What happened to: Pikkerton
One cannot call ‘Pikkerton’ a start-up anymore at all. It is since 2004 that Lothar Feige and his team have been successfully working on the development and manufacture of sensors - amongst others - in the AAL section (Active Assisted Living or Smart Home Care). In 2015 they were given the first „Deep Tech Award“ for their active fall-recognising system ‘Grannyguard’, marking a promising start to a new chapter that is now picking up speed…
Turn of the millenium: From Cluster Labs to Pikkerton
Lothar Feige, the founder of Pikkerton, has always been fascinated by highly innovative solutions. As early as 1999, the Berlin mathematician founded his first enterprise with ‘Cluster Labs’. At the time highly integrated computer systems, so-called blade servers, a standard today in IT-environments, built the centre of it all. “At the beginning of the turn of the millenium, however, the company faltered economically“, says Feige, “and as CTO that did not please me - I did not want to drag on with this.” He left and founded Pikkerton, a sensor- and IT-enterprise in 2004 together with a graduating student who still is his longest serving employee and a support to the company“, explains the managing director enthusiastically.
15 years later the team, consisting of 10 people, develops, designs, and manufactures and distributes successfully electronic devices and radio-based sensor systems in the core sections of Smart Grid/Smart Energy, Industrial Monitoring as well as AAL - the main focus always being on professional applications. If asked about personal milestones, Lothar Feige does not have to think about it at all: “Setting up the small radio sensor product portfolio ‘ZigBee‘ in 2007 is part of it as is the manufacture worth millions with ‘Rohde & Schwarz’ or the research project Model city Mannheim ‘moma’, where about 1000 households in Mannheim and Dresden were supplied with energy via a Smart Grid between 2008 and 2012”. Another subject should not be left out: “AAL-systems have been on the market since 2007“, explains Feige. ”Based on these requirements and experiences gained from the market we developed the idea for Grannyguard”.
Highlight (so far): Grannyguar
The classic, passive home emergency call systems have been going since the 80’s: In case an elderly respectively a frail person falls over, he/she can use the emergency call manually to get help - in theory. The practice looks different. “Falls mainly happen at night on the toilet - and the emergency call device is out of reach on the bedside table“, says Lothar Feige. “Nobody presses the button. Nobody is aware and grandmother or grandfather remain where they are and die.” In fact, more than 75 per cent of all fatal accidents at home occur to people over 65 because of falls. This is where Grannyguard comes in. Highly sensitive infrared sensors automatically recognise falls but also extremely high heat development and many further critical situations; the intelligent fall recognition system contacts relatives, friends or care services at once by text message or voicemail. “The best of operating concepts - there is none like it. Grannyguard need never be operated. It is the only affordable, touchless emergency call system for older people“, Feige is convinced after a period of 4 to 5 years of developing his product. The self-sufficient system is not only convenient, but has a different purpose altogether: “Emergency call systems stigmatise”, according to the Berlin entrepreneur, “ and I do not want my old mother to carry a device round her neck. Therefore, Grannyguard does not have to be carried around but is part of the infrastructure.” The support system for the home works without gateway or other external devices but is integrated in the light switch unit on the wall. As is the case with light switches, the privacy is guaranteed at all times. “There is no camera inside that stores pictures in a Google cloud”, assures the Pikkerton founder. “It works offline and self-sufficient 24/7. Only once the device detects that something is wrong, the communication module is started. My mum has such a device installed in the wall and if no movements are registered by 11.00 a.m., I call her.”
Waiting for Grannyguard
Feige’s 83-year-old mum is one of the first to be protected by Grannyguard. Once the product successfully passed the VDE [Association of Electro Technology, Electronics and Information Technology] approval process in January 2018, production is planned to start in spring 2019. To start with it, will only be available to the Business-to-Business sector: Talks have been ongoing with operators of care homes, retirement homes, sheltered housing, and charity organisations. The end user market will be supplied in about six to eight months. “We want to build up our support structures first of all”, explains Feige his decision, who is also lecturing at the Beuth Hochschule in Berlin. The reason is certainly not the lack of interest - on the contrary: “Everyone is waiting for Grannyguard, there is a real rush“, says the entrepreneur with a smile and adds with a twinkle in his eye: “So far nobody called me a dreamer and said that this is all rubbish; and that is rather promising.”
In the beginning there was the Deep Tech Award
But the international awards that Pikkerton received with Grannyguard are at least as promising. “The prize of the “Deep Tech Award“ in 2015 was our stepping stone, where we really got a taste for it“, remarks Lothar Feige. “It was the start to present ourselves more actively to the outside and applying for international awards.” Elektra Award 2016, Stevie Awards, Building Better Healthcare Award in 2017 or the Demografie Exzellenz Award 2018 – the list of prizes is remarkable and also forms a good basis for arguments with potential customers, emphasises Feige. But resting on his laurels is not for this bustling entrepreneur. At Pikkerton he continues to develop professional sensors for the energy sector and the subject of ‘Narrowband-IoT’ - a radio technology especially for the internet of things - also has its place in the portfolio by now. “The roadmap is bursting“, admits Feige secretively. "We have loads of ideas." No more was said, but things are moving at Pikkerton.