Maksym Huk: Matfyz was the best choice

December 15, 2016

In June we informed our readers about a very interesting project LocAid.me that was the second in a startup contest of the best business idea “Vodafone’s Nápad Roku”. The reason for this was simple: our students were more than involved in the contest, especially those who study the English programme of General Computer Science Education.

Maksym Huk, one of the awarded students, comes from Dnepropetrovsk and since 2014 he has been a student of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University. He is a very enthusiastic computer programmer and a developer of various “smart gadgets”. During one school field trip he got together with other international students of similar interests and they altogether developed LocAid.me. As Maksym stated, it already has its first customers.

Maksym, on your LinkedIn profile you describe yourself as “a third-year student and IoT developer“. What is IoT?

IoT is a modern buzzword which stands for Internet of Things. It can be described as a network of smart devices that communicate with each other either through the Internet or some other protocol. A smart device can be any appliance of everyday use you can imagine, e.g. a fridge, a washing machine, etc. that has an embedded control unit and communication module.

Does LocAid.me also fall under IoT?

Yes. Our team has been implementing a network of smart stickers, equipped with different sensors, to be placed inside buildings, together with an indoor navigation system that would act as an emergency preparedness & response system.

What is LocAid.me good for and how does it work?

The system detects any hazard, such as fire, gas leakage, etc. by one of the devices in a building and immediately spreads this information to all the other stickers to notify and safely navigate people to the closest exit or assembly point. It is especially good for organised mass evacuation. In case of emergency, app users are automatically notified of potential danger through a push message sent to their phones together with a step-by-step navigation that is programmed to avoid danger zones. Even if a user doesn’t have our app installed, he or she will be notified by the sound alarm of the closest sticker, and the green LED arrows that light up on the device will guide them to safety. Since all existing solutions to this issue are already outdated, we hope to save many lives with this device.

You are a co-founder of this project. How did the whole thing come into being?

The idea came to us during a brainstorming session we had with our team. Soon after that we started developing the first prototype for validation.

What is your role in LocAid.me development?

Our team is divided into 4 main areas: business, mobile, hardware, and backend development. I am a part of the hardware branch and our responsibility is to consider the technologies that will be used in the final product and implement them in the right manner.

The LocAid.me team was the second in Vodafone’s “Nápad roku” contest held in June. Has this success somehow influenced the project’s development?

First of all, it pushed us to finish the second prototype really fast so that a demo could be shown in the final part of the competition. The jury’s comments on our project were helpful and allowed us to think in broader terms as well as to add wider usage. Right now, we are in the phase of negotiations with potential investors, manufacturers, and first customers.

At what stage of development is the project right now?

In terms of hardware, we have been working hard on implementing the mesh networking communication and precise indoor positioning system.

LocAid.me is probably not the only field of interest of yours, is it?

I do have several personal projects which are basically additional modules for car electronics. They increase comfort and safety (e.g. day running lights, emergency stop signal devices). These devices are already being developed and manufactured, so I am merely negotiating with distributors, mainly in Russia and Kazakhstan, which doesn’t take a lot of time.

You come from Ukraine. After you graduated from high school you became a student of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University. Why did you choose the Czech Republic and this university particularly for your studies?

The Faculty of Mathematics and Physics was the best choice because of the combination of several factors. It is a well-known university with a good study programme in English, and also it is not so far away from Ukraine geographically. We also have quite a similar language and culture, so it was easy to adapt to. To be honest I wasn’t considering any other foreign university except Charles University. And I even enrolled in two good Ukrainian universities, one in my hometown and one in the capital, before the visa confirmation came from the Czech embassy.

Are there many differences between the Czech and the Ukrainian university education systems?

The difference is quite big. I have compared the studying process with my friends who stayed in Ukraine. From the technical point of view, the universities are almost the same. But in Ukraine the Bachelor’s programme takes 4, not 3 years because of additional courses, such as literature, history, psychology, etc. I like the approach of the Czech system more because you are not required to study arts if you don’t want to.

How do you like being a MFF UK student?

It has been amazing experience, studying is a bit hard but I still have some time for work and for developing some other skills of mine. In addition, you can learn here about possible applications of your knowledge. For example, thank to this study programme I met my LocAid.me team through a visit to IBM organized by Stanislav Vesely as an opportunity to learn about students’ internships.

What about studying in a foreign language? Is it difficult for you to study in English?

That was one of the reasons why I chose to study abroad. I struggled a bit in the first several months, but right now I have absolutely no problem with communicating, studying, working or even presenting in English. That is quite important in today’s world.

What are your plans for the future after finishing your Bachelor’s degree at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics?

My plans are not clear yet, but I would like to try and proceed further in terms of knowledge, science, and work.

– OMK –