GOSPACE Tech — a unique IoT parking system made in Slovakia
For much of the 20th century people never imagined that smart cities would soon become a reality. Hopefully, this is no longer science fiction pictured in the media and books — the promise of a new smart world is fast-fulfilling right before our eyes.
Constantly, there emerge many ideas on how to make cities smarter. Companies run a race to see who is fastest. In the abundance of companies who create IoT solutions there is a unique one. Here, I would like to tell you story of GOSPACE Tech from Slovakia. This year they applied for the WARP NB-IoT programme by hub:raum and started developing NB-IoT parking solution. I had a pleasure to meet them a few months ago during IoT Fest Bratislava (now: hub:raum IoT Academy).
Loads of passion for space technology and space exploration is what brought them together. Their collaboration resulted in successfully constructing the first Slovak space satellite (CubeSat) ever built in Slovakia which was placed in orbit in June 2017 and will remain there for some 5 years.Two years ago, they also took the decision to establish themselves in the nascent field of the Internet of Things (IoT). It was a straightforward decision and they have never looked back.
I met with Pavol Turcina (CEO at GOSPACE Tech) and asked him a few questions to learn more about them, their solution and plans for development.
hub:raum IoT Academy: Space technology and the IoT? It sounds like a big shift!
Pavol Turcina: Space technology is in many ways similar to IoT, and, therefore, we see it as a natural extension of our capabilities and expertise. We know our strengths are in miniaturization, data transmission and development of electronics capable of withstanding extreme environmental conditions. All those qualities needed in space technology are also important in the field of the IoT.
Beginnings are always difficult — what is your story with IoT business?
We had the capacity and courage, but we didn’t have the right connections. Therefore, we had to make ourselves known to key players in the field of the IoT at home and in neighboring countries. We got in touch with important people and became familiar with the new kinds of Low Power Wide Area radio networks for the IoT available in our region What’s interesting is that we weren’t only experimenting in our laboratory — we did serious tests on the field. For example, we tested the limits of IoT networks from our stratospheric probes. And we were capable to establishing packet transmission over 600 km via the LoRa network.
Why did you decided to focus on developing an IoT parking system?
We are all men in our team and love cars! Also, our survey said that there is a huge problem with parking in our cities (and it is getting worse). That is why we set our aim on a parking detector. That’s the beginning of our story with SPOT (Slovak Parking Organisation Technology).
What was your biggest challenge while developing your smart parking solution?
We have found it quite difficult to develop a parking detector which works under all conditions and is highly reliable. It’s no wonder that almost every other team developing parking detectors gave up. It is not easy to provide reliable vehicle detection using low-cost but quality components. That was actually our intention: to develop something small and effective. In space it’s crucial to minimize the size and complexity of the equipment without compromising on reliability. We wanted to have a working solution at a reasonable cost, but we had to overcome many obstacles. We kept only one key sensing component on board — the magnetometer. We managed to do this and added some serious technology to make it much more powerful (it’s not just hardware!). This can seriously reshape and improve parking in our cities. We are really proud of this!
Is there any piece of advice you would give startups who create hardware?
We always aim for a lean approach and try to get as much as we can from what we have. So we started offering SPOT for pilot projects relatively early on — just 6 months after our first prototype. It’s good to have quick feedback directly from potential customers. Right away, we noticed that there was repeated demand for an authentication feature. This added feature made the product more financially attractive. More importantly, this can solve many more particular use-cases. So, we decided to accept the challenge! We split our development team into two, one to improve our proprietary detection algorithm and the second to build the authorisation feature. Those teams are working in parallel.
What distinguishes you from your competition?
I guess it is our approach to our clients. We build relationships with them, we’re doing more than offering a piece of hardware. We do, of course, care about data (packets transmitted from detectors) and try to get from them all we really can. That’s why we have more reliable solutions.
It’s about people assisted by technology. The detector for example, employs a corrective algorithm as a part of the solution in the cloud. Also our next feature of authorisation will be running from a server application that we are in charge of. This is the reason why we have to see all our SPOTs online and provide maintenance for them.
We have also a special installation application for calibration and we’ll be providing SPOTs with new software updates. We think this approach distinguishes us from most of competitors on the market. As you can see, we do our work with passion and we never see our product as finished! Therefore, we are playing with new features and making the technology more useful for any parking use-case. Our goal is to help our cities organize their parking and save people time and their nerves.
Two months ago you joined the NB-IoT Hackathon in Bonn. What was your experience there?
We presented our solution for residential (zone) parking and, most importantly, had a chance to try out the new Deutsche Telekom NB-IoT network. Our project was selected by the jury as very relevant and this achievement will keep us motivated. We noticed that the big players are interested in our solution and, therefore, we can be optimistic about our success.
How the new NB-IoT technology can help your business grow?
NB-IoT is essential for us, it will help us significantly. Launching the NB-IoT network needs only a firmware update of existing BTS station infrastructure, there could be NB-IoT coverage immediately after this update. We can, therefore, deploy our solution quickly and on a large scale.
What are your plans for the future?
Well, our road map is clearly set and we will follow it. We have identified three types of functionalities which in combination would solve most problems with parking: the first one is the ability to identify free and occupied parking slots. The second, is the ability to evaluate authorization and the last is a mechanical barrier/protection at the parking slot against unauthorized parking. We have already solved the first problem with our own parking detector and we have been working on the second functionality to evaluate parking authorization (solution for the problem of residential parking). Earned income will be allocated to the further development of features within our plan. Next year, we would like to became a part of some acceleration program and thus find an investor to speed up our progress and come into foreign markets to make our technology global.