Continental has acquired a minority stake in the Industry 4.0 start-up Feelit, headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel. Both companies have agreed not to disclose the amount of the holding. Feelit provides cutting-edge predictive maintenance solutions for various industrial equipment and machinery based on proprietary hardware sensors and dedicated algorithms. The start-up has developed a structural sensing technology that is up to 50 times more sensitive than current standard market applications. Feelit uses printed, nanomaterial-based, fully integrated sensors and cloud analytics to enable live, remote feedback on structural and performance changes in equipment. The sensors can be integrated, for example, into battery cooling systems for electric vehicles to optimize battery life and range. Continental sees additional potential for remote condition monitoring and predictive maintenance applications for its industrial hoses for the food and beverage industry, for hydraulic and energy solutions complying with safety requirements, and for avoiding unplanned and costly downtimes in manufacturing.
“The investment further paves our way toward digitalization and brings with it multiple strategic benefits. Sensor integration into both new and existing product lines supports our ongoing transformation toward smart and sustainable solutions beyond rubber. Products such as hoses will be turned into sensitive detectors and provide real-time information about their condition,” explained Philip Nelles, member of Continental’s Executive Board and responsible for the industry-focused business area ContiTech. This technology helps to extend the range and life of batteries in electric vehicles, predicts maintenance and increases safety in manufacturing environments.
Founded in 2017, Feelit has developed a highly sensitive, flexible, printed nanomaterial sensor that can be attached to static and rotating machinery parts, including flat and rounded surfaces. This sensor measures strain in ultra-high resolution, as well as other parameters such as temperature, vibration and pressure.
Based on an industrial IoT platform for real-time remote sensing of structural changes in mechanical assets, the system serves as an “electronic skin” that sends an alert if it detects critical structural and operational anomalies in advance. Up to 50 times more sensitive than current standard market applications, this technology allows remote condition monitoring and predictive maintenance of industrial assets, like valves, pipes and pumps, and prevents unplanned and costly downtimes of machineries.
“Feelit is a technology-driven startup with an industry agnostic value proposition. In order to simultaneously address multiple verticals with a mature and differentiated solution, we aim to partner with established technology leaders in such fields to accelerate commercialization. Accordingly, we are delighted to have won Continental as an early backer, partner and investor, providing us with operational and industrial expertise. Together we can pilot and improve our innovative sensors and cloud analytics software in many industrial and automotive applications. Now, our focus is on further developing our sensing solutions as the technology-leading product for diverse applications,” added Feelit CEO and co-founder Dr. Gady Konvalina.
Sophisticated thermal management increases electric vehicle battery life and range
Batteries in electric vehicles work most efficiently at temperatures of between 20°C and 40°C. This temperature range extends battery life and range, which is why the batteries must be either cooled or heated, depending on the outside temperature. An external sensor can be retrofitted to hose line systems to measure the temperature of battery control systems using oil, coolant or refrigerant. The better a flexible sensor is positioned, the better the temperature can be controlled to ensure that units such as the power electronics of electric cars do not overheat, batteries achieve their maximum service life, and occupants do not have to forgo their usual level of comfort.
The investment has been initiated by Continental’s dedicated corporate venture capital unit, which was established in 2018 with the aim of effectively tapping into innovation and capitalize on new opportunities faster and thus managing and leading the transformation in several industries. The venture capital unit invests risk capital in young technology companies and thus enables direct access to new technologies, business ideas and the startup ecosystem.