Tinkering with IT in Erlangen
The Chamber of Industry and Commerce featured a company portrait of ASTRUM IT in its magazine “WiM – Wirtschaft in Mittelfranken” (“Business in Middle Franconia”). From the company’s history and its broad portfolio to current projects and products, the article provides insight into 28 years of software expertise.
From medical technology to visitor management: this software company is a jack-of-all-trades.
Erlangen-based ASTRUM IT GmbH has come up with a remarkable range of innovations: from the robot platform for autistic children to a digital visitor management system. Founded in 1992, the company can by now look back on a wealth of experience as a software development partner. And not only does it put that experience to good use in health, medical, and measurement technology, its portfolio also includes administration and management applications. Moreover, ASTRUM IT develops software and offers services such as hosting, consulting, and operation. The company realizes both individual customer projects and its own standard products. It also offers its customers consultation and assistance on all things regarding the fields of artificial intelligence, information security, usability and serviceability, and business analytics and helps them with the operative implementation of software processes and products. ASTRUM’s activities are focused on the automotive industry and the public sector, among others.
To Managing Director Gerhard Pölz, the advantages of this broad range are obvious: “Our customers benefit from the practical know-how that comes with internal development.” The approx. 150 employees also collaborate with universities and clinics on scientific research projects. “We look at software from an efficiency and added value potential angle,” says Mr. Pölz, explaining his “digital vitality” buzzword, which is designed to set the company apart from its numerous competitors in the software development sector.
The success of this private limited company (GmbH) with an annual turnover of approx. EUR 13 million is closely connected to its founder, Walter Greul, who retired in December 2019. Walter Greul, who has a university degree in computer science, launched a start-up company in the IGZ Innovations- und Gründerzentrum Nürnberg-Fürth-Erlangen business incubator, where he developed a personnel deployment system. He received a number of commendations and awards: the Founders Award for Middle Franconia by the CIC (IHK-Gründerpreis Mittelfranken) in 1996, a finalist for the „Entrepreneur of the Year“ award in 1997, named job star of the “Nuremberg region” for above-average commitment to the creation of new jobs in 1999, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz) in 2002, the Erlangen Medical Prize (Erlanger Medizinpreis) in 2014, and the Bavarian Innovation Award (Bayerischer Innovationspreis) in 2015. In 1998 the foundation stone was laid for the new company headquarters in the Erlangen-Tennenlohe business park. Three years later, the company moved into its new home. The former Bavarian Minister Presidents Dr. Edmund Stoiber and Dr. Günther Beckstein already paid the company a visit and were eager to learn about its portfolio of services. Moreover, Mr. Greul was a member of the mid-sized companies committee at the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) from 2006 to 2012 and served as a laudator, sponsor, and jury member for the annual Founders Award for Middle Franconia by the CIC for many years.
Innovations in the medical field
As a certified development partner for medical devices, the IT experts at ASTRUM are highly conscientious about the safe handling of sensitive data. This has benefited both customer projects and research and development projects. One example from the past is the electronic medication plan (“eMediPlan”), via which all connected physicians, pharmacists, and hospitals can retrieve the most important facts, up to and including apps for tablet computers in ambulance coaches. The app captures any interactions when taking medicine. It was developed in the aftermath of the Lipobay affair in the early 2000s during a test phase which included, among others, the Klinikum Fürth hospital, the Doctors’ Association of Middle Franconia, and pharmaceutical scientists at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg).
In association with the Fraunhofer Institute IIS and partnered with the Humboldt University of Berlin as well as FAU, the Erik project involves the development of a robot platform designed to support the interaction with autistic children. These children have difficulties interpreting signals such as facial expressions and vocal inflection. That makes it hard for them to size up other people, but they perceive robots as predictable and less complex. The robot “Pepper” – with ASTRUM being in charge of its data integration and preparation, the dashboard, and the implementation of the interface – treats their communicative skills, captures their facial expressions and language, interprets the signals, and deduces emotions. “Pepper can interact with children using gestures and eye movements, which can help to reduce anxiety in social interaction with people,” explains Sandra Höck, Head of Corporate Communication at ASTRUM. 92 % of the project costs are covered by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and the project is supposed to run for three years until August 2021.
Managing visitor flows
The VISIT visitor system by ASTRUM has by now become a particular bestseller. It helps companies keep track of who is present on the company premises in order to keep unauthorized persons from entering and to protect their employees and property. Registration and instruction is completed via an operating terminal or via an online check-in. “The system can handle both pre-registered and spontaneous visitors and takes into account different scenarios as well as individual on-site requirements,” says Gerhard Pölz. If necessary, sanctions lists are reviewed and access badges printed – all without the need for human personnel. The system can handle 24 languages, from Arabic to Chinese, which is a particular advantage in case of deliveries from abroad. The VISIT software is used by customers such as Siemens, Infineon, Thyssen-Krupp, and Bosch.
Since 2009, approximately 20 employees have worked in the Munich and Augsburg offices, working, among other things, on a member management system for physicians, associations, and nursing services. The company is involved in the community in Erlangen in many ways, e.g. by supporting the daycare center on Ohmplatz, the Ronald-McDonald-Haus, the Alexander Beck Children’s Fund Foundation, and HC Erlangen. ASTRUM provides IT support for this national league-level handball team and takes care of the club’s infrastructure.