Boot Camp 2019: The Student Experience

Twenty-nine participants, two major companies and countless ideas: Boot Camp: Digitalization in Logistics 2019 provided once again an opportunity for students to focus on current challenges in logistics and digitalization. This year’s Boot Camp, held from March 27 to 29, centered around innovative applications of the Internet of Things (IoT) and chatbots in public transport.

There is an air of concentration and excitement when young people from different universities get together to solve the problems of the future. As in previous years, the Boot Camp at KLU continues to tackle the topic of digitalization and how the transport and logistics sector can deal with it. “The question is not whether digitalization will be making its way into logistics and transportation, but when”, said Boot Camp participant Milan. Along with his friends, Juliette and Raphael, he joined KLU's 2019 Boot Camp. All three of them have completed their bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration - Freight Forwarding, Transport and Logistics at Duale Hochschule Baden-Württemberg (DHBW) and were excited to come to KLU to take part in the event.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to learn about these technologies, to understand how they work and how they can be implemented, and to come up with solutions that use these technologies”, explained Raphael. The personal contact with executives from companies like IBM and Hamburger Hochbahn was another bonus for the students. “Personally, I don’t have too many contact points with companies or individuals using the IoT or chatbots”, stated Milan. “Here at the Boot Camp I can get all this information first hand from the big players.”

Imagining the future

KLU's annual Boot Camp is an opportunity for bachelor’s students to challenge their creativity and explore new concepts in transport and logistics. Every year, technology partner IBM provides access to their Watson platform that lets participants develop their own IoT and chatbot applications. In 2019, public transport provider Hamburger Hochbahn AG joined the event, presenting cases they are currently working on themselves and providing students with an opportunity in finding new solutions. “For me, this is the most exciting part of the Boot Camp,” emphasized Juliette. “You aren’t only theoretically thinking about a problem, but there are real cases from real companies here.” And the participants feel that a new approach or a bright idea might well be picked up by the company. “They are taking our ideas seriously,” said Milan. “This is more than a university course: it’s really an exchange with company executives.”

Of course, being truly innovative is a lot of hard work. Milan summarized the experience the three of them had, “You often hear people talk about ‘Think outside the box’. But that’s really quite difficult to do. If you’ve got a blank piece of paper and try to create something that’s never been done before, that’s not an easy task. You have to get rid of all the ‘normal’ thoughts and start being creative, innovative, visionary.”

Ready-to-use technology

Dealing with things like Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and algorithms might not be part of a business student’s daily schedule, but participants don’t need any programming skills. The IBM Watson platform they are using for developing their solutions is designed to guide them through the process. “A certain understanding for the way in which a software works will definitely help,” suggested Raphael. “But once you get the hang of it the platform is quite easy to use.” “And we got a lot of support from the KLU professors André Ludwig and Asvin Goel and from the IBM representatives,” Juliette added. “They explained the software to us in detail and were always there to help. So everybody attending the boot camp was able to use the platform and build their apps.”

New data, new solutions

Working together with business partner Hamburger Hochbahn, this year’s Boot Camp was all about services and solutions in inner city and public transport. Juliette, Milan, and Raphael teamed up with three others and went straight to work. “Our group is working on a solution based on IoT technology,” explained Juliette. “We are using the sensors in smartphones to optimize route planning for cyclists. This will be integrated in the existing public transport app by Hamburger Hochbahn and allow people to find the fastest and safest bicycle route from A to B.” Using the data collected by the sensors, the app knows how many cyclists are on the streets and where the streets might be clogged. It can then make real-time suggestions for the fastest route. This would save time and improve safety for the cyclists.

With this core feature settled, there are many additional services that could be derived from using data from smartphone sensors. “For example, the app could suggest switching to public transport and direct people to the nearest station when it is about to rain,” said Juliette. “Or it could detect vibrations in various bikes passing the same stretch of road and inform authorities that there must be a pothole that needs fixing.”

It’s a team effort

Looking back on their Boot Camp experience, there is one thing that sticks out for all three: team work. “Working together on a Boot Camp team is a great experience,” Juliette pointed out. “Here, you meet lots of new people with very different backgrounds. It’s all about exchanging ideas, working together on a topic and finding the best solution.” Milan thought that “there is really a lot of creative exchange going on in the teams. Everybody brings their own experience and perspective to the group that we can build upon.”

“You work your way deeper and deeper into the topic,” Juliette added. “And you do this together with your team where one great idea leads to the next. This really feels very inspiring!”

Raphael mentioned another important aspect of the Boot Camp, “This is a great opportunity for young people to bring their ideas to the table. It is often said that our generation doesn’t really care, that we don’t really get involved politically. But that’s not true. This Boot Camp aims to provide solutions to issues related to transportation, delivery, traffic planning. The question of how we want our inner cities to be designed and used in the future is a highly political one, and you have 29 young people here working very hard on solutions to these challenges. It’s our future, so we are the ones who should start shaping it!”