The Snuffelfiets: pedalling towards a better environment

There is only one means of transport more popular in the Netherlands than the car: our faithful steel steed with pedals. Together we cycle some 15 billion kilometers a year in The Netherlands. That’s more than 880 kilometres per person. If we are cycling these great distances, why not do something useful with all those trips? That’s what the inventors of the ‘Snuffelfiets’ (‘browsing cyclists’, ed.) must have been thinking.

The companies Civity and Sodaq set up the project together with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the province of Utrecht. Civity specialises in data solutions and Sodaq is an expert in the field of sensors. Lastly, RIVM takes care of the validation of the data that is collected by the Snuffelfietsers.

And this data, well, that could be anything. “There are several sensors in the device, such as humidity and temperature sensors,” Claar Schouwenaar explains. Schouwenaar works for the province of Utrecht and is the project leader for the Snuffelfiets. “These sensors can tell us something about heat islands, for example.”

Heat island effect

A heat island effect is a phenomenon whereby the temperature in urban areas is relatively high compared to surrounding rural areas. “Measurements show that the city can be up to eight degrees warmer than the countryside”, meteorologist Gert-Jan Steenveld of Wageningen University recently explained in the university magazine Resource. “But even in a city this can vary considerably from one street to the next.” Measurements from the Snuffelfietsen could therefore identify local heat islands. These could be addressed with more vegetation, for instance.

But that’s not all. “An accelerometer and a vibration meter are also included. These collect data on road surface quality,” says Schouwenaar. “So if you hit potholes or tree roots, it detects that.” This could help municipalities and road authorities in future to analyze and maintain cycle paths and other roads used by bikes. “And last but not least, sensors that are used to measure air quality, of course.”

Units handed out to 500 Snuffelaars

Meanwhile ‘Snuffelaars’ (‘browsers’, ed.) are riding around in the municipalities of Zeist, Amersfoort, Utrecht, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein. “But North Holland, South Holland and Overijssel are also interested in the project,” says Schouwenaar. “And a pilot with 50 bicycles has just been launched in Gelderland too.”

Het meetkastje, bevestigd aan een van de Snuffelfietsen. Foto: Ronald van Liempdt

The remaining devices were distributed last month. There are 550 units in total, 500 in the province of Utrecht and 50 in Gelderland. The project started a year ago as a small pilot with 10 bicycles in Zeist. Pretty soon there was a lot of enthusiasm for expanding the project. ” We then said: we are going to scale that up to 500 participants,” Schouwenaar says. “Although we’ll spread it across the entire region.”

The ultimate goal is a two-fold one, according to Schouwenaar: “On the one hand, it’s an experiment to see what we can do with the collected data. You don’t want to immediately invest a lot of money into something that might not produce the best results. But at the same time you could say that it’s also an attempt to work towards the creation of big data, which does involve a lot of people who take measurements.” After all, the more Snuffelfietsen there are riding around, the more valuable the data becomes. “Because then you will be able to determine an average from it,” Schouwenaar states. And the more data input, the more accurate the output will be.

Cheap sensors, relevant data

Schouwenaar is therefore hoping that ultimately as many municipalities and provinces as possible will want to participate. “Anyone with their own specific question or method would also be fine,” she says. “It’s a way of demonstrating that very cheap sensors provide relevant data as well, as long as you have enough of them.”

The data platform developed by Civity makes it possible to monitor measurements from the project on a daily basis. Participants can also view their own measurement results via an app. The image below depicts the data from all Snuffelfietsen in the Utrecht area on November 20th. Aside from this grid map, all the specific routes of that day can also be viewed in detail.

Levels of fine particles

So it seems that there are a lot of fine particles in the air. However, there are often days when most of the routes on the map turned out to be relatively blue too. “Yes, that’s also disappointing for lots of participants”, Schouwenaar responds. “They thought: now I’m going to show you for once and all just how disgusting the air is in my neighbourhood”, she laughs. “But it’ s not so bad after all. That’s why it’s nice that the RIVM is on board with the project. They ‘clean’ the data by correcting any anomalies with the help of their measuring stations”, Schouwenaar explains. “The RIVM also says that levels of fine particles in The Netherlands are on the whole quite okay. Therefore you will see a lot of blue routes on a regular basis.”

Nevertheless, this data is also valuable. And in any case, there are plenty of ideas to further innovate the project in the future. “We want to continue developing the device. If you really want to be able to say something about air quality in our country, it should also include a nitrogen sensor.”

New Snuffelfietser groups

And it could be made even smaller, so that the new version could be used by new groups of Snuffelfietsers. “Imagine, for example, cyclists who cycle other routes with a smaller device or perhaps a unit that’s even fully integrated into the bike frame. Or all the bicycle couriers in The Netherlands start using them”, Schouwenaar suggests. “Or – and this is really a very relevant option – working with shared bicycles, such as the OV-fiets (rental bike from the Dutch public transport provider).”

And that calls for improvements to be made to the measurement equipment. ” At present, the unit is linked to the user, who also looks after it,” says Schouwenaar. “Where shared bikes are concerned, the device should be vandal-proof.” Nevertheless, that type of an upgrade would immediately lead to a huge increase in data, which makes it an appealing option. “At the moment we are also working with the OV-fiets to see if this is feasible,” Schouwenaar concludes enthusiastically.

Millions of Snuffelaars who constantly analyze and improve the quality of our home environment with each bike ride to work or to the supermarket. In a few years’ time, that might just become a reality.

Photos: Ronald van Liempdt

Start-up of the day: CoVince is the ‘Netflix of e-Learning’

Covince

Richard van Tilborg, co-founder of CoVince, describes his idea as “the Netflix of e-learning”. By which he means that CoVince is a platform on which all kinds of various e-learning modules are being offered. The e-learning modules have a variety of styles and themes. As a user, you choose what you would like to learn. Just as you choose your favorite series on Netflix.
Van Tilborg and the other co-founder Melanie van Halteren know each other well through their former employer. That’s where they came up with the idea for CoVince. As this is the platform where technology, psychology and experience come together, they form the ideal duo. Van Tilborg has the technical know-how and Van Halteren has a background in communication and psychology.

What is CoVince?

The e-learning modules offered on the CoVince platform are built by the founders themselves. Most modules are built in collaboration with other companies. They commission CoVince to develop modules for them. More and more companies are using e-learning modules to train their employees. Apart from company employees, individuals may also use CoVince’s e-learning modules. They can download the CoVince app and get going with both paid and free modules. The modules on offer at CoVince come in all kinds of different types and sizes. Van Tilborg: “At CoVince you are able to train with a simulated practical situation, have a discussion and reflect in both the real and virtual world together, go on a learning journey, watch micro-videos, enact interactive scenarios or work with augmented reality.

Wat motivates you?

” The motivation behind CoVince is to be able to offer e-learning modules relatively cheaply to customers. CoVince has already developed many different types of building blocks, so they are able to create new modules for customers all the time. It is very expensive for companies to produce e-learning modules with the latest technology on a regular basis. With the CoVince method, the costs for the client can be kept down: this makes it inexpensive for companies to use CoVince.”

What distinguishes Covince from other companies?

CoVince is easy to understand and conveniently arranged. We often hear that its worth its weight in gold. That what we do is very tangible and that it works. People have faith in it.

What has been your greatest challenge up until now?

“The greatest challenge was to determine the next steps. All the goals we initially set have now basically been achieved. Now the main doubt is whether we want to attract investors and how we should tackle the internationalization of CoVince.”

What makes you proud?

“Using new technologies to make life more enjoyable, easier and better. For example, we are now integrating a special glove that allows you to grasp and feel objects in virtual reality.”

What can we expect from you in the coming year?

“Aside from continuing to work on the development of e-learning, CoVince intends in the coming year to focus on increased visibility and marketing.”

And the next five years?

CoVince wants to go global within five years. To achieve this, we are seeking various partners from all over the world. We hope that slowly but surely our app will become more and more well known.”

What is your ultimate goal?

To provide e-learning on a variety of diverse platforms and become one of the most widely used programs.

 

Start-up of the day: Bittiq helps young families organize their personal finances

Het team van Bittiq

The Dutchman Hidde Koning and his Italian partner Federico Spiezia have a start-up that should take away the financial hassles for young families.

What is Bittiq?

Bittiq is an app that provides financial support. Bittiq users link their bank account and then the app shows the user how they spend their money each month. The app also provides insight into the amount left until the next salary, and the amount you have to save if you want to buy that beautiful house in five years time. The makers hope to take your money worries off your hands.
The Bittiq app can be downloaded for free from the app store. The free app is designed so that it can improve the product. Koning: “we meet with app users every week to ask what’s going on in their financial life.” They are self-learning that way and this helps to improve the app even more.

White label

Now that the app has been optimized, Koning and Spiezia are in talks with banks and insurers. They want to sell their app as a white-label product to them. “Banks and insurers want to offer a broad range of financial services. Nowadays, the insurer and the customer often only have contact if the customer has crashed their car. But the insurer wants to know how they can be of even better service to the customer. That’s why they want to offer their customers a service like Bittiq”.

What motivates you?

Hidde Koning wanted to start a start-up in financial services. Initially he had a completely different idea: to develop a service that would help millennials invest their money. He was looking for a partner for that, and so he posted a request. “Federico replied and there was an immediate click,” says Koning.
When the two field studies started, it turned out that the financial concerns of millennials were not at all about whether or not they should be making investments. Families with young children wanted insight into their financial affairs but found this very difficult and time-consuming. That’s how the idea for Bittiq came about.

What makes Bittiq different from the competition??

According to Koning, Bittiq knows what is going on in the mind of the end user. Koning: “The difference with the competition is that we are client-centered and not just concerned with the technology.” So far, Bittiq is the only company in the Netherlands with this proposal.

What difficulties did you have to deal with along the way?

The biggest hurdle in the way was the EU law P2D2. This law makes it possible to share your bank details with a third party. For Bittiq, this law is crucial. That law just took a while to pass. “As a start-up with limited resources, you do not want to face any delays,” says King.

What are you proud of?

Koning and Spiezia have already sold their white-label app to one Dutch insurer. They’re proud of that. In addition, they can look back with satisfaction on the first years of their start-up. Koning says that the versatility in what they are doing makes him happy: “It is the most wonderful challenge I have been able to accept. You’re head of marketing, head of production, head of sales, head of everything. That’s incredibly educational.”

How does Bittiq view the coming years?

Bittiq aims to attract even more Dutch banks and insurers over the coming year. They’re confident they can do that. At the end of the day they want to roll out their idea in Europe as well. This is scheduled to take place over the next five years.

And the ultimate goal?

“Resolve all money worries,” says Koning. “If you can help people achieve their financial life goals faster and more effectively, it seems to me that we have done things rather well.”

Are you interested in start-ups? An overview of all our articles on this subject can be found here.

Start-up of the day: Learned.io aims to end old-fashioned CVs

Learned.io is a platform that allows professionals to transform their work and learning experiences into a new type of CV. That means not just a summing up of your employers, but also a summing up of all the skills and competencies that you have developed over the years. Furthermore, employers, trainers or colleagues are able to give feedback on your work experience and competencies. “A skill passport,” is what co-founder Joost Kuijf calls the start-up concept from Utrecht.

Hoe does it work?

Anyone can create a free skill passport. If companies want to support their employees with their development via Learned.io, they can take out a subscription. This allows the employer to digitize the entire coaching process. On top of that, companies encourage their employees in this way to set goals and to further develop themselves.
Joost (23) came up with the idea together with his two brothers Rick (29) and Paul (26). They all hail from a genuine entrepreneurial family. From a very young age, they have been thinking about ideas for their own company. This, combined with their background in business administration, has led them to have the courage to start their own business together.

What was the idea behind the founding of Learned.io?

“The idea for Learned.io was born out of frustration with previous employers that my brothers and I have each experienced,” says Joost. Previous employers did not give them the opportunity to develop themselves and did not provide them with the support they wanted. It was because of this problem that they found each other and consequently the idea for Learned.io was born.
The goal of Learned.io is to stimulate people to keep on developing themselves. “It’s too crazy for words that you keep track of your running results in an app like Strava, but if you want to keep track of your developments at a professional level, you do that in a word document or an excel sheet.”

How do you differ from the competition?

Companies often have tools for their employees to keep track of their objectives and development of talent. However, these tools have been developed in the interests of the company and not in the interests of the employee. Learned.io is dedicated to the employee and not to any company. If the employee takes on a new job, they can then take their ski passport with them to their new employer.

What has been your greatest challenge so far?

Joost laughs and sighs at the same time when he hears this question: “Do you have a minute? The greatest challenge is to make the platform so easy to use that everyone understands it without any need for an explanation.”

Why are you the future??

Joost: “We live in a world where we are expected to keep on developing ourselves. In addition to work experience, more and more employers also want to see that their applicant has skills or competencies. These all come together in the Learned.io skill passport.”

What are you most proud of??

The brothers are proud of several milestones which have been accomplished. They were particularly proud when they brought in their first partner. Their 25th partner was also a major milestone. Nowadays they work with 30 companies. Joost: “We’re ahead of the game when it comes to our business case.”

What can we expect from you in the coming year?

In the coming quarter we will be working on fine-tuning our product so that it is ready to tap into the larger market. This year, we would like to first storm the Dutch market and then the European market.

And in the next five years?

Joost hopes that by the end of 2020 one million people will be using the Learned.io platform. They see Germany and England as the next logical countries for this, but they are secretly looking towards the United States as well.

Team: Rick (29), Paul (26) and Joost Kuijf (23)
Year of foundation: 2018
Funding: Companies take out subscriptions for their employees
Personnel: 5 employees apart from themselves
Ultimate goal: One million users of Learned.io by 2020.

Need inspiration? Check our Start-up of the Day series here!

Start-up of the day: Practicing bad news conversations on a computer

Michiel Hulsbergen, Johan Jeuring and Jordy van Dortmont developed DialogueTrainer. In this programme personal development and scientific research are brought together.

What is Dialoguetrainer?

DialogueTrainer builds conversation simulations with interactive scenarios. From delivering bad news to a conversation between salesman and customer – every conversation scenario can be included in the simulations. This way it is easy to provide the same training to a large group of people. The website offers a demonstration of what a conversation simulation looks like. The task is simple, for example: have a bad news conversation with Marko. The virtual patient is suffering from sleeping problems due to excessive drinking and anxiety. He is in a good mood when he arrives, but you have to tell him that he will have to find a different therapist for his problems. For every choice you make, you will notice that the patient reacts to you in a certain way: he becomes sad, angry, relieved, happy and insecure. At the end of the conversation you will receive feedback, based on scientific research.

What is your motivation?

The idea was born at the University of Utrecht. In 2013, a social sciences professor was wondering how to have a large group of students practice an interview simulation. He asked his colleague Johan, professor of software development for learning purposes, if he could develop something to achieve this. And so the idea for DialogueTrainer was born.  After discovering that many more faculties were interested in software for conversation simulations, Johan contacted simulation expert and emotion researcher Michiel. Together they recruited Jordy for his IT knowledge. All three of them are still involved in the organisation: Johan as the link with the University of Utrecht and the principal researcher on technology and application of interview simulations, Michiel as the final responsible person and Jordy as developer.

How do you distinguish yourself from competing programmes?

Practicing with virtual conversation simulations offers the student a safer environment than when training directly with an actor in front of a large group of people. “Learning is always a bit scary, especially in the case of practicing conversations. After all, in a real life scenario, the main goal is to perform. The advantage of working with scenarios is being able to practice in a safe environment while receiving feedback. Afterwards, when practicing in real life, you will know exactly what needs further training,” Michiel explains.

What was the biggest challenge so far?

“It is necessary to convince the market that this programme really works.” Still, Michiel realises that more and more people are starting to believe in their product, because DialogueTrainer has been nominated for several innovation awards. “So far we haven’t won, so apparently I haven’t been able to communicate what a particularly good idea this is.”

What makes you proud?

DialogueTrainer has many customers. The company can therefore exist because of the revenue from clients. Among the clients are ministries, educational institutions, companies and healthcare institutions. Currently, DialogueTrainer is growing by one hundred and fifty percent per year. The company is negotiating with investors in order to accelerate this growth.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

DialogueTrainer wants to continue to serve its current customers and attract new customers in the coming years. For DialogueTrainer, growth also means more research into the best possible ways to simulate conversations. After all, it is still a company with a scientific foundation.

What is your ultimate goal?

The founders’ ultimate goal is to use DialogueTrainer to train people all over the world and to make a fundamental contribution to research on this subject.

Founders: Michiel Hulsbergen, Johan Jeuring and Jordy van Dortmont
Year of establishment: 2016
Revenue: Through clients; the platform was initially built and financed by the University of Utrecht, together with its founders.
Employees: 9 and open vacancies
Ultimate goal: Worldwide training with conversation simulations

Need more inspiration? Check all our start-ups of the day!

ELANA: a revolution in cardiac surgery that has already proven itself in brain surgery

amt medical elana

Applying a bypass to the heart without opening the chest and without using a heart-lung machine: up until recently, it was a distant prospect. However, with the development of ELANA, a technique that was developed in neurosurgery, this operation is only a short distance away. “All pre-clinical tests have been completed. At the end of the year, we are going to apply the ELANA technique to heart patients,” says Glenn Bronkers, CTO of AMT Medical, co-developer of the technique.

Every year, about one million people get a coronary bypass. The bypass is necessary when there is a narrowing in an important vessel around the heart, a coronary artery. This narrowing can lead to an infarction. By applying a bypass, a kind of detour, the heart muscle is supplied with blood and oxygen again and the heart can maintain its function.

However, the operation involves risks. The cardiac surgeon has to open the chest, pause the heart and connect the patient to a heart-lung machine that temporarily takes over the tasks of the heart during the operation. Moreover, it takes a lot of time to recover from such an operation. With the technique developed by AMT Medical, this will soon be a thing of the past.

Brain surgery

Glenn Bronkers AMT Medical
Glenn Bronkers, AMT Medical

Professor Tulleken, father of AMT Medical CEO Rutger Tulleken, invented the technique in the 90s for brain surgery. As a neurosurgeon at UMC Utrecht, he ran into a problem. If you have to make a bypass in the brain, you can’t ‘just’ close a vessel, but you can’t leave it open either. Then a brain region either gets no oxygen, or you get a brain hemorrhage.

“So Professor Tulleken wondered: How can I make a bypass without first closing the receiving blood vessel?,” says Bronkers. “Then he thought: if you first connect the vessels to each other before making an opening in the vessel, you might be able to do it.”

It goes as follows: You have a piece of vessel in the brain that contains, for example, an aneurysm, a local dilation of the vessel. Before and after the aneurysm you make a detour. However, before you close the vessel with the aneurysm, you first test the bypass connections. Is everything secure? Is it not leaking? Then you can use a laser to make a passage through the new vessel to the vessel before the aneurysm and to the vessel after the aneurysm. This way, the blood continues to flow continuously and you have fewer risks.

The above technique, the ELANA technique, has now become the standard in neurosurgery. However, it took some time for ELANA to make the step towards other operations.

Cardiac surgery

“For its applicability in cardiac surgery, we had to further develop the technique,” says Bronkers. “Cardio surgeons, for example, preferred not to use sutures and are making a different type of bypass than in the brain, namely a side-to-side bypass.”

In recent years, the technology has been perfected. It is now possible to apply a bypass to the heart without using stitches and without stopping the heart. “The patient no longer needs the heart-lung machine and there is less time pressure for the surgeon,” says Bronkers. “The surgeon can now apply and test the bypass at his own pace before it becomes functional. In addition, this technique is more standardized than today’s surgical technique, making the result less dependent on the doctor’s experience. Now cardiac surgeons in training have to practice more than two hundred times before they can make a bypass on a patient’s heart.”

Commercial and care

AMT Medical is a company where the commercial world merges with care and science. In the early years of ELANA, this was illustrated by the collaboration between Professor Tulleken, a neurosurgeon with expertise, and Rutger Tulleken, who has a commercial background. Meanwhile, the rest of the company also represents this relationship. For example, a PhD student has joined from the Sint Antonius Hospital in Nieuwegein and research is being done at the company, but at the same time, AMT Medical is able to take rapid steps in the development of the technology due to its commercial approach.

The latter can be difficult when developing products that are designed in science and remain within science. “A large number of ideas that arise in the academic world do not develop further if the ideas remain within the academic world,” says Bronkers. “We can act fast now.”

Deutsches Herzzentrum Berlin

The world of cardiac surgery eagerly awaits the developments in this new surgical technique. The involvement of Professor Volkmar Falk, a renowned cardiac surgeon at the Deutsches Herzzentrum Berlin, certainly contributes to this. A clinical study is about to start so that the technique can eventually obtain CE certification. During the study, forty patients will undergo surgery with this technique under the leadership of the heart centre in Berlin: ten in Berlin and the remaining thirty in various hospitals in Europe. Patients in the Netherlands will also undergo surgery with this technique, but it is not yet clear which hospitals will take part in it.

After successful applications in the brain and in the heart, ELANA may also be used in other operations in the future. “For example, it could soon be used for dialysis patients or for transplants,” says Bronkers. “Someone recently said to us: ‘You started in the most delicate area, the head’. In doing so, we have laid a very good foundation for eventually applying it to other operations as well.”

The Accelerator: New Life Sciences building at Utrecht Science Park

Kadans Science Partner, an innovative housing company, is teaming up with biotechnology companies Genmab and Merus to develop a new Life Sciences building at the Utrecht Science Park. The building, called The Accelerator, will be located close to the entrance of the Science Park and is currently scheduled for completion in 2022.

“The Utrecht Science Park specialises in a number of areas, one of which is Life Sciences,” explains Johan van Gerven of Kadans Science Partner. “It is evident that there has been a lot of growth in recent years and that as a result, many companies are desperate for expansion. That’s why it’s vital to build such a large building at this point. Many companies are scattered all over the Park and they have seen recent growth, but there are no housing options for them.”

Since the end of last year, Utrecht Science Park has been the new name of De Uithof, the Utrecht district where many university buildings have been located since 1963. The name was chosen to give the area a more international look. From the end of this year, the district will be connected to the central station by a tram line.

Building bridges

The two companies that will definitely be joining The Accelerator are co-developers Genmab and Merus, large biotechnology companies that are mainly involved in the development of cancer medicines. A literal bridge is being built between the Genmab building and The Accelerator.

“But it is a multi-tenant building, so we are still looking for more potential residents”, adds Van Gerven. “A number of institutions have already indicated that they would like to rent the building, and we will soon be discussing this with them. Those that are already located at the Utrecht Science Park are mostly companies.”

However, Van Gerven also expects that companies from outside the Science Park will be interested in taking a spot in the new building, because the European Medicines Agency has relocated from London to Amsterdam. “We’re expecting that plenty of businesses will follow. It’s clear that there are too few housing options for them in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Leiden. We are currently working on that. These companies too could potentially settle here.”

Cross-pollination and cooperation

The building is designed to have large communal areas, which are characteristic for Kadans buildings. On the ground floor, for example, there will be an auditorium that can accommodate 250 people and a restaurant with 300 seats. According to Van Gerven, the aim is to stimulate the Science Park’s ecosystem: “Our building is to become the centre of the business community at the Science Park, where companies, institutions, research institutes and students meet. We also offer our buildings for events: we always have a location for anything that is happening.”

According to Kadans, meetings between the companies housed in the building are also important. Van Gerven: “Our buildings are designed in such a way that it is very easy to meet each other. There is free coffee in a place where all researchers actually meet each other physically. We also do something similar at the Novio Tech Campus in Nijmegen, where we’re organising a barbecue that attracts 600 people. Ultimately, cooperation and cross-pollination is what want for our tenants. They are, of course, the ones who are in focus. We can and want to facilitate and stimulate that cooperation.”

Kadans also manages a number of buildings at the Eindhoven University of Technology campus. Read about the House of Robotics here.

How Oryx physiotherapy is moving towards the 21st century

Do you walk properly? This question seems simpler than it is. How convenient would it be if everyone had access to advanced motion analysis without a referral to a laboratory? Quite a bit, right! That’s exactly what Utrecht start-up ORYX has in mind.

31-year-old Marjolein van Koningsveld and partner in crime Marcel Tiggelman (35) embraced the challenge of lowering the threshold for high tech motion analysis; be it for senior citizens or for top athletes.

AN ANALYSIS IN 15 MINUTES

“Our technology focuses on the lower regions of the body, such as legs, hips, knees and back,” explains Van Koningsveld. “We measure the ‘quality’ of a person’s movements by attaching sensors to the body. When we then map out how the person walks, jogs, sprints and squats, we immediately know where improvements can be made. Based on this, we recommend individual physical exercises and rehabilitation programmes,” she continues.

The biggest difference between ORYX and ‘old-fashioned’ movement technology lies mainly in the accessibility and the price difference. “This type of data is usually only available after a referral to a specialised laboratory. Here, an analysis is carried out using very expensive equipment, which costs at least 50,000 euros. This technology is very useful and accurate, but it does involve a costly and time-consuming process. This makes doctors reluctant to refer patients. We want everyone to have access to this technology,” says the nominee for the Dutch National Health Innovation Prize 2019.

NEVER SAY NEVER

Van Koningsveld was always an avid horse rider, but in 2014 a serious injury forced her to stop. A difficult rehabilitation process followed, involving chronic pain and a lot of frustration.

Still, she managed to make a virtue of necessity. She met her co-founder Marcel, who was in a similar situation, at the gym. He was told that by the age of 50 he would probably be in a wheelchair and that he would never be able to play sports again because of persistent knee injuries.

Instead of giving up, Van Koningsveld and Tiggelman joined forces. They jokingly borrowed a movement analysis device from a friend to see just how ‘poorly’ their condition was.

“Indeed, things weren’t good, but I found hope. On the basis of this data I could see exactly what the problem was – with a combination of very specific exercises my symptoms were resolved within three months,” says Van Koningsveld. The two wanted to make this technology available to everyone to help as many people as possible. And so they did.

A LIFETIME OF MOTION

When a young child stumbles and falls, it’s usually not a big deal. But what about seniors? In their case, the consequences of an accident can sometimes be so unfortunate that they never fully recover. Breaking a hip after an accident is one of the biggest physical – and mental – dangers for the well-being of elderly.

“My own mother suffered frequent falls and I’ve experienced up close how this affected her and her immediate environment. Maintaining physical activity is one of the most important foundations for healthy and happy ageing,” says Van Koningsveld. “Through our analyses, we know the exact location of problems and so we can respond to them. As a result, accidents and fractures can be prevented. As well as greatly improving the quality of life, it also saves a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on expensive treatment.”

Even top athletes who push their bodies to their limits benefit from ORYX’s smart software. “When the difference between winning and losing lies in just one second or the slightest movement, it is very useful to accurately map out the areas of motion improvement. This allows us to immediately see where a little extra training is necessary. Also in case of injuries, where the body often develops unnatural movements on its own, this is very beneficial,” she says.

PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE

A final difference with traditional rehabilitation methods is the use of easily accessible and understandable data visualization. After all, data is of no use if nobody can read it. “The reports from motion laboratories are often very difficult for physiotherapists to understand. We use a clearly and logically arranged visualisation that is understandable for everyone. This shows directly where the problems are per segment.”

ORYX is currently collaborating with runners and soccer players. At the moment, they are running a pilot project with the National Baseball and Softball Association. What does the future look like?

“I hope that our technology will be used on a societal level at some point. This way, we can help as many people as possible and we can save a lot of money from expensive treatment and rehabilitation costs.

Athletes will no longer suffer the same joint problems over and over again, and employees who suffer from back pain will no longer drop out. Although motion centers will always remain necessary and of course accidents can never be completely prevented, with ORYX we can still prevent a lot of suffering,” says van Koningsveld.

ORYX also attended the Heralth Valley Event. More info can be found here.

Charging and discharging cars in Utrecht

The city of Utrecht will soon have charging stations that can charge and discharge electric cars. This allows the car to return electricity to the network in times of energy shortage. This new energy and mobility system is a result of a collaboration between We Drive Solar and Renault, who presented the system on Thursday in the presence of the Dutch king.

With this system, the partnership wants to contribute to the solution of a major energy problem: the supply of sustainable energy at times of scarcity. “We view the car as a battery on wheels,” explains Robin Berg of We Drive Solar. “The battery is so big that when using it daily, you would only use a quarter of the battery. Three quarters would only be used when you’re taking a long drive or going on holiday.”

Storage

According to Berg, the three-quarters of the battery you don’t use daily, could be used more efficiently as storage. “It is enough to power an entire street.” With the discharge poles, cars can therefore supply energy to homes when no wind or solar energy can be generated.

We Drive Solar and Renault’s open standard is a first in Europe, although the technology was previously available, for example in Japan. “After the Fukushima disaster, cars had to be adjusted to store energy, so that they could supply electricity in the event of a blackout. We have further developed the technology,” says Berg.

The partnership is currently applying the system to shared cars. In Lombok, for example, solar panels on the roofs of schools are generating energy, which is being used by shared cars in the neighbourhood to charge. “The next step is to work with project developers and apply it in new housing estates,” says Berg. For example in Utrecht, ‘MARK’ (the residential tower near Leidsche Rijn, which will be higher than the Dom) and the ‘Cartesiusdriehoek’ will have shared cars that can charge and discharge with local energy.

Value

As a result, the value of energy will therefore shift. “Energy is getting cheaper”, explains Berg. Solar panels are becoming more efficient every year. “Twenty years ago, I placed solar panels on the roof and I’ve replaced them three years ago. I now collect six times the amount of energy I used to.”

According to Berg, storing energy will also receive value, as you can limit the peaks of the electricity grid. “Coal, nuclear and gas energy will eventually all disappear. Therefore, we need storage to be able to have power 24 hours a day, when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. If you use the car battery as storage, you will earn money with a motionless car.”

In practice, it will look like a charging station where you can buy energy to charge your car, or even sell its energy to supply the energy grid. One problem that according to Berg still needs to be solved is the price of electric cars. “Electric driving is still relatively expensive as electric cars are still fairly pricy. Over the next few years, car manufacturers will be working to try bring that price down,” says Berg.

 

Waste with a passport: the land registry of materials

One might wonder why it doesn’t already exist: a land registry for materials. In 2017 Madaster, Utrecht region based, was founded: a company that creates ‘material passports’ for buildings, making every building’s construction transparent. After expansion in European countries, they are also tying with Taiwan. “Our mission is to eliminate waste by giving it an identity,” says Rob Oomen, partnership manager at Madaster.

The platform, which was created by Thomas Rau, went online in September 2017 and two million square metres have already been registered since then. From the very beginning, the plan had awakened a lot of enthusiasm. Large companies from various sectors – including Heijmans, Deloitte and Rabobank – have supported the platform from the start and gave it a first development boost by making a one-off donation.

Passport

The idea is simple, although innovative. A lot of new buildings have a 3D construction drawing, a so-called BIM: Building Information Model. This construction drawing is uploaded in Madaster, which compares it to its own database of identified materials. The result is a passport, which indicates exactly what material has been used, but also, e.g., what the quality and value of the material is.

The passport makes a circular economy easier to conduct, since it shows how the material could be reused. According to Oomen, this is necessary, as at some point our raw materials will be exhausted. “The whole world has an interest to manage this. Individuals and companies can subscribe to Madaster. Buildings that do not have a 3D building drawing, because for example they have been built a long time ago, can collect the ‘ingredients’ for a complete passport in a format provided.

Also, it is not just sustainability that motivates Madaster. According to Madaster, by logging the constructions’ components, the safety of buildings can also be improved. Think for example of the parking garage in Eindhoven that collapsed or the apartment building in London that caught fire. A passport makes it possible to trace these constructions rapidly.

Foreign attention

Madaster has not gone unnoticed overseas. “In Switzerland, they are already working on a Swiss Madaster. We are also conversing with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Finland and Norway”, says Oomen. But then unexpectedly, Taiwan was brought to their attention, a country that the company initially did not consider.

“Taiwan is very externally orientated,” explains Simone Sars, Business Development Manager Asia. “There are only a limited number of assets and resources in Taiwan. This is why a circularity notion is addressed as an essential matter.”

Sars is a sinologist and is therefore affiliated with Madaster, to use her knowledge of Asia to establish things over there. Madaster is part of a Dutch trade mission that voyages to Taiwan in the end of March. Madaster signs two declarations of intent for cooperation in Taiwan. The objective is to show two demonstrations of material passports in Taiwan. “By doing so, we hope to win the confidence of the Taiwanese about its workings”, says Sars.

If the contacts in Taiwan remain interested, it will be a huge undertaking to translate a Dutch Madaster into a Taiwanese version. Sars explains: “They have a different coding system there for example, and it has to be completely translated into Chinese.”

Sars and Oomen hope that this will be a stepping stone to the rest of the Asian market. “Madaster has a public interest,” says Oomen. “If we want to eliminate waste, we firstly have to give it an identity and we need a system change to do so.”

 

Data against flooding: Dutch company wants to collaborate with Taiwanese companies

This year, the innovative, Utrecht (The Netherlands) based water company Nelen & Schuurmans will open an office in Taiwan. In cooperation with local companies and knowledge institutes they will devise solutions for the severe floods in the country. Being part of a Dutch trade mission, headed by mayor Jan van Zanen of Utrecht, they will visit Taiwan at the end of March to finalise the partnerships.

Nelen & Schuurmans is a company that was founded twenty years ago as a water management consultancy, however has grown into an IT company over the years. Former competitors have now become clients, such as Royal HasKoningDHV consultancy. This is due to the innovative way in which Nelen & Schuurmans uses data to clarify water problems.

One of their products is the ‘3Di‘ software with which flooding visualizations can be made of a certain region. This is possible as the company uses all available data – from groundwater levels and threshold heights to the number of trees and soil types. They use this data to perform all kinds of mathematical calculations to predict which houses, streets or neighbourhoods will be most affected by flooding.

Smart city

Taiwan, a country that regularly deals with typhoons and the associated floods, is therefore particularly interested in Nelen & Schuurmans’ software. “In Taiwan, they are often involved in these ‘smart city’ solutions,” says Fons Nelen, one of the company’s founders and managing director. “There is a lot of confidence in this technology and a lot of money is spent on flood solutions. For us, this is the ideal area to see if we can come up with local solutions.”

The board of Nelen & Schuurmans. Second of the left: director and founder Fons Nelen.

There are some technological challenges for the Dutch water company when expanding to Taiwan. “In the Netherlands, the definition of an extreme climate shower is being discussed, whether this is seventy or eighty millimetres,” explains Nelen. “In Taiwan, this is five hundred millimetres of rainfall in one day. We’re talking about a completely different order of magnitude.” There is also a big difference between Taiwanese and Dutch data culture. “In the Netherlands, we have an ‘open data’ culture in which data can easily be obtained. This stimulates innovation in our country and we should be very proud of that. In Taiwan, everything seems to be classified.”

The method of operation therefore requires a slightly different approach than usual. “We also have customers in England and Australia, but the English don’t seem to mind if our software runs their data on a server based in Amsterdam. In Taiwan, the data is not allowed to leave the country,” says Nelen. Therefore, the company will work together with local corporations. The server will be located in Taiwan, making sure the data does not leave the country. In addition, the Taiwanese will be working on the actual solutions. Nelen & Schuurmans supplies the software and advises them.

International

Their expanding step to Taiwan is an example of Nelen & Schuurmans’ international ambition. Nelen explains: “We often hear that the Netherlands is a knowledgeable country, however, I believe we are not very good at marketing that knowledge. Dutch water experts often go abroad to do a study or to draw up a report, but that’s basically it. I think we have found a very good working model with which the knowledge could be sold.”

Twenty years ago, when founded the company, they had a dream to work with their own software, now their dream has grown to international proportions. Nelen: “I hope that the Netherlands, an educated country and a land of water, will become the Silicon Valley of water management, so we can tackle all water issue here.

Dutch startup Qoobi revives analogue sound in consumer market

When the Utrecht-based startup Qoobi attended last year’s CES Awards in Las Vegas, they received the best possible endorsement for their newly developed product, a speaker-like device that converts digital track to analogue signal: Musician Stevie Wonder was making his way through the noisy exhibition hall, heard the sound from the Qoobi ONE and stopped to investigate.

qoobi“Typically, the design of our prototype draws attention but, in this case, the appearance of the equipment was not relevant. It was a strong endorsement,” says Marielle Uiterwijk Winkel, External Relations Officer for Qoobi. This surprise boost was followed by the announcement late last year that the Qoobi ONE had won the CES 2019 Best of Innovation in the High Performance Audio/Video category. The annual awards presented by the US-based Consumer Technology Association honours outstanding design and engineering in consumer technology products.

Qoobi’s three founders, based in Israel, Spain and Russia, teamed up in 2015 to design a device that they felt would put an end to the disappointing consumer experience of listening to low-quality digital audio. Owing to compression, the conversion of sound to MP3 format dilutes its quality; the problem isn’t resolved by using expensive audio equipment to listen to digital music.

UNFROSTING SOUND

“Sergei Avdeev, Matvey Evstigneev and Evgeny Klukin experimented for quite some before coming up with a practical solution. We describe it as ‘unfrosting’ your music, as the technology turns digital music from any smartphone into analogue format, using analogue amplifier vacuum tubes. This creates sound of outstanding quality – as if the musicians were sitting next to the listener and performing a live concert”, says Uiterwijk Winkel.


Avdeev and Klukin have a background in radio technology, and have spent their full careers in sound engineering. Evstigneev is a designer, and is responsible for the eye-catching polyhedron form of the Qoobi ONE, which is built using anodised aluminium and quarts glass, with interactive backlighting.

Uiterwijk Winkel says the team is already working on the next model, based on feedback received at CES; the second model will include plug-in ports to make the product more versatile in its application.

Qoobi ONE goes on sale in mid-2019, with pricing starting at $1.500. Uiterwijk Winkel says pre-orders are coming in fast, with firm interest from distributors and big webshops.

“At this point it is crucial for us to find investors.” The Qoobi team are in the process of raising capital, focusing their efforts on Northern European investors.