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Ubilabs: From Bauhaus University to Location & Data Technology

How the idea for Ubilabs came about from a diploma thesis

2024 marks 17 years since Ubilabs was founded. A lot has happened during this time. But the time before that was also eventful. We take a look back at the origins of Ubilabs and how it came about from a dissertation and a group of university friends.

Die Geschäftsführung von Ubilabs sitzt im Hamburger Büro auf einer Couch: Michael Pletziger, Jens Wille, Martin Kleppe
The Ubilabs management team: Michael Pletziger, Jens Wille and Martin Kleppe (from left to right)

The Bauhaus University in Weimar is where the Ubilabs story began. It was there that Ubilabs managing directors Martin Kleppe, Michael Pletziger, and Jens Wille met and the idea for interactive maps was born, which would later develop into Ubilabs.

GPS tracking in times of analog maps

At a time when there were no smartphones, no Google Maps and only sporadic internet access, Martin, Michael, and Jens met during their studies at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. In a joint project, Martin and Michael developed a GPS tracking application that used NASA satellite data and GPS-enabled cell phones to track and display routes traveled. A first digital map was created.

From the diploma thesis to the first start-up

Digital maps continued to play a major role. A mash-up of mobile, video, short messages, and interactive maps – that was the subject of Martin's diploma thesis "Framedrops" in 2005. The map served as a geo-based blog and was able to display and locate photos and videos.

With the help of a start-up grant, the company Sumaato was founded in the same year. Alongside Martin and Michael, Samuel Oey was also one of the founders. Together, they developed the "Framedrops" idea into the successful "" project. The application was one of the first extensions to the Google Maps API, which had just been released at the time, and enabled photos to be located on a Google Maps interface. Users could use "" to publish photos and view images from other users around the world and filter them using hashtags.

Screenshot von, ein Projekt vom Sumaato
With, users were able to publish photos and locate them on a Google Maps interface.

Ubilabs rethinks the interactive map

What the group had realized at this point: Digital, interactive maps are the ideal basis for media accessibility, media distribution, and media use. On a map, the (spatial) context of a photo or video instinctively becomes clear and thus provides additional information in a simple way. This insight formed the core of Ubilabs, which was eventually founded in 2007 by Jens, Martin, Michael, and Samuel. Since then, Ubilabs has been pursuing the mission of making data visible, tangible, and usable.

From the map to the cloud

Over the years, technological advances in cloud computing have opened up new opportunities to make data, information and media accessible and usable - the perfect complement to the interactive map. In 2019, Ubilabs therefore expanded its service portfolio to include cloud expertise, enabling much larger and more dynamic data volumes to be processed, visualized, and converted into insights – for fully comprehensive customer projects that combine data and location technology.

Ein Gruppenfoto des Ubilabs-Teams im Hamburger Büro, 2019
Team Ubilabs in the Hamburg headquarters in 2019

Technological highlights from 17 years of Ubilabs