Startup Profile Leapcraft: How To Improve Air Quality in Smart Cities
Smart Cities are all about data. But not just data focusing on crowds or traffic but also data on environmental factors. The Danish Smart City startup Leapcraft is dedicated to measuring the quality of air and noise levels and its impact on health and quality of life. We had a chat about air quality sensors (among other things) with Anne Cecilie Duus Kühnel, Operations Manager at Leapcraft, in the latest contribution to our Smart City startups series.
Please introduce yourself briefly. Who are you and what do you do?
I represent Leapcraft ApS. We focus on building digital platforms and solutions based on big data and smart sensory technology for governments and companies, operating in a wide range of industries. We are a team of 8 people, located in Copenhagen, Denmark. Currently we are working on indoor and outdoor air quality sensor technology that monitor and track temperature, humidity, various gases and particles (PM1, PM2.5 & PM10).
Why Smart City and what was your pathway into the field?
Leapcraft was collaborating with Copenhagen Municipality on a different project when air quality measures were discussed. The interest for real-time outdoor air quality measures got us started within the Smart City area. We believe that Smart City initiatives will help change the world and optimize how cities work. This is our motivation for working within this area. Our big knowledge within big data and design, combined with sensor technology, has made it possible for the company to develop a total solution offering “Sensing as a service”.
What was your inspiration for the idea of your company and how is your core team composed? What was your motivation?
Leapcraft was established to build bridges between large data sets, user experience, and visualization. As the company matured we started our journey of developing both outdoor and indoor air quality sensors. We strive to become the best and our journey towards this position keeps us motivated.
To what extent do you interact across the world and how important are the international markets for your company?
We find it extremely important to raise awareness globally. Bad air quality is a global problem and it is our belief that awareness in this field should increase in all cities. We believe that sooner or later air quality monitoring practices will be adapted around the globe and become routine. Until then, we feel it’s important to interact and collaborate with companies and governments worldwide in order to collect data and gain market intelligence. Leapcraft is currently active in Denmark, Norway, Mexico, Greece & Austria. We have many projects in the pipeline and we hope to soon be active in many other areas such as The United States of America, Eastern Europe & the Middle East.
Why is now the time to start work in the field of Smart City?
The field of Smart City is a fast-growing market. People everywhere are looking towards new Smart City initiatives and ways of optimizing. Digital technologies might be one of the ways to handle growing urbanization due to a limited amount of capital and assets. These technologies can help us to relocate our resources more wisely and improve the overall output when creating new ways and methods of solving such complex issues.
About the Appeal of Smart Cities
How do you perceive the current labor market of the “Smart City-Industry” in general, and how does it modify the demand for employees in your company?
As the industry is growing rapidly, major corporations try to get a chunk of this promising source of revenue. Even though there is a growing level of automation due to Smart City developments, we still see people finding creative ways of exploiting their experience. In our belief, there’s always a need for employees and we will continuously be looking for new team members as the company grows.
Generally speaking, there is a lot of money to be made and a lot of jobs to be created in the near future of Smart Cities. As cities become smarter, new types of jobs will start appearing in the urban planning sector, as well as in creating, designing, manufacturing and maintenance of new technologies.
Which game-changing product can we look forward to?
It is difficult to distinguish one single product that will change everything. It is much easier to look at the bigger picture, because nowadays products are being developed rapidly, and regularly the customer is left out of this constantly changing technology game. The well-developed infrastructure for Smart City appliances will be a game-changing product in itself. When all Smart City devices and sensors are connected into one network, data is openly shared and trends are foreseen, then we will be able to say that the future of Smart Cities has arrived.
How are Smart Cities going to change our lives and society in 5, 10 and 25 years?
There are various outcomes when it comes to changing our lives due to Smart Cities. Of course, tracking real-time data and understanding our surroundings will become a part of our routine. Our digital footprint will be of a much bigger impact and we believe that data in general will have a tremendous role in our everyday lives. Our daily city life will become cleaner, safer, more organized and efficient. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Stockholm and Manchester are only a few out of many examples in which these technologies are being adapted in real life situations. And even though the majority of new technologies are not visible to the eye of a regular citizen, they have already been deployed, tested and have started to bring benefits.
Where do you see major and minor problems of the occupational field of the “Smart City-Sector” and what countermeasures would you suggest?
Probably the largest problem is the low level of trust among consumers, and slow acceptance of new technologies. Many potential customers are still not aware of the effects on our physical and mental health, by indoor and outdoor microclimates. So, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of educating society and incorporating new habits into their routines.
Another issue might be lack of cooperation between developers and policy makers. A majority of people who are making important decisions are not able to keep up with evolving new technologies that are being introduced almost daily. We believe that awareness is the key to most of these issues.
About the Digital Transformation
What was the reason for you to focus on digital?
We strongly believe that it is important to spend a substantial amount of resources on digital transformation, because it will untie our hands and allow us to have better insights about our surroundings. With the digital transformation going strong the time to market has become a lot shorter and thus it is important to be able to react immediately. Sooner or later digital transformation will touch upon almost every aspect of our life and some businesses will have to change their business model or even products in order to stay competitive. In our opinion digital is the future and we believe it is extremely important to have a clear digital strategy.
Do you think that there is a need for a digital transformation in your industry? Why?
Our industry goes together with digital transformation as it evolved together with new wave of technologies. The time to market has been shortened with the digital transformation. We believe that a clear digital strategy gives companies an advantage when trying to keep up with trends. When you think in terms of, for example, the Big Data concept, it is already an intangible but valuable asset. The ability to use this data to gather intelligence is where digital transformation becomes very important. The moment the data is being transformed into a user friendly and visual context brings even more value for end users.
To what extent does the digital transformation require a change of the business culture?
A majority of business operations have gone digital, saving money, time and allowing better control over larger and more important business channels. Smaller companies are constantly prototyping and creating early validation to always be ahead of bigger corporations. More and more big companies are trying to capture the lean startup mindset to keep up with the new businesses evolving from the digital transformation. Businesses that have not yet gone digital will definitely need to do so in the near future or at least increase their digital focus. A majority of daily operations and communication have gone digital, so the typical workplace in the office has transformed from being messy, chaotic and stacked-up with folders and documents to clean, minimalistic, functional and cloud-based.
How is the digital transformation going to change our lives and society in 5, 10 and 25 years?
While making predictions for the upcoming 5 years is quite realistic, it gets complicated to foresee the future in 10 years and more. Over the last 10 years we have been introduced to revolutionary technologies that we could not have dreamed about 30 years ago. What we are almost certain about is that we will consume far more digital services and products online. Also, we will definitely have more insight and control over our surroundings.
For Enthusiasts and Students Interested in Smart City
What is the most important thing to know about Smart Cities, to work in this field?
There’re a lot of things to know, but understanding that these metropolitan cities are living organic structures is definitely a benefit, that could help to open up for new ideas and a better understanding of urban development.
How important are foreign experience and international communications skills to you in the “Smart City-Sector”?
International communications play an important role in our business development process. We have worked with several international clients of various sizes already and this experience has built a solid foundation for our future collaborations. As we move towards a data-driven economy, emerging possibilities brought by new technologies allow employees to handle more complex tasks than ever before. For this reason, we see ourselves more as a globally, rather than a locally, born tech startup.
What career opportunities are currently given in the “Smart City-Sector” and how will these change in your opinion?
Most projects are on-going and in the development stage, and therefore the job market for developers is growing. In the near future, we will need people who can understand data patterns and foresee future trends. Also, the need for maintenance people will be among our top priorities.
What can your company offer that other employers cannot?
A high level of industry knowledge and a chance to open up your personality and be yourself while doing what you do best. We offer a flexible working space with a strong innovative mindset.
Which basic qualifications should an employee fulfil to get employed at your company? What are the basic requirements to getting started?
At Leapcraft we focus highly on the personality of our employees. We are a family and thus it is important that new candidates fit into the mix of people we have here. Of course, due to the fact that we are high-tech company, an engineering and technical background is definitely a plus. Then probably motivation, willingness to learn and develop one’s personality as an expert in the field is also a highly appreciated character feature in our working space.
About Leapcraft’s Success Story
What is your success story about?
When you operate in the field of innovation and new technologies, it takes a while to gain the acceptance and acknowledgement of the public. We are now beginning to experience recognition and our customers are looking into the possibilities of scaling our solution. This is a great success to us, and we look very much forward to scaling even more in the near future.
What challenges in your business or industry influenced you to look for a solution?
Previously all major players in the environmental outdoor sensor solution market used to offer large-sized, square-shaped heavy metal boxes for enormous prices. Not many companies offered real-time environmental measures, which to us is a must-have. Therefore, we decided to develop a low-priced, powerful and sensitive air quality sensor station that would be accurate in real-time reading, independent in connectivity, and that was user-friendly. It takes a lot of time and effort to simplify such technology to the size of a table lamp, without losing the important features that have to be included. But, after building and testing a number of prototypes we were able to come up with aesthetic and fully-functioning solution.
What tip can you give other startups?
Don’t forget that failure is part of the learning process. And also, it is extremely important to force yourself out of your comfort zone once in a while in order to step back and see the bigger picture of the current situation.
Other than profit, why do you and your colleagues do what you do?
I believe that idealism and passion for big data and new technologies are the main factors that drive our team forward. Also, the easy-going and cozy atmosphere that floats around the office all the time. We are like small family, who enjoy each other’s company.
What are the three greatest factors in growing employee motivation? Are employees amplifying them through social media?
- Providing them with meaningful tasks
- Constantly informing them on the progress of the big project they are working for, as well as smaller sub-tasks they have been assigned to
- Celebrating small achievements and sharing happy moments together
Anne, thank you very much for these insights!
1401 København K, Denmark