The Right AI Approach for better asset performance - Interview with Vlad Lata  —  CTO and Co-Founder of KONUX

Vlad Lata is Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of KONUX the Industrial IOT company specialised in creating customised sensor and AI-based analytics solutions for the industrial world. Founded in 2014 in Munich, KONUX combines Silicon Valley digital thinking with German engineering, and focuses on improving asset availability, network capacity and reducing maintenance costs for their clients ; namely rail operators and industrial companies.

Heading up the product development for KONUX with a focus on AI and Big Data, Vlad Lata and his engineering department have made huge strides in predictive analytics, smart sensors and offering a complete end-to-end solution for their clients. We’re thrilled to hear more during Lata’s talk at AI With the Best online conference April 29–30th, and are pleased to have had a chance to interview the KONUX CTO ahead of this event.

Q. Konux is famed for the highly accurate smart motion sensors paired with AI data analytics — what skills sets you apart from other engineering firms?

Unlike the large incumbents and horizontal analytics platforms on the market, we combine in-depth know-how on smart sensors and AI enabled predictive algorithms with railway expertise. The data fusion algorithms, which are the centerpiece of our solution, have been created by our team of AI experts working closely with domain experts. Our focus is to always take a deep dive into the problem first and afterwards to carefully engineer the KONUX stack around it in order to bring the best value possible for our customers.

Q. What role does the software play in relation to the sensors and how has this changed since the beginning of the company?

In order to provide a real-time holistic view on the customer’s infrastructure, the KONUX software is an essential part of our end-to-end solution. Pre-processed data from continuous asset monitoring sensors is transmitted to the KONUX back-end where it is stored and fused with additional data sources, such as environmental information and maintenance records. By comparing the digital footprint of the healthy assets with the results from continuous monitoring, the system identifies alterations, detects anomalies and presents to the user the necessary KPI’s for taking an informed decision under uncertainty. This enables our customers to make the right decision in time, avoid surprises and enhance the availability of their assets. Since the beginning we have always focused on enhancing the customer value and tailored our stack around it. The only thing that has changed over time is that we identified how to distribute the system intelligence over our different stack layers.

Q. Can you tell us about your experience in founding the company?

Andreas, Dennis and I met at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) 4 years ago. Our common vision was to build systems that facilitate data-driven decisions for industrial enterprises. At first, we got support from the UnternehmerTUM Innovation Centre and the Centre for Digital Technology and Management that helped us lay down the ground for KONUX. Later on, by putting a lot of work into defining our product USP and roadmap we were able to win the trust of very inspiring people like Michael Baum and Andreas v. Bechtolsheim. Both of them have been great mentors and invested in our series seed, with Michael’s taking the round lead. This first push enabled us to identify the railway opportunity and show what our team was capable of achieving. NEA, MIG as well as a couple of other funds and angels were also convinced that we can build a great company that can dominate its market. And now with our latest series A funding we are very well equipped to execute on our roadmap and vision.

Q. What’s next on your roadmap?

We want to distribute the KONUX railway solution worldwide and help railway companies reach a new level of asset performance. Currently, our solution is deployed in Germany, but we are already in advanced discussions with other countries in Europe.

Q. The company has grown geographically, and in size — what has been the biggest change for you?

The biggest change for KONUX has been its development from a start-up to a more mature company with a global footprint. At present, we always have to think about everything on a global scale: product, customer success, sales, business development, marketing, etc. This has been a great learning experience and growth opportunity for the whole team.

Q. How do you ensure collaboration and smooth organisation in your team?

Our team is united by the vision of always pushing forward and thinking outside the box. Efficient communication helped us tremendously when developing a common understanding on how we want to design our products and interpret data. We work together to realize the KONUX end-to-end solution: Mechanical and electrical engineers design the right digital and analog hardware as the perfect baseline for deploying smart algorithms. Our software engineers work closely with the analytics team in order to build a stable and robust cloud system. And our business team links our predictive analytics software to the competitive advantages for our customers.

Q. What advice would you give to budding AI developers?

I think we, engineers, should ask ourselves: Are we using AI in the right way? Do we understand what it needs, what its limitations and strengths are? There are a very few companies within the industrial space that have answered these questions and I believe that KONUX is one of them. So, my advice would be: Look at AI as a tool, not as a solution for everything. Put time and effort in understanding how you could engineer it best to solve a problem and don’t assume it will solve it for you. We need to stop hyping and start showing how we can solve real industrial problems and create real dollar value for the customers.

Q. Are you excited about speaking at AI With The Best? What made you want to be a speaker?

I am truly happy and excited to take part in AI With The Best. I really enjoyed the experience last time and it’s great to be back. AI is continuously proving itself as the topic that will make the headlines in the coming years. For that reason, I am convinced that now is the time to set the true focus for future innovation. At KONUX we have a different, more down-to-earth approach to AI, and I think it is important to explain to people why would this be the right one.

Thank you Vlad!

You can ask Vlad Lata your own questions, and learn more in his talk about using The right AI approach to unlocking a new level of asset performance at our upcoming AI With The Best, Online Developer Conference 29–30th April.