become the standard for every commercial and residential building.

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An app that makes medical reports easier to understand

Health App

The aim of healthcare is to keep people healthy. The Viennese health tech start-up Medicus AI wants to support this goal – with an AI-based platform that presents medical findings in an easily understandable way. At the same time, the platform will support doctors and diagnostic laboratories in their work.

Doctors and other healthcare personnel are required to explain the results in a comprehensible way to those in their care. If they fail to do so, patients will be unaware of the implications for their health condition or the importance of therapy and monitoring. This is where Medicus AI comes in. The start-up was founded by dentist Baher al Hakim, who comes from a doctor’s family and knows the communication problems between doctor and patient that may occur from his father and brother. At the same time, he is convinced that technology has reached a point where automation and artificial intelligence is able to provide a lot of personalized information on a large scale.

The software that al Hakim developed as part of a global team depicts blood tests and medical reports in a clear and accessible manner. This way, the right information is delivered at the right time. In a personalized way and without doctors having to spend a huge amount of time on explaining this information. As a result, patients who are aware of the significance of the reports are more likely to adhere to therapies and check-ups. The Apple App is freely available and can be accessed in the App Store, yet also has premium functions that are specifically geared towards sports people and the chronically ill. For example, patients can also store their fitness data on it and thereby get a clearer picture of their health.

Cross-platform

According to the start-up company’s mantra, everything Medicus AI does should benefit the patient. Nevertheless, the business model is not primarily aimed at patients, but rather at diagnostic laboratories and statutory insurance companies. Al Hakim sees a wave of innovation ahead that will fundamentally change the entire diagnostics industry. Problems have to do with commodification, lower profit margins and stricter regulations. The start-up company’s solutions will provide laboratories with supportive, cross-platform software and an attractive, comprehensive service package, as CEO al Hakim said in a statement on derbrutkasten.com.

In addition, the intelligent features will also support physicians throughout various diagnostic stages.

Accordingly, the business model has been based on hospitals and statutory insurance companies which are trusted by consumers.

Confidentiality

Patient confidentiality is of paramount importance, not in the least because of the various stakeholders involved. As al Hakim points out, the system is DSGVO compliant. Aside from that, use of a central server has been avoided so that every form of information is directly available on the device. Data only leaves the user’s digital device with their exclusive consent. However, the user is able to share the data with any doctor and people whom they trust.

Cooperation

In November 2018, Medicus AI was recognized by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) as one of the Top 2 European Scale-ups in the ‘Digital Wellbeing‘ category. The start-up company received an investment in February 2019 of 2.75 million euros from Roche Diagnostics during a Series A round. At the end of July 2019, Medicus AI made it through to Kickstart Innovation, the largest accelerator in Switzerland. The prospects are good. However, al Hakim is not the only one on the market with this technology. As he notes in an interview on derbrustkasten.com, several industries are also involved and a lot of work has already been done. He sees competitors as partners. His goal is to cover various health aspects. Quote. “We will be faster if we cooperate and then share the revenue.”

 

Also of interest:

An App to Empower Patients in Healthcare

New mobile app fends off espionage attacks

App

As mobile phone users, we are all subject to espionage on a daily basis. We know that. And, with every app we download and use – no matter which one – we explicitly give our consent to this espionage. Whether they’re messengers, games, fitness trainers or the pre-installed health app, they cost nothing. That’s what we think. They “only” cost our data and these are worth cash money for the app and advertising network operators. They know about our whereabouts, preferences for music and films, the shops we visit and what we buy, with whom we chat or phone and for how long. There are hardly any limits to the information about ourselves that we give away voluntarily.

App
© Rahul Chakraborty on Unsplash

So far, if you didn’t want all this and wanted to protect your privacy, there was only one way: to stay away from the digital world to a large extent. Now, innovative technology from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the FZI Research Center for Computer Science can put an end to espionage on our cell phones. Commissioned by the Baden-Württemberg Foundation, researchers have developed an app that protects personal data better while still allowing the unrestricted use of popular but information-hungry applications.

All in one

Many apps only work if you give your consent to everything that the operators want to know, for others, one had to set the permissions individually for each app. Now, the desired settings are possible for all applications with just a few clicks. With one single app. AVARE can be installed on Android devices like an app. It then generates a closed area into which other apps can be packed and which then controls the entire communication between these apps and the operating system.

“We were looking for a way that would allow us to use all applications without restrictions and still have control over our personal data,” says Dr. Gunther Schiefer, head of the Mobile Business working group at the Institute for Applied Informatics and Formal Description Methods (AIFB) at KIT.

For example, it is possible to give apps wrapped in AVARE access to the contacts in the address book, but not to all of the stored information. The phone owner can share only specific contacts and restrict this information to mobile phone numbers, first and last names, for example. “Address or date of birth are not necessary for a chat,” says Schiefer.

App
© henry perks on Unsplash

Inaccurate and false data to app operators

In addition, AVARE can extend the location information to a radius of several kilometers and disguise the exact location. Thus, a weather app can continue to provide reliable forecasts without knowing the exact location of the user.

And, in the future, AVARE wants to go even further with apps that do not work at all without general access rights. “Then we will import false data, which are recognizable as such. The microphone interface will get a static noise, the camera a black picture or a cloud image, the address book the emergency numbers of the fire brigade and roadside assistance.”

The AVARE code is available as open source software on the AVARE website and the scientists hope that their program will be taken up by other developers who will help to extend the current beta version to a version 1.0.

The AVARE project is commissioned by the Baden-Württemberg Foundation (www.bwstiftung.de) as part of the ICT Security research program. Also involved are the Institute of Applied Computer Science and Formal Description Methods, the Center for Applied Law of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the FZI Research Center for Computer Science.

neolexon – Munich startup helps stroke patients re-learn to talk

neolexon

People who have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury usually have to re-learn a lot – walking, writing, understanding, controlling their limbs, and speaking. After a stroke, speech is often at least affected, if not completely gone, depending on the severity of the infarct and on which side of the brain it occurred. In right-handed people, the left hemisphere of the brain controls the right side of the body, as well as the speech center; in left-handed people, the speech center is on the right side.

A word as simple as “rabbit” can pose a problem. Following are months of training with a speech therapist, where the patients often start from scratch and have to re-learn each new sound little by little. Sometimes, it even takes years until the patients have completely regained their speech and have overcome the difficulties in finding the right words.

In medicine, disorders associated with a loss of speech are called aphasia, a disease that can only be conquered by regular exercise: Speaking, speaking, speaking. Ideally, the patients should have at least five therapy units of one to two hours per week. Unfortunately, the reality is not as simple as that.

Aphasic patients usually have to make do with one single therapy session per week, and only for a limited time. Mandatory health insurances cover ten sessions of 45 minutes each. A doctor can issue a maximum of six consecutive prescriptions if he can prove that additional therapy is necessary. In the case of private health insurance companies, it must first be clarified whether the insurance contract covers speech therapy at all.

neolexon
The founders (left to right): Hanna Jakob, Jakob Pfab, Mona Späth, Swaroop Nunna © neolexon

neolexon – the speech therapist at home

In 2014, the two speech therapists Mona Späth and Hanna Jakob had the idea for the neolexon app. They graduated in speech therapy at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich (LMU) and subsequently worked as speech therapists in various clinics and practices. There, they learned that with the given means effective therapy was not possible.

Subsequently, they started the neolexon project at the Institute for Phonetics and Speech Processing at the LMU. The computer scientists Swaroop Nunnaist and Jakob Pfab developed the app, and in 2017 all four founded neolexon. “In order to develop a feasible software for our patients, we had numerous meetings between IT, therapists and patient test users,” says Mona Späth.

Traditionally, therapists work mainly with analog materials such as picture cards and exercise sheets. So far, digital therapy approaches consisted only of standard exercise units that cannot be adapted to the patients’ individual needs. With neolexon, on the other hand, the therapist can individually adapt the exercises to each patient. The app includes thousands of words, images, and videos in which patients can hear and see how a word is pronounced.

The biggest advantage of the app is that the therapy is not limited to the session with the speech therapist – the patients can also practice as much as they want at home. “The neolexon therapy system enables the patient to practice independently and indefinitely on the tablet,” says neolexon. “The contents of the exercises are individually put together by the speech therapist. That way, it can be optimally adapted to the severity of the speech disorder as well as to the personal interests of the patient.

neolexon
© neolexon

Four exercises

The app can be used to train four skills: Understanding, speaking, reading, and writing. The speech therapist can adjust the difficulty level of the exercises to the patient’s individual needs. According to the inventors, computer skills are not required, because clear photos, large user interfaces and lettering make the app easy to use. Patients can listen to the individual words in the video, and the app gives clear feedback as to whether the problem has been solved correctly or not. As a playful element, there are “diligence stars” that encourage additional practice. Every 10 minutes, you can work on a star; in the weekly overview, you can see how long you have practiced every day. Practice only with the app and without a therapist is not possible. It is only available in combination with a speech therapist, who is registered with neolexon and sets up the self-training, accompanies it, and constantly adapts it to the learning progress.

The app is certified as a medical device and complies with the data protection requirements according to DSGVO and BDSG-neu. Nevertheless, only one health insurance company – IKK gesund plus – covers the costs of the application for patients as part of an innovation project. However, the app is very popular with doctors and therapists. According to the Ärztezeitung, “Neolexon is a comprehensive and very high-quality speech therapy app. It combines well-controlled word, sentence, and image material with structured exercises and fulfills the requirements of customization. Speech therapists report that working with Neolexon motivates many patients. However, they criticize the rather high price and the fact that the app is only available on a subscription basis.”

Nevertheless, neolexon hopes that, over time, other health insurance companies will cover the costs and that the app will be accessible to all aphasia patients. “Our long-term goal is that insurance companies reimburse the costs of the patient’s aphasia app,” the founders say.

Locky: forget about forgetting to lock the door

WARSAW, 1st December 2018 – “Did I lock the door this morning?” Have you ever asked yourself this question? Or maybe you’re always asking other key questions like, “where did I put my key?” or “did I leave my keys in the door?” A device invented by the Polish start-up Locky will let you forget about these questions.

The company has created Locky, a smart home security system. “We make a smart key,” says Dariusz Lipka, CEO and co-founder of Locky.

SENSORS AND ALGORITHM

In fact the device is a special key overlay connected to a mobile app via Bluetooth. There is no need to change or modify the door or the lock, or to change your daily routine. You just place the key you use in the overlay, install the app, and the device is ready to go.

How? The system’s heart is a set of sensors hidden in the overlay and a special algorithm. “The sensors collect data regarding key rotation and movement in the lock. The algorithm analyses the data and determines whether the lock was closed or opened. Then the information is sent to the app,” explains Dariusz Lipka.

If you forget to close the door or take the key out of the lock, the app will warn you. It also helps to find lost keys and sends a notification any time someone enters the house.

USER NEEDS

Locky is in the middle between a smart lock and a key tracker, which are currently available on the market. A key tracker, usually based on GPS data, can only locate lost keys. Smart locks are much more developed. These are digital locks which can be opened and closed remotely by electronic devices. They give the owner control over who can enter the house and they can send alerts regarding security. Thus they offer more features than Locky does, but as the start-up’s CEO stresses, smart locks are not their direct competitors.

“Smart lock users and our users have different needs. We don’t want to replace the smart locks. We want to be an alternative to them,” says Lipka.

As he stresses, a smart lock is the best solution for people who need remote control over their property. Locky, however, is for those who are afraid of being hacked, for example, or simply don’t want to digitalise their locks.

UNIVERSAL OVERLAY

Work on the device took over a year. The most difficult part was not the sensors or the algorithm but the mechanics. “We didn’t want to create a product designed for one market or one type of key. We wanted to make a product with mass applications, that would fit all markets and all key types,” says Lipka.

They almost pulled it off: the Locky overlay is compatible with 90% of keys available on the market. As it has a universal docking system, things such as key bow (the part turned by the fingers) size or where the hole is placed are not important. There are only three limits. The  key can’t be thicker than 3 millimetres, longer than 77 millimetres and the bow of the key can’t be wider than 30 millimetres.

THE WAY TO THE MARKET

In recent months the start-up has exhibited its device at international construction fairs, including those in Bologna and Dubai. The CEO reports that there was substantial interest, mostly from construction companies and door producers from Western Europe and Asia.

Now the company is about to start mass production. To finance it they ran a crowdfunding campaign at Kickstarter. Within 2 hours they had raised all the funds they needed. Still, however, they are looking for an investor to act on a larger scale. The plan is to have Locky on the market in March 2019.

How did Locky’s story begin? One morning one of the co-founders was late for work because he had to turn around through heavy traffic to rush back home. All of this because on his way to work he asked himself one question: “did I lock the door this morning?”