Kanalservice Gruppe expands its portfolio with the startup Laixo AG
Kanalservice Group expands its portfolio with the start-up Laixo AG
The Swiss Kanalservice Group has acquired the start-up Laixo AG, which supports municipalities in managing and preserving the value of its infrastructure with a cloud-based geographic information system (GIS). The holding company with subsidiaries in Switzerland and Germany, which are mainly active in the sector of sewer services, has thus invested in a software and services company for the first time in 2022. „We want to provide our customers with a broad offering in the field of digitalization that will also enable them to better organize their wastewater infrastructure maintenance and servicing,“ says Christoph Wittwer, CFO of the Kanalservice Group.
Laixo’s products and project solutions are already in use by more than 40 municipalities, cities, cantons and companies in Switzerland. These solutions serve to maintain the value and ensure the smooth operation of their infrastructures. Laixo AG, based in Zurich, currently has 11 employees. They are experts with fundamental training in geoinformation systems (GIS) and geoinformatics. Thanks to targeted and practice-oriented education, they also have foundational knowledge in construction and sewer technology, which enables them to develop practical and customer-oriented solutions.
„Our focus is the digital twin, i.e. the digital image of the municipal infrastructure,“ says Martin Mettler, CEO of Laixo AG. This digital twin is the most accurate possible digital representation of the infrastructure in various phases of its life cycle and forms the basis for the so-called „Laixoversum“. In this context, the tools developed by Laixo for operations and strategic planning are integrated in all dimensions. „We were able to convince Martin Mettler and his team that the Kanalservice Group is an ideal new home for them,“ says Petra Reinholz, CEO of the Kanalservice Group. „Laixo is a gem and we were simply lucky enough to get in touch at the right time.“ The start-up is already profitable.
Laixo uses Microsoft Azure® as a platform for its applications and databases. All applications and user data are stored in a central online platform. The decision to use cloud computing is crucial to the success of the „Laixoversum“, as this is the only way that all user groups involved can always access the same up-to-date data on the digital twin. In Switzerland and Germany, there are no general restrictions for municipalities when using cloud-based services as long as the provisions of the Swiss Data Protection Act (DSG) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Germany are complied with.
Laixo offers its customers and partners tools for both the operational operation and maintenance of their infrastructure (INVERS Operations) and for strategic planning (INVERS Management). The digital twin can map various elements such as sewers, roads, green spaces and infrastructure such as bridges or underpasses. Laixo thus provides sophisticated solutions to securely record and continuously maintain the data for the digital twin from various sources.
It all depends on the quality of the data
„When a customer decides to go down the path of digitalization with us, the first question is always the quality of the data,“ says Martin Mettler, because good and up-to-date basic data is the requirement for all further steps. The data is used from various sources, including geoinformation systems, municipal spatial planning and land registers. Customer-specific data is also integrated into the system using special tools. Up-to-date data is crucial. „If a municipality digitally recorded its road network five years ago, this data may already be too old,“ says Mettler.
Once the fundamental questions have been addressed and infrastructure data has been captured in the system, the parties involved reap the benefits. Information is now recorded at the very place where it is collected. This enables well-founded decisions and saves time and money. „The digital twin also secures information that was previously often only stored in the heads of individual employees,“ says Mettler.
The chauffeurs can also document their work offline
The holistic view of the data offers numerous advantages. For example, the monitor in a municipality’s depot shows that 300 of the 3,000 manholes in the sewer network still need to be cleared. The scheduling department at the sewer service provider knows exactly how advanced the particular driver is on his route and whether the daily target has already been reached. Over time, the data in the digital twin becomes more and more accurate. Green dots indicate that everything is in working order for a manhole, red dots mean that action is required. For the sewer service provider, the system is also used for documentation and quality assurance purposes. The company can prove the exact date on which a job was carried out. „If a data record is processed on site, a GPS point with a time stamp is stored in the system,“ says Mettler. Laixo offers a wide range of tools from which users can choose to meet their individual requirements.
In Switzerland, Laixo has had positive experiences with actively involving the employees of the respective maintenance depot or sewer service company in data acquisition and data maintenance. Experiences are exchanged and suggestions for improvement are taken up at regular user meetings. A lot of data is already available, but not systematically linked. Sewer logs, manhole logs and even point clouds can be imported into the Laixo system. „If, for example, the sewer service company employee detects damage to a manhole, a cell phone image is enough to visualize exactly where the problem lies. It only takes a few minutes on site. There are now some very cool options,“ says Mettler. The person in charge in the municipality sees the problem and can initiate measures. Inefficient communication is a thing of the past. Everyone involved works on the same dataset, each with the relevant perspective and optimal application. The platform takes care of the sharing. This allows employees to focus their time on evaluating the data instead of searching for it, correcting and providing it to other audiences.
During development, Laixo worked closely with the Swiss sewer service company Mökah AG from Kanalservice Group to provide state-of-the-art sewer technology and data for the digital twin. „Mökah has already gained new customers through its collaboration with Laixo,“ says Petra Reinholz. Industrial customers can also use Laixo’s solutions for their infrastructures.
Laixo has already developed 15 different products that are available to its customers. They offer solutions for green space management, waste management, winter service scheduling and much more. This makes the work of municipal workers much easier. Individual solutions are also feasible: a tool has been developed for the head of a municipal works yard to relieve him of the paperwork that was previously the norm. If his municipal workers notice a new graffiti or a defective street light while out and about, a photo is quickly taken with a tablet and uploaded to the system with a memo. A task is automatically created and the maintenance manager has much more time for other important issues.
„The municipalities get a navigation system for their infrastructure“
At the management level, measures for repair and predictive maintenance are derived from the condition data in the „Laixoversum“. All work carried out in the field is documented in the system. As is information on structural changes. „This makes planning independent of political periods, and the defined strategy can always be reviewed and adjusted based on current data by documenting steps already taken,“ says Mettler. This provides customers with a complete and standards-compliant application with which they can strategically plan the maintenance of their infrastructure and budgeting. „This gives the municipalities a roadmap, a navigation system for their infrastructure,“ says Petra Reinholz, describing Laixo’s solution. „The municipality then has to decide exactly what needs to be done with the help of its experts. In principle, we supply the cockpit, the users have to drive themselves.“
Laixo offers its solutions as „Software-as-a-Service“ and attaches great importance to long-term customer relationships. Customers pay for the use of modules and ongoing updates on a subscription basis. The process begins with an initial implementation project in which the customer data is checked and the application is then configured. The customer’s employees are then trained. Regular exchanges are part of the service.
„In one to two years, we want to be ready to offer solutions for the German market“
„In Germany, too, many cities and municipalities are currently facing the fundamental decision of whether they want to go digital,“ says Petra Reinholz. The Kanalservice Group is already working on entering the German market. However, the experience gained in Switzerland is not directly transferable to the German market. Nevertheless, an initial pilot project in Germany is already being planned. „In one to two years, we want to be ready to offer solutions for the German market,“ says Petra Reinholz. „We are quite confident about this,“ says the manager. „We set a high standard. Others have to keep up first.“
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