Throw out your notes! Could this innovation eliminate paperwork in B2B?

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around, does it make a sound? Similarly, if an innovative product is developed but there’s no commercial relevance, can it really spread far and wide?

Here at hubraum, we’ve recently developed a proof of concept we’re extremely proud of: a product that isn’t just innovative, but one which we believe has huge commercial relevance — which could be deployed in industry, logistics and even medicine. We spoke to BitVox and Diota, two startups who were enrolled on our campus network program and whose products have been combined with the help of T-Systems to create one powerful super-product. Over 120 startups worldwide were reviewed for entry onto the program: Diota and Bitvox were jointly selected by hubraum and T-Systems to develop this proof of concept.

BitVox CEO Dennis Kaupmann

Currently, assembling something like an aircraft is a tricky business. As Managing Director Sebastian Knödel from Diota tells me of one aircraft client they have, “When they assemble aircraft panels with chips, cables, rivets, screws, it’s done by hand. Even today, paper instructions are used. The workers read them and if their task is, say, to assemble 500 rivets on an aircraft, they refer to a bunch of papers that explain which type of rivets go where. Then they take a pen and draw what they read from the paper onto a panel.”

This, he explains, leads to two fundamental problems: firstly, it’s massively time consuming to draw the instructions, then assemble the rivets and to finally clean the panel. Secondly and more concerningly, when workers try and replicate the paper instructions in pen on the panel, they make errors: “They’re only human, after all. This is a huge problem in aerospace: but also in trucks, other areas.”

So how do we fix this? The proof of concept takes a visual overlay provided by Diota which takes instructions and projects this directly onto the aircraft panel (or part of the lorry, or whatever is being constructed). But wait! It gets better — it combines this with a voice interface — a sort of Siri or Amazon Echo for industrial use — provided by BitVox.

This can be used whether with a smartphone connected to a headset, or with the voice assistant running directly on a machine’s HMI or just on a laptop or tablet. The Diota player can be controlled by speech using BitVox, allowing a worker to operate entirely hands-free, since the worker can just give voice instructions.

Diota’s product being used for inspection purposes

BitVox CEO Dennis Kaupmann says “Most people can speak four times faster than they type, which means interacting with the system could be much faster. If you want to input data, one advantage is that you don’t need to hold an iPad or walk to an HMI terminal. Instead delivering the data via your voice means you can fully focus on your actual task.” 

Besides this, the fact that this product is available via edge air gives businesses security benefits — all voice processing can be carried out offline on the edge and audio doesn’t need to be streamed which is helpful for data privacy and protection.

Screenshot of BitVox in use

And what would the implications be for industry as a whole – and other sectors? Voice instruction could be used for assembly, maintenance and set up processes, like when you set up a machine and you get voice instructions on how to do this. Dennis observes that voice control in logistics is quite common — for example, in a warehouse the voice assistant tells you which products or parts to pick up, plus voice documentation is important: everything you currently write down on paper which isn’t digitized afterwards can be said directly into the assistant, like quality measurements or notes, which are then directly digitized.

 “An alternative sector where it could be interesting is healthcare. We are currently starting a research project into providing voice assistance for surgery, because there is lots of documentation required.”

The sky’s the limit! And how was the program that led to this proof of concept? For both Bitvox and Diota, being part of the campus network program was valuable. Bitvox described the program allowing them to get information about upcoming technology, as well as learning how this same technology might benefit their product (“And the fact hubraum provides VC funds as well is obviously interesting, too”). For Diota, the key aspect of the program was how it connected them with other relevant startups like Bitvox on a project they’ve termed “a really great collaboration, both with Bitvox and T Systems.”

As a smaller startup, we wondered if Bitvox had any tips for startups who want to work with corporates? Dennis recommends that startups ensure their tech solution has achieved a certain maturity before reaching out to a corporate, since generally, startups are expected to fit their tech solution into the corporate’s environment rather than vice versa – maturity ensures a smooth migration.

Want more glimpses into the future? Read our new study on startups and artificial intelligence in Germany, available in both English and German! Download it here.

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