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Innovation in a crisis

 

We generally associate the coming of Covid to the UK as March 2020 with lock downs rapidly followed by Furlough.

In fact, for data scientists in our Digital Technology Team it came several months earlier in January.  Watching and analysing Covid statistics as the disease spread through Europe, they realised that it would very soon reach and spread rapidly through the UK.  As well as the obvious health impact, the team saw potential economic disaster in store for operations- based businesses, in particular, as they faced the nigh on impossible task of keeping transmissions down.   

Bump. Tharsus to the Core

Tharsus’ mission is “do the right thing.” We wanted to do something in the fight against Covid which made use of our unique experience developing new uses for technologies and launching products at scale.  

We came up with Bump, a powerful data-driven social distancing system, which would help people keep distanced in their workplaces and enable accurate track and tracing in the event of positive cases.

The Tharsus Team responsible for Bump social distancing device

Tharsus Colleague using Bump device in Factory

We brought together, under one roof,  a broad, multi disciplined team to develop and deliver Bump.  To maximise our chances of success we started with multiple approaches.

Colleagues from our Digital Technology team using the latest software to accurately and rapidly test, fail, learn and refine different Bump approaches, sprinted fast with colleagues from our design, pilot manufacturing and supply teams, to iterate design into a rapid prototyping stage and on- board a supply chain. 

To keep up momentum 24 hours a day we collaborated with a partner in New Zealand.  They literally worked while we slept.

In a matter of weeks colleagues from our manufacturing team were able to manufacture an initial consignment of Bump systems which were delivered to trial partners for intensive testing.   

We realised that trialling Bump in real environments at the earliest possible stage would be vital to allowing us to understand and optimise both its effectiveness and ease of deployment and use. For us, it highlighted the importance of rapid prototyping in industry.

The collaboration with trial partners proved invaluable, and with their help, and the Tharsus teams’ hard work, Bump went into scale manufacture just 12 weeks after the idea for it was conceived.

Bump in Full Scale Manufacture

London Marathon Men's press conference using Bump by Tharsus

We did it – but it didn’t stop there

So, in just 12 weeks, Bump systems were at work at scale in businesses across the UK helping to keep people safe, operations running and livelihoods protected. We didn’t stop there however.  We saw that Bump had the potential to do good in wider society too.

As spring turned to summer it became clear the biggest miss to society during the lockdown would be large sporting events.  We realised if Bump could enable one at least to go ahead, it would bring welcome normality into lives driven increasingly anxious by exponential change.

Virgin Money London Marathon Race Director Hugh Brasher, was searching for a way which would enable 2020’s race to go ahead in some form, even if a physical audience wouldn’t be possible.   Realising innovative technology would hold the key, he approached Tharsus.

In October 2020, with Bump deployed across the race and support teams, as well as the athletes themselves, the race went ahead, successfully and safely.  

With the case for Bump as an enabler large scale events made, collaborations with other partners continue.

And the story continues

Our study of Bump data and behaviour is helping us to develop our data modelling capability which allows us to predict how the automated solutions we design and build will behave at scale in the environments they’re intended for before we start to even build a prototype.   This is a step change in speeding up and de-risking hardware development as well enabling us to construct the automated solutions need to make them truly intelligent.

And the learning from the algorithms and software systems developed for Bump are having a big impact on our work in the agile logistics industry, as we develop systems that work more efficiently, reducing waste and pollution.

 

Perhaps our biggest learning from Bump applies to the wider Tharsus team.  No matter what the timeframe or steepness of the challenge, our colleagues’ strong, shared appetite to tackle challenges and relentless agility throughout the development process, can deliver real success against towering odds. 

 

Bump overview

  • Tharsus gained early understanding of the scale of the Covid threat to the UK economy.
  • Devised Bump- a powerful data driven social distancing system to address it.
  • Design to working reality in 12 weeks.
  • Bump actively kept UK business running throughout Covid helping to protect the economy
  • Data learnings from Bump are enabling Tharsus Digital Technology team to design automated solutions which are truly intelligent.
  • Bump brings into focus the true power of Tharsus.