Sensors that protect lives

At the end of 2017, a footbridge across the Vltava River collapsed in Prague’s Troja. Four people suffered injuries, two serious. Even worse consequences were the fall of the highway bridge in Genoa, Italy in August 2018, during which 43 people died. Petr Klokočník, owner of the Cotrex company in Jablonec, which deals with the supply of IT equipment and network management, gazed at the footage of the ruins of both bridges. He had an idea how the structural analysis of buildings could be continuously monitored and similar disasters prevented.

Petr Klokočník developed his idea. He founded a new project and developed sensors that measure the movement of buildings. They are inconspicuous gray boxes that can be mounted on a chimney, lookout, road bridge or on a slope by the highway. The measuring units continuously monitor for possible tilts or vibrations and regularly send the detected information to a repository accessible to individual users. In addition, the system alerts you to any unusual event.

So that the idea doesn’t end up in a drawer

About a year after the first idea, Statotest sensors have been monitoring some bridges and other structures. They can be found on the Jested tower. However, the path to a functioning system was not quite smooth. Petr Klokočník lost energy during the development. At the right moment, however, he met Antonín Ferdan at the TUL conference, who introduced him to the business incubator and after several meetings offered closer cooperation.

Can you describe on what principle the system works?
It’s quite simple. The unit features tilt and vibration angle sensors, long-lasting batteries and a communication module. It sends data via the Low Power network to the database, where clients receive information for non-standard fluctuations. Of course, we cannot replace regular maintenance and expert inspections of objects.

How is it that someone else has not invented something like this before you?
Roughly three years back, technology has not yet made it possible. The key is the Low Power network for data transmission, which has been satisfactorily covered by the Czech Republic only since last year. GSM or LTE are not as convenient. For example, they do not reach the pit below the dam or passages. In addition, they are several times more demanding on battery performance.

Why did you decide to join the incubation program?
During the development of the warning system I began to realize that our original company Cotrex has a different focus, and that our customers will be from a different environment. There was a risk that my current managerial experience might not be enough. Little was missing and I let the whole project fall asleep. When I was in the business incubator, I went to consult with Philipp Roden every month. He did not allow me to relax at work. He always gave me what to work on next time. He helped me to create a business plan, define who to address and how best to do it.

Was there anything you wouldn’t have done otherwise for incubation?
There were a few such things. For example, I had the idea of addressing statics and construction companies to attract customers. But in, I was told that it is good to contact the owners or contractors of buildings such as municipalities or regions. They decide what will be built or on the contrary demolish. Even the name of the new company Statotest was born thanks to incubation.

Can you specify it?
I had a lot of ideas, but Mr. Roden cut them off uncompromisingly. Among other things, I wanted to include the word laser in the title as we initially measured laser movements. Today I’m glad it didn’t work out that way. We have completely abandoned laser technology.

What do you see as additional benefits of working with
For example, it is great for Statotest that the incubator falls under the Liberec Region. It can therefore invite us to participate in various events for municipalities where the owners of the buildings can learn about our sensors.

At what stage is your project now in the spring of 2020?
Since autumn, we have been introducing the system to potential customers, and we continue to look for improvements. For example, we are preparing expert surveys, the results of which in the future would help determine what movements of structures are already in danger.

What advice would you give to others who, like you, are developing something new?
Go ahead and try, because whoever does not try anything will not go anywhere.