Prof. Andreas Knopp (SeRANIS project manager) with Gregor Langer (CEO Talos), Martin Laabs, Fabian Geißler, Tony Bauer and Prof. Dirk Plettemeier.
© UniBw M / Siebold

Talos: Satellite-based IoT for Wildlife Tracking

Tracking wild animals is not only known from impressive wildlife documentaries, it also provides science with invaluable data. The transmitters that are used for it, however, have to do quite a lot: They must be able to withstand cold, heat, moisture and dust, not hinder animals and have the longest possible battery life. The Munich-based company Talos is developing the next generation of these transmitters. In our interview, CEO Gregor Langer explains what distinguishes his startup’s technology.

Munich Startup: What does your startup do? What problem are you solving? 

Gregor Langer, Talos: Talos designs and delivers satellite-based IoT solutions to locate objects and small animals on the ground using microtransmitters. We want to enable researchers and scientists to track, for example, migratory birds globally in order to follow their movements across continents. Among other things, this makes it possible to find out what influence climate change has on the migration movements of animals, for example when droughts or water shortages force them to change their routes. The movement profile also makes it possible to detect diseases at an early stage, for example when a wild boar is infected with swine fever. Tracking data could also help “anticipate” natural disasters. After all, it’s known that animals react before scientific instruments even detect anything. 

In addition to tracking wild animals, our system is also suitable for tracking vehicles, containers or tropical wood, to name three examples. There are no limits to the imagination for how this type of system can be used. That being said, our first customer groups are scientists and researchers who use wildlife tracking. Over the long term, we want to offer a complete system as a service with Talos, i.e. Tracking-as-a-Service. 

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box! 

Gregor Langer: Like other providers, we use GPS, but store the data in the transmitter first and then send it to a LEO satellite in compiled form. This is done on a daily basis at the moment, but can be scaled by the number of satellites. As a result, our transmitters consume very little energy. They are much smaller compared to other technologies – they’re only as big as a little finger and are extremely light weight at less than five grams. Another important feature of our transmitters is that they can also be configured in the operating phase. In other words, the properties of the transmitter can be changed depending on the situation. And that actually doesn’t exist yet. This allows Talos to address use cases that don’t yet exist even with larger transmitters. 

Soon as small as a fingertip 

But we want to become even smaller. We’re still working on our technology and want to move from a little finger to a fingertip in terms of size. That is followed by our idea of tracking that is entirely passive, which allows us to achieve an almost infinite lifetime for the transmitters. 

Munich Startup: What’s your founding story? 

Gregor Langer: We’re eight founders, some of us have known each other for years. We have backgrounds in science and research and have engineers who, among other things, have developed antennas and tracking systems, and so on. In the end, we were all brought together by our great interest in the topic – and by positive signals from the industry, which signaled a need for systems like ours. The consequence was founding the company in July last year. 

With our technology, we also won the SeRANIS Startup Challenge of the Universität der Bundeswehr München last year. This gives us the opportunity to put a payload on a satellite that is financed by the university. This is a huge success of ours that we are very proud of. In addition, we were able to present our business model to a jury with a lot of experience. It was not only a kind of reality check for us, but was also very positive to have the jury members, with all their experience, think it will be a success. 

Munich Startup: What have been your biggest challenges so far? 

Gregor Langer: In addition to the usual startup challenges, such as liquidity or general customer acquisition, the market is a particular challenge for us. After all, we want to address the global tracking market. And somehow gaining a foothold in such a gigantic market, establishing yourself and not just occupying a niche – that is a huge challenge. 

Talos to offer Tracking-as-a-Service 

Munich Startup: Where would you like to be in one year, and where in five years? 

Gregor Langer: Within the next twelve months, we want to be on a stable financial footing. That is always the first and the most important goal. We would like to have gained our first order and to have laid the foundation for further orders. 

Later, in three to five years, we want to be able to offer Tracking-as-a-Service with our own satellite. Moreover, we want to have diversified our market segments by then, in other words, to not only be active in wildlife tracking, but also in fleet management or container tracking. Our passive system should also be ready by then and we’ll have the first orders with satisfied customers. 

Munich Startup: How have you experienced Munich as a startup location so far? 

Gregor Langer: Munich is a great location. We have established startups here that have taken the same route and have shown how it’s done – Ororatech, Isar Aerospace, Lilium are well-known names. There are universities of excellence such as TUM. It brings startups together, promotes them and also increases their visibility through UnternehmerTUM. And there are obviously many more who shape the community and are also involved in laying the foundations for successful startups. Then you have the events, such as Bits & Pretzels in fall or DLD at the beginning of January. There are quite a few things that clearly speak in favor of Munich and we are very pleased with the city. 

Munich Startup: Quick exit or staying power? 

Gregor Langer: We still have so many ideas that we want to implement and many hurdles that we can overcome. Several companies are interested in our technology, and during customer meetings, I notice how the ideas just flow every time. There’s still a lot of time and work that we can invest here. So I would definitely say staying power. 

Maximilian Feigl

Maximilian Feigl berichtet seit 2020 über das Münchner Startup Ökosystem. Dabei haben es dem studierten Politikwissenschaftler vor allem Deeptech-Themen angetan.

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