Monitum’s continuous innovation disrupts the structure in real time and geotechnical monitoring area. Manufacturers monthly chats with the company’s CEO about the journey of its automated monitoring service – Kurloo Technology.
After years of career in the science of measurement as a consulting surveyor, Kurloo Technology co-founder and CEO Lee Hellen launched his first commercial venture in 2008. Three years later, Hellen’s team worked on the South Point project in Brisbane, with very heavily constrained tunnels and heritage buildings to manage. Rather than taking manual measurements with instruments, the team wired the entire site with sensor systems and robotics to measure all high-risk building stability elements.
“When people work in deep excavations, they need to make sure the walls are stable and the building is not compromised,” he said. “We took the opportunity to invent a new measurement methodology. This project was successful and gave birth to a company that we called Monitum.
Monitum gained momentum following the success of this first automation project, expanding its portfolio to work on several major infrastructure projects in South East Queensland.
Most recently, Monitum achieved global industry recognition for its real-time structural and geotechnical monitoring mapping technology at the A$4 billion Queens Wharf project, where it was onboarded as a lead consultant in monitoring for 3 leading tier 1 construction contractors, their high frequency accurate spatial data is delivered to the client through a network of connected IoT sensors and cloud-based technology. Smart sensor networks provide accurate and meaningful data in real time, empowering the engineer to make the right decisions.
A strong commitment to continuous research and development has been crucial in supporting Monitum’s growth. In 2018, Hellen saw a gap in the market for the use of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) sensors in condition monitoring, with a convergence of new technologies and trends prompting the invention of a revolutionary new surface motion monitoring device, recently named Kurloo Technology.
“We discovered the potential of GNSS when we used them to perform real-time alerts on a very large excavation at the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing project,” Hellen explained. “We saw an opportunity to create a new solution, with the lower cost of precise positioning chips driven by demand for drones, improved battery technology, and a move to higher levels of security and remote operation.”
In 2018, in partnership with the CRC of Innovative Manufacturing and QUT, Monitum set out to research and develop a way to make precise positioning accessible to everyone, a field previously only routinely exploited by surveyors and geodesy experts. Their 3-year collaborative research project titled “Automated Geotechnical and Structural Performance Monitoring and Analysis Using the GNSS Internet of Things” would continue to invent a cheaper and easier way to bring 3D displacement measurements to market.
To achieve this, Hellen and his Kurloo co-founder and CTO, Dr. Charles Wang, partnered with Australian manufacturer IntelliDesign to design and manufacture Kurloo’s low-cost GNSS IoT devices in Australia.
The project was made possible in large part through the support of the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC), which has supported Australian manufacturing innovation and commercialization.
“Monitum did some preliminary work in 2018 around the development of our proof of concept,” Hellen said. “We bought chipsets and tested small circuits ourselves for about six to twelve months. To take it to the next level, we went to QUT and IMRCC and explained the basics we had – a customer base and market we know very well, we know the sensor will be successful in that market. We needed more manufacturing and research capacity, which we didn’t have as a small consulting company.
Starting in 2018, a first research agreement was signed in 2019 and the first prototype was built in July 2020. To improve expensive and labor-intensive geospatial data collection techniques, Kurloo implemented leverage Australia’s research and development capabilities to create an end-to-end system. travel tracking service. Hellen explained that such an automated solution has many advantages.
“Kurloo provides the frequent, consistent and accurate readings needed to help manage risk, and does so at a fraction of the price of traditional monitoring equipment,” he said. “An often overlooked measure of accuracy is time, and traditional methods often arrive a week or two after the reading, which means the site may have changed. Automation means you can get more frequent readings that are delivered faster, improving timing accuracy and allowing events and behavior to be correlated with the measurement.For example, you might have a major rain event or there might be blasting at a construction site and your readings will accurately track the weather. impact just before, during and after the event.
The second benefit of an automated solution, according to Hellen, is remote access and the removal of reliance on a highly skilled workforce in demand for routine measurement tasks.
“Trying to find a qualified surveyor is relatively limited at any time,” Hellen said. “Sometimes it’s also very difficult to place people in certain environments, like a landslide area, so the automated sensors can measure while it’s happening. Automating routine measurement tasks frees up your best people to do more productive and challenging work and makes your team more productive.
Kurloo’s applications are extremely broad, covering all kinds of high-risk infrastructure, transportation and construction. Kurloo is ideal for monitoring consolidated settlement of roadways and bridge abutments, stability of embankments and spoils, hazardous fuel storage tanks, high-rise buildings, dams, pipelines and other critical infrastructure and many other environments. Kurloo can also be used for important scientific and environmental research applications such as measuring ground surface movement in volcanoes which can provide early warning of natural disasters.
Key to the innovation within Kurloo was cutting-edge geospatial research conducted by the QUT project team, led by Professor Yanming Feng.
“By combining Monitum’s deep understanding of the geospatial sector with QUT’s technical and research capabilities, we have overcome a significant industry hurdle and delivered a globally unique product,” said Professor Feng. “Kurloo devices are low power consumption, built-in solar panel, high position, and can transmit remotely controlled data from the cloud server. It is portable, inexpensive and easy to install.
QUT did the research for the entire system and worked with manufacturer IntelliDesign to design and test the device to ensure it performed to meet technical requirements. QUT has a team of 6 people in different fields, with research capabilities in electronics, networks, GNSS algorithms, software development and geotechnical engineering.
As a premier industry partner in research collaboration, Hellen could not overstate the importance of the collaboration with QUT. Access to testing facilities and qualified interns and students increased the capacity of the project.
“When you work with a university like QUT, it can add a number of cross-cutting disciplines to your research,” he said. “Initially, I partnered with people who had expertise in precise positioning, to figure out how to automate the processing of GNSS signals into precise positioning on earth. The university is large, which allowed us to mobilize people in geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, electrical engineering and different disciplines to really add several extra dimensions to the project.
According to Hellen, working with a university with leading technical and academic experience can help make a product attractive and advance the path to commercialization.
“There’s a lot more technical and academic rigor when you partner with a university rather than going it alone,” he added. “Our product had much more credibility when we launched it in the market because of the academic support behind it and the reputation that comes with QUT.”
Like many Australian innovators, Monitum faced the challenge of being constrained by reliance on overseas manufacturers and supply chains, with sometimes months of lead time to receive a part from around the world. The Kurloo fabrication execution was made possible, in part, through the relationship with local fabricator IntelliDesign.
“They’re a fantastic fit for our business,” Hellen noted. “It is a family-owned manufacturing company with an excellent reputation for designing and manufacturing similar types of products. They know how to create a device that they can repeatedly manufacture to a very high quality using advanced manufacturing principles that can be globally competitive.
David Chuter, CEO and Managing Director of IMCRC, said IMCRC was delighted to see Kurloo Technology successfully cross the “valley of death” to bring an Australian-made product to market.
“Recognizing the need for more innovative surveillance equipment, Monitum and QUT have used the power of cutting-edge technology to create a cost-effective, globally relevant surveillance service that fills an important gap in the market,” said he declared. “And by partnering with local manufacturer Intellidesign, the Kurloo technology founders have streamlined the development and commercialization of its device and secured its supply chain. The evolution of Industry 4.0 continues to generate new opportunities for Australian businesses to capitalize on technological innovation. By seizing them, businesses can develop more resilient offerings and expand Australia’s manufacturing capabilities.
Lee Hellen explained that with the help of organizations like IMCRC and QUT, you don’t need millions of dollars to commercialize Australian innovation.
“I encourage people to pitch their idea to universities and get help from someone like a CRC for impact,” he noted. “Consider doing it in Australia. Making the product using smart, clever techniques, with brilliant local people will give you
a better product and a better chance to evolve and improve your value for customers over time. »