When Covid-19 hit, forward-thinking start-ups responded with digital innovation to help the world adapt
Last year introduced an unprecedented set of challenges and changes, with Covid-19 transforming the way we live, work and interact. In the face of the pandemic, digital technologies have certainly proven their worth as they develop the strategies and solutions underpinning our global response to a new way of life. Now more than ever, start-ups have stepped up to the plate, demonstrating agility and innovation to solve for the disruption introduced over the past year.
The founders, innovators and tech teams of several of our portfolio companies have been instrumental in helping our world adapt to Covid-19. Ranging from solutions for remote monitoring and management of large-scale energy infrastructure and buildings to navigation and mobility in an era of restricted spaces, these solutions transform the way we run our homes, offices, and cities as a whole.
Just because our offices may have closed during stay-at-home orders doesn’t mean that our buildings and their ongoing maintenance can fall by the wayside. ConTech and PropTech start-ups have engineered innovative digital solutions for the continued monitoring and maintenance of buildings, even remotely.
One such company is KUGU; featured in our latest portfolio start-up Q&A, this Berlin-based company enables remote monitoring of buildings – with a particular focus on heating and water systems – through a digital submetering platform.
Some companies like HoloLight use augmented reality to create AR workspaces for complex workflows where a Zoom call simply won’t cut it. German company WeAre offers similar virtual reality tools designed specifically for engineers to share and edit intricate 3D CAD data.
Insider Navigation is using large-scale AR to ensure business continuity, offering hardware-free and centimeter-precise Augmented Reality indoor and outdoor positioning without the need of extra infrastructure like GPS or beacons. Through their partner networks, Insider Navigation can also offer optimized preventive maintenance routines, logistics and warehouse processes, factory monitoring through live IoT data, and more.
Other companies, such as Buildots and HoloBuilder, can create on-site transparency at construction sites in times when access is limited due to social distancing mandates and on-site employee limits. Buildots is an AI-based construction process management system that uses 360-degree cameras to keep progress on track. HoloBuilder, similarly uses 360-degree technology and digital progress records for remote construction site access.
These maintenance systems can also be used for larger energy structures, like wind turbines. Sterblue, for example, uses automatic drone flight solutions for energy infrastructure inspections. Or Sight Machine, a San Francisco-based start-up that has partnered with big names like Microsoft, tracks plant operations remotely to improve OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness).
Navigation and Mobility
Navigation and mobility have been of particular interest during the pandemic, as public transportation systems have had to severely alter and limit their capacities. One company, Waycare, is supporting transit rerouting initiatives using data based on stops’ urgency, proximity to essential locations, and traffic. Waycare has even added live map layers that that track essential businesses – such as pharmacies, grocery stores, and schools – that become inundated with traffic to help plan public transit routes and schedules accordingly.
Navigation is not just limited to external public transportation. As many essential businesses like grocery stores have turned to grocery pickers and Scan & Go models of shopping, Oriient saw an opportunity to help make this process more efficient. Using Oriient’s internal GPS system, shoppers can track and locate their items quickly and efficiently, reducing the length of time in-store and increasing overall safety for both shoppers and employees.
If you’ve been curious about how effective social distancing methods have been, Teralytics thought about that too. They began using their mobility data to analyze how our social distancing initiatives have changed everyday travel behaviors to provide better data to emergency response teams, mobility providers, and transportation planners.
Contact Tracing and Exposure Tracking
In April, shortly after the pandemic hit, HypeLabs sprang into action, using its mesh-networking system to bring a white-label contact-tracing system to market. CovidApp, an application using user smartphone data, works in conjunction with hospitals and governments to notify users if they crossed paths with someone who has the virus. The data is then used to trace and track possible exposures.
Return to Work
The company didn’t stop there; while CovidApp was bringing transparency to the way we interact, HypeLabs also created OkDetect to help those who need to return to the office do so safely. Thanks to its contact-tracing system for enterprises, employees can return to work with peace of mind that their office environment is safe and secure with all-in-one screening, alerting, and contact tracing.
Another company, Basking, is similarly supporting return-to-work measures using AI and WiFi-based workplace analytics to assess occupancy and building capabilities. They supply employers with real-time occupancy information and weekly space utilization reports. This not only optimizes real estate, but also saves up to 40% in costs while meeting government health and safety guidelines and helping to enforce social distancing measures.
Procurement, Customer Support & Product Counterfeit
For some employers, prioritizing the safety of their workers and their families means maintaining shelter-in-place mandates and urging employees to work from home. For customer support teams working remotely, Tel Aviv-based company TechSee offers remote Visual Assistance. Using Augmented Reality (AR) guides on their mobile screens, agents can see customers’ physical environment and remote assist by sharing the customer’s desktop. In addition to software support, TechSee users can also support with hardware connectivity and configuration issues using Visual Assistance’s remote assistance and visual technology tools.
Meanwhile in California, Qmerit has been supporting companies’ procurement and compliance procedures through their eProcurement platform. This cloud-based software solution manages compliance functions such as contract negotiations, SKU rationalization, and margin maximization to reduce rogue spending and ensure that budgets are utilized efficiently and strategically.
Across the pond in Switzerland, ScanTrust has taken up a similar mission using anti-counterfeiting technology for PPE supplies and new vaccines. As governments waive typical procurement controls in a desperate race to protect their healthcare workers, relaxed regulation has helped criminals profit from overpriced or ineffective goods, such as masks and even vaccines. ScanTrust, a connected goods platform, uses IoT and unique identifiers to protect brands, medical gear, and vaccines alike from counterfeits to ensure product integrity.
One of the impacts of the pandemic has been an overwhelming shortage of beds in hospitals and other care facilities due to the inundation of Covid-19 cases straining the already-limited healthcare system. People Power saw a way to help by providing telehealth homecare. Using in-home activity sensors and remote app-based monitoring, People Power is helping seniors live safely and independently at home, freeing up valuable resources in hospitals and care facilities to focus on fighting the immediate impacts of the pandemic.
We’re only getting started
These are just a few ways our forward-thinking start-ups are helping to enable social distancing in public spaces, virus track and trace capabilities, home working, and remote monitoring and maintenance of our infrastructure. Their impact will continue to permeate our personal and professional lives even beyond the Covid-19 crisis. If you would like to learn more about the ground-breaking ideas on the horizon and the brainpower behind them, meet our full portfolio of start-ups here.