Ghent University spin-off Lopos monitors safety in our return to our workplace

(04-03-2021) When Covid-19 hit, our lives changed completely. Lopos CEO Jen Rossey shares how they use their technology for the safety of companies and their employees.

Lopos is a Belgian provider of real-time localization services (RTLS) based on ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. ‘We’ve come quite a long way from simply being a budding idea in the minds of some researchers to a full-blown start-up with a trialed, tested and certified wearable device – SafeDistance,’ tells Lopos’ CEO Jen Rossey. 

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With their wearable SafeDistance Lopos monitors the social distancing requirements.

Prologue

The seed for Lopos was sown in the minds of its four founders – Jen, Bart, Eli and Jan – during their time at IDLab, the joint research lab of Ghent University and imec. The four of them had been studying different localization technologies, including ultra-wideband, at the lab for ten years. They soon realized the business potential of UWB technology, and started looking at ways to translate it into a business concept and market. The first avenue they explored was behavioral analyses on animals. By tracking the location data of livestock and poultry on farms, future clients would be able to research and gain insights into the animals’ behavior based on their location and movement data.

Supported by imec and Ghent University

Imec and Ghent University provided great support for Lopos during this time, also from an organizational and technical perspective. And they still are. ‘In 2019, our ambition with ultra-wideband led to us taking part in Ghent University’s Expedition Do! project, where we turned our idea into an actual spin-off. We’d all been working in our full-time jobs until this point, and hadn’t really had the time to take any concrete steps. But Expedition Do! forced us to take action, and we’re really grateful it did. We were one of the winners in 2019, and that really gave us the final push we needed to launch our spin-off,’ explains Jen Rossey. ‘With the help of UGent TechTransfer and the IOF (Industrial Research Fund), we launched Lopos that same year as a spin-off and were admitted to imec.istart, a prestigious business accelerator.’

Finding the right market

Lopos was putting all the building blocks in place for a successful start-up, but it still needed a good market. Behavioral analyses on animals didn’t seem to be hitting the sweet spot just yet, so the founders started exploring other markets as well, such as Industry 4.0, manufacturing and logistics. Jen Rossey, CEO and co-founder of Lopos, explains: ‘We were still looking for the right market for our technology when the coronavirus struck. We quickly realized how well our product was suited to social distancing requirements. As a flexible start-up, we were able to switch from pure electronics to an innovative product with concrete impact in just six weeks: a wearable that uses our ultra-wideband technology to measure the distance between people and send sound, vibration or light warning signals when they get too close to each other.'

'We were still looking for the right market for our technology when the coronavirus struck. As a flexible start-up, we were able to switch from pure elektronics to an innovative product with concrete impact', tells CEO Jen Rossey.

SafeDistance already in action

There is a wide range of companies actively using the SafeDistance wearables – from the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industry and large electronics companies to local SMEs. ‘Industrial businesses, which mostly can’t work from home, had the highest and most urgent need to begin with. But now we’re focusing on a much broader audience. The wearables can be used in so many different areas to make life with social distancing possible in a safe way. Similarly, public places such as libraries and museums are on our radar today,' says Rossey.

Same mission, different market

‘Our mission hasn’t changed, but our areas of application certainly have since the coronavirus outbreak. Our main goal now is to support companies in remaining operational in these difficult times, and to protect their employees,’ says Rossey. ‘We realize that the market’s interest in social distancing wearables is probably only short term. But it was never our plan to focus solely on this product.'

'Our mail goal is to support companies in remaining operational in these times, and to protect their employees,' says Rossey. 

'Security in all aspects, however, remains an important issue for companies worldwide. For example, our ultra-wideband technology is also interesting for asset management, product localization, access control, evacuation management, collision avoidance ... So there are still many possibilities for our unique wireless technology. The big advantage now compared to a year ago is that with our SafeDistance wearables, we have been able to gain the trust of a huge number of customers. It is now much easier for us to enter into discussions with these customers to detect their needs and offer solutions. The fact that we are currently working with a global player such as the strategy consultancy company PwC is a good example of this,' Rossey concludes.

  • www.lopos.be

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