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Enormous savings potential: A new app counts and measures wood ready for sale

People from all over the world are showing interest in FOVEA, a HAWK founder team

An idea that saves time and machines, and then money in the end as well, is always welcome. That’s why a new idea spawned by a HAWK founder team is currently attracting a lot of attention in the wood industry: the new smartphone app is able to very quickly calculate the value of any woodpile.

FOVEA is the name of a young company that is being accompanied and supervised by the HAWK Founders’ Initiative and is also financially supported with an existence-founding stipend from the German Federal Ministry of Economics.

Up until now, anyone who wanted to know the price of a woodpile in the forest usually had to count all the trunks and logs individually, then measure and calculate the volume. And that takes time – at least twenty minutes. This new app needs only approximately two minutes to count the trunks, the cubic meters and the stacked cubic meters for an average pile of wood.

The wood is measured photo-optically in several steps; a panorama photo then appears on the display, and finally the number of trunks appears according to thickness along with the data on solid cubic meters and stacked cubic meters, on the basis of which the price can then be calculated. In addition to the advantage of saving time, the app can also – if used for larger areas – serve to simplify and standardize wood logistics. The price charged for the app is based on the volumes measured or trunks/logs counted, which results in cubic meters or in price per piece.

The savings potential for the wood industry is enormous – and that applies all over the world confirms Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bernd Stock from the HAWK Faculty for Natural Sciences and Technology: “The app is a real technological innovation; it uses elements from digital image processing and calculates this information on a smartphone.” Stock is the supervisor for the corresponding PhD thesis by Christopher Herbon, who developed the special mathematical algorithm that runs in the background of the app. Herbon is the software developer at FOVEA.

It was Manfred Ide who first had the idea for the app and the founding of the company. Ide is a graduate in computer science and a forester. He comes from a rural-forestry company in the south of Lower Saxony in Germany and is very well acquainted with this topic. With the help of the HAWK Founders’ Imitative, he was also able to find “his people” in the corresponding faculties at the University. While Ide himself studied at the Göttingen-based Faculty for Forest Industry Resource Management, Herbon, who is from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology, was referred to him by Prof. Stock.

For design, marketing and public relations, Ide found Nadine Weiberg at the Hildesheim Faculty of Design to join the team as the third “Musketeer”. She is a perfect fit: while writing her Bachelor thesis, Weiberg developed the “Bug Science” app under the direction of Prof. Stefan Wölwer, an app that foresters and school children can use on smartphones to identify bugs and get to know more about them. Her thesis just recently received an internationally renowned design prize, the reddot award.

FOVEA is also working together with research assistants on the market introduction of the “Holz App” (Wood App). Tasks that still have to be carried out and supervised include testing in state, municipal and private forested areas in Germany. Manfred Ide has already introduced the project at national and international wood fairs and it has been attracting a lot of interest from South Africa, Brazil, Spain and Russia.

The app will be available for customers from 30,000 stacked cubic meters starting from October 2013. At the beginning of 2014, the app will also be available to smaller customers.

Sabine zu Klampen | idw
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