Alexander Jagielo's family already had a certain affinity for the topic of trucks, so it was fate that he became involved with a research project on the topic of cargo theft early on in his industrial engineering studies. Alexander presented the basic idea for the startup KONVOI at the Startup Dock of the Technical University of Hamburg (TUHH) back in 2016. The question was how thefts from parked trailers can be prevented. Usually, the truck tarpaulin is slit open or the door is broken open. For Alexander, it was a first immersion in the business sector: "Through the project, I got to know a lot about this huge industry: There are 3.1 million registered trucks in Germany! Through the cooperation with the various companies as well as the state criminal investigation office, I learned to appreciate the sector. This network and my fascination for the subject have remained," he reports. During his studies, Alexander met fellow student Heinz Luckhardt in the course of projects. They got to talking and quickly realised that they had similar views on many things. So it was obvious to develop something in common. Several ideas were discussed for this: "In the end, it was the banal problem of cargo theft that was really tangible as a topic for us: that convinced us," explains Heinz.
In 2018, Alexander and Heinz presented a further developed approach to solving cargo theft to the start-up advisors from Startup Dock, or beyourpilot. The feedback was positive and encouraged the two industrial engineers to apply for the EXIST start-up grant. To do this, the founders needed another person with the necessary expertise in software development. However, the search was not easy and had to be extended several times until a job advertisement finally had the desired effect: Divya Settimali then got in touch, convinced the boys with her competence as well as her not insignificant enthusiasm and subsequently became a co-founder.
In the Startup Dock, KONVOI can benefit from the exchange with other startups and the startup advisors on site as well as the workshops of beyourpilot's startup network. The start of the funding period and the drawdown of funds was very important for the hardware startup so that they could devote their full concentration to product development.
"KONVOI wants to prevent cargo theft with a mobile, preventive security system. Optimised sensors form a detection area around the truck, which makes it possible to analyse movement patterns and initiate preventive defence measures," Heinz explains the start-up's solution approach. When an unwanted person approaches, a customer-specific alarm chain in the form of an intelligent algorithm can be used to react preventively and situationally. "For example, lights can be switched on as a deterrent in the first step. The system's defensive reactions can then be increased, for example by a swelling sound as well as by alerting the driver and a security service," Alexander explains.
This combined approach, i.e. as mobile as possible, as flexible as possible and truly deterrent, has never existed in this form before. Accordingly, he is relaxed when asked about the competition: "There are already quite the access-restricting measures, such as special locks or cut-resistant tarpaulins, which the manufacturers of the vehicles already offer, but which do not provide the security that everyone wants. Then there are security car parks with some precautions, but these are then associated with basic costs. In addition, I then have to adjust my route accordingly and pay about 30 euros for each stop. And the situation at the rest areas is already so tense anyway, because they are not enough for a long time," says Alexander. More sophisticated competitors are, for example, THEFTEX with their alarm tarpaulin: "They have incorporated copper wires into their alarm tarpaulin that form a fine electrical network. If they are cut, the control technology recognises this and triggers an alarm. Another competitor wants to use sound to measure whether someone is accessing or not. But both competitors only sound the alarm when the perpetrator has already tampered with the truck: "That's too late for us," Heinz concludes.
"We record our planned development in a constantly updated 3-month roadmap. We feel comfortable with the focused processing in currently two-week sprints. The next big goal for 2021 is to build a prototype. In the long term, we also want to rely on artificial intelligence, i.e. self-learning software," says Heinz.
Konvoi does not see itself as a technical product developer, but as a service provider. The security system is to be rented by the logistics companies. This guarantees permanent support, technical functionality and updates for the software, which is improved with every use. Parallel to the technical development, KONVOI is looking for partners - for example, haulage companies that use the security system on a trial basis. Or investors who want to help this new idea reach market maturity. In the distant future, as many trucks as possible should be part of a KONVOI fleet and be reliably protected from cargo theft by an updateable security system.