REVIEW: The Spark 2016

The first year of The Spark – The German Digital Award, Handelsblatt and McKinsey were looking for companies whose digital sparks had the potential to ignite the fire of the fourth industrial revolution. Companies that already had proven their strengths and were ready for their breakthrough. Companies with a scalable concept. Companies with a great impact on their industry.


We celebrated the winners of The Spark – The German Digital Award 2016 in Berlin on 6th October 2016.
The award ceremony took place at the Umspannwerk Alexanderplatz in Berlin. Handelsblatt and McKinsey honored the award winners of The Spark – The German Digital Award together with an invited audience comprising 160 guests from politics, business, and science.

One of the highlights of this year’s award ceremony was the speech given by Margit Wennmacher, who travelled from Silicon Valley to participate. The German-American entrepreneur and partner of the venture capital company Adreessen Horowitz reported on how investors analyze young companies and which trends on the U.S. west coast are currently calling the tune.


All ten finalists met the evaluation criteria of the Spark: “disruptiveness”, “scalability” and “impact”, but three of them impressed the jury particularly.

The three winners of The Spark – The German Digital Award 2016 were:

Preisverleihung The Spark

1. relayr GmbH

Relayrs IoT solution enables companies to quickly retrieve measurable data such as temperature, weight or humidity from all conceivable objects by networking them in the cloud and generating digital application. This innovative idea convinced the jury of The Spark. Investors such as Kleiner Perkins from the Silicon Valley or the IT group Cisco also believe in the idea of Jackson Bond and Josef Brunner. Ultimately not only their technology is impressing but also their prominent customers.
Their clients include Bosch and the lift manufacturer Schindler, which now not only performs remote maintenance on its elevators, but also plays advertisings during the elevator journey. Just two years after the company was founded, Relayr has already generated sales to the sum of 2.7 million euros. The founders revealed that the next round of financing is nearing completion.

2. Konux Inc.

If this innovation prevails Deutsche Bahn trains will soon run more punctually. The start-up Konux develops sensors that monitor the condition of railway points. The data obtained provides information on the temperature, vibration or pressure the points are exposed to. Software analyses the data and predicts when a repair will be due, preferably before railway transportation breaks down. Konux was founded by Andreas Kunze, Dennis Humhal, Husam Ghanem and Vlad Lata.
Last April they raised 7.5 million dollars risk capital from, amongst others, Andy Bechtolsheim, the first Google investor. Part of the German railway network is already equipped with Konux sensors. Andreas Kunze is confident that all points will soon be monitored and that the technology will also be used in other maintenance-intensive sectors. In any case at Deutsche Bahn the issue was placed “right at the top”.

Preisverleihung The Spark

Preisverleihung The Spark

3. NavVis GmbH

Factory buildings, museums, shopping centers: “Many buildings are a digital wasteland”, says Felix Reinshagen, co-founder and head of the Munich start-up company Navvis. While the outside world is measured precisely, thanks to satellite images and traffic data, there is no digital map of most interior spaces. His co-founders, Georg Schroth, Sebastian Hilsenbeck and Robert Huitl have developed a technology for this, a type of trolley, which can be moved through the rooms like a shopping cart. This method “does not cost more than cleaning a building”, says Reinshagen – the cost per square meter is less than ten cents. An app serves as a navigation system, which also functions without GPS.
The applications are diverse. Almost all major car manufacturers use the system to create digital images of their production lines. The latest project, a navigation through Munich Airport with its shops, restaurants, and gates, can also be tested by private individuals.


Between March and August 2016, we looked for the best candidates and chose ten as finalists. We would like to briefly introduce the finalists 2016 to you:

Finalist 1


iTiZZiMO was able to win over the jury with its smart business platform for industry 4.0.

Finalist 2


nextLap convinced the jury with IP/1, its software platform for IoT solutions for production 4.0.

Finalist 3


IdentPro impressed the jury with its solutions for the automatic identification and tracking of objects in production and logistics. IdentPro uses a 3D forklift management system as well as various automatic ID technologies such as RFID and NFC.

Finalist 4


Cassantec reached the final round with Cassantec Prognostics. This innovative product provides precise availability forecasts for optimized equipment and plant management based on historical and current processed data.

Finalist 5


KONUX impressed us with its innovative sensor system. KONUX sensors are connected to data analysis software so that existing machines can be upgraded and the data evaluated with artificial intelligence thereby increasing the process efficiency.

Finalist 6


SemVox achieved the final with its technology for voice control and virtual proactive assistance, which enables contact-free and efficient human-machine interaction in production, for service tasks or in merchandise management.

Finalist 7


relayr convinced the jury with its device and protocol-independent cloud platform. In addition to the platform itself an upgrade kit is also available for the acquisition of the required sensor data to support the main application “predictive maintenance”. The platform also enables customers to develop their own new service models.

Finalist 8


gestigon reached the final with its software for body language detection and gesture recognition. 3D based software solutions were developed for skeleton tracking and human gesture detection. These can be used, for example, for controlling virtual and augmented reality devices in industrial environments.

Finalist 9


Re’flekt was selected on the basis of its augmented reality platform, which enables companies to quickly link virtual content with real objects making the creation of augmented reality applications also possible for users without programming skills.

Finalist 10


NavVis convinced the jury with its solution for accurate and photo-realistic 3D mapping of buildings. This makes indoor navigation possible and can be enhanced with digital information and location-specific services for interior spaces.


The jury session of The Spark – The German Digital Award 2016 took place in Dusseldorf on 13th September 2016. All finalists had the opportunity to present their business ideas to the jury. The jury session was marked by innovation, enthusiasm, entrepreneurship, and intensive discussions.

In 2016 following high-caliber jury with professional know-how selected the winners from the applications:

Sven Afhüppe

Editor-in-chief Handelsblatt


Cornelius Baur

Head of McKinsey Germany


Johann Jungwirth

CDO (Chief Digital Officer) Volkswagen AG


Claudia Nemat

Member of the Deutsche Telekom AG Board of Management, Technology and Innovation


Anton S. Huber

CEO Digital Factory Division Siemens


Peter Leibinger

CDO (Chief Digital Officer) Volkswagen AG
Geschäftsführung TRUMPF GMBH + CO. KG
Vice Chairman of the Managing Board of TRUMPF GmbH + Co. KG and Head of the Laser Technology/Electronics Business Division, responsible for Research and Development


Anastassia Lauterbach

CEO and Founder 1AU-Ventures


Jörn Nikolay

Managing Director General Atlantic


Dr. Siegfried Dais

Associate Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG and former Deputy Chairman of the Board of Management, Robert Bosch GmbH


Dr. Jürgen Meffert

Director (Senior Partner) McKinsey & Company, Head Digital B2B Practice


Frank Dopheide

Managing Director Handelsblatt Publishing Group GmbH & Co. KG


Prof. Michael Dowling

Professor for Innovation and Technology Management, University of Regensburg and Chairman of the Board of the Münchener Kreis


Prof. Dr. Dieter A. Fensel

Director STI Innsbruck, University of Innsbruck, Austria


Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart

Dean of HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management and holder of the Stiftungsfonds Deutsche Bank Chair of Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship