Re’flekt a Munich-based AR and MR enterprise applications developer focusing on training and maintenance of factories, aircraft, and complex machines, announced a $4.4 M investment from BASF Venture Capital. This follows Bosch’s 2016 investment, the size of which has not been announced. Bosch started as customer and liked Re’flekt’s work so much they invested in the company.
Technician using REFLEKT REMOTE with remote expert.
According to ARtillery Research, by 2022 the global market for enterprise AR applications is estimated at more than $14.2 billion dollars. “We all agree that AR has the makings to boost enterprise productivity. The question is when. Typical organizational inertia slows things down, but momentum will build to a tipping point around 2020, which will be followed by accelerated adoption. We saw the same thing with enterprise smartphone adoption,” says Mike Boland, Chief Analyst, ARtillry Intelligence. “Every single company in this space says the same thing: the sweet spot for enterprise AR is assembly, warehousing, repair and maintenance and remote experts.” Re’flekt is focused on the latter two categories.
Re’flekt has developed a SaaS platform called REFLEKT ONE, which allows companies to transform existing CAD data into AR applications for maintenance, training and operations. The system also enables easy access to remote experts, allowing workers to call for support anytime and anywhere. The system uses computer vision to map a CAD drawing to a real object activating AR assistance. Importantly, REFLEKT ONE works across all platforms, HMD, pad, or smartphone, depending on the situation. The CAD is like a giant marker. When it matches with the real world object, it is able to augment the field of view with detailed instructions. Remote experts are able to see the device’s camera view and instruct the worker, even drawing on the image on the pad.
A remote expert sharing on screen instructions using REFLECT REMOTE on a smartphone.
“The Re’flekt platform helps machine operators and maintenance personnel eliminate mistakes and significantly increase uptime,” says Wolfgang Stelzle, founder and CEO of Re’flekt. “We’ve received fantastic feedback from the industry and the rapid growth of our customer base convinced us to take additional strong partners like BASF on board. With the spin-off of our 360-Video-Unit, Viond, in the first quarter 2018 as well as the opening of our offices in the US, we can now fully focus on our core expertise, Enterprise Augmented Reality and increase our technological lead in the space.”
The work Re’flekt has done for Leybold, a leading manufacturer of vacuum pumps, and Getinge, which makes x-ray machines, illustrate how the company enables clients to help themselves by giving them the tools to make their own AR apps.
Getinge was looking for a way to effectively train doctors and nurses to harness the lifesaving potential of their Getinge PulsioFlex visualization platform. With the help of Re’flekt they created a solution to replace complicated user manuals that inevitably get left in a drawer to gather dust. “With essential information always at hand, we see this technology as providing a huge benefit for the medical industry to significantly reduce the risk of errors and save time when configuring and installing our advanced monitoring devices,” said Dr. Martina Reiter, Head of Training, Getinge Pulsion Medical Systems SE.
By replacing paper manuals with AR enabled digital ones, detailed drawings, diagnostics and remote experts are always at hand.
Leybold wanted technicians to visually explore the components and features on multiple devices. Users can use Augmented Reality to visualize a common repair scenario to help customers save on downtimes and repair costs through an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide without the need for the paper-based handbooks. “We realized a significant reduction of time spent on Maintenance accompanied by a notable increase of quality in our inspection reports,” said Carl Brockmeyer, General Manager, Leybold USA Inc.
Munich has turned into a European tech hub, home to multi-national companies Allianz, BMW, Linde, Munich Re and Siemens. Re’flekt has taken full advantage of that, boasting blue chip customers like Audi, Daimler, Hyperloop, Siemens, VW, Leybold, BASF, Bosch, and Hyundai. As one would expect in such a fertile environment, promising startups are also making their home in Munich. Metaio was recently acquired by Apple. In addition to his role at Re’flekt, Stelzle is chairman of a Federal Work Group for Startups, consulting the German government how to improve the German startup-ecosystem.
“We see significant benefits in using Augmented Reality for a variety of key simulation, communication, and digital learning use cases” says Markus Solibieda, Managing Director of BASF Venture Capital. “Our partnership with Re’flekt further establishes value for our customers, who will be able to use Augmented Reality to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of manufacturing and industrial processes.”
Re’flekt was spun off from a Munich consulting firm in 2012 and has doubled in size over the past several years to 60 employees in Germany and the west coast of the US. The company is recommended by leading analysts including ABI Research, which ranked Re’flekt as most innovative AR platform company worldwide and is a Gartner Cool Vendor as well as numerous other vendors, consultants and integrators.
Stelzle told me in an interview that Re’flekt has turned away business in order to focus on the industrial aftermarket and now it’s really paying off. “People are doing what’s easy first, and our goal is to make operating and maintaining complex machinery as easy as using a simple home appliance. We allow them to better utilize assets they already have, like CAD drawings and technical documentation.” The company says the automotive aftermarket alone is a 381BN worldwide business.