Mobile Gas Zone Monitoring – The Connection Between Safety and Design

Steinbeis experts join forces with Dräger, a leading provider of medical and safety technology

With the support of students, Professor Thies Krüger and Professor Mathias Bertram, both freelance project managers at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Project Management at Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences, have conducted a variety of studies on gas measurement and warning devices for use in mobile zone monitoring. Their client was Dräger Safety, a subsidiary of the Lübeck-based Dräger Group and an international leader in the fields of medical and safety technology.

The guiding principle of the Dräger Group is “Technology for Life” – a motto that can be taken literally in this case. As with many other products offered by Dräger, with gas detection technology the aim is to protect and help people – and save lives. True to the spirit of design transfer, Dräger approached design experts Thies Krüger and Mathias Bertram with the task of coming up with innovative ways to use portable devices to monitor zones affected by gas emissions.

Devices and systems used in this field of application are subject to strict requirements. In addition to providing reliable and accurate readings on a wide variety of gases and their concentration levels, other key factors when it comes to product development are mechanical housing quality, stability in challenging operating environments, the explosion-proof design of devices, and operational safety. One key requirement for the gas detector was that it should be portable and suitable for use in different areas. As a result, both ergonomics while being carried and ease of operation at the actual point of use played an important role in product development – criteria that are closely linked to the product design of such systems.

It is not unusual for the development of such products to take years. Designing safe, accurate, and reliable devices is plagued by technical obstacles, and the process of testing in preparation for approvals and safety certification is extremely demanding. As a result, development teams working in such areas are often kept occupied for a very long time and have to invest much energy in individual tasks. The things they lack most are time and the resources to come up with novel development concepts by experimenting with different ideas. This is where – supported by the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Project Management at Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences – the process of design transfer provides valuable input by unveiling new types of solutions, and it was this approach that was applied as a kind of “idea generator” to the project with Dräger.

Autonomous technology – an opportunity for the future

The students involved in the project at Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences were given the choice of two tasks, each involving different levels of abstraction based on short-term or long-term solutions. Numerous ideas were generated for short-term development scenarios, including improving the portability of equipment within protection zones. The primary aim was to reduce the size and weight of devices by improving component assembly and optimizing the interaction between the technology contained in devices and the design of the housing. At the same time, different carrying options were developed and a number of device concepts were thought up to offer greater flexibility when deciding where to use devices.

The concepts concentrating on long-term priorities envisaged the use of a swarm of intelligent drones that would take care of monitoring permanently installed systems fully automatically, or even monitor gas semi-autonomously in the event of an accident, such as following a train crash with gas-filled railcars. Introducing new, partially or fully autonomous technology to these concepts would enable users to keep as far away as possible from danger zones. Using swarm technology comprising multiple smaller systems could significantly reduce the costs associated with logistics, personnel, and the deployment time required to set up and dismantle networks of mobile zone monitoring networks. Using smart power supply strategies could also allow autonomous networks to operate almost indefinitely.

The impartial views of outsiders

“When we work on a project as a product design expert, we offer the client an impartial angle on an issue,” explains Thies Krüger. This makes it possible to come up with alternative ideas – for which companies often lack the resources when getting on with their daily business. As Mathias Bertram continues, “Not only that, but projects like this with students are also a good recruitment vehicle and a useful way to attract potential employees.”


Prof. Thies Krüger (author)
Freelance project manager
Steinbeis Transfer Center Project Management at Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences (Magdeburg)

Prof. Mathias Bertram (author)
Freelance project manager
Steinbeis Transfer Center Project Management at Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences (Magdeburg)