A digital leap in parcel traffic

Competition in parcel traffic is intensifying – digital services provide a competitive advantage for growth and development. Pioneering travel and parcel services provider Matkahuolto implemented a digital leap from on-premise solutions to the cloud in a controlled manner and in a rapid schedule. The successful transition aims at growth, cost savings and a new boost for service development.

The year 2020 will go down in history not just as the year of the coronavirus but as a year of record growth in e-commerce. At best, e-commerce indexes revealed growth peaks of several tens of percent, and the pace is not expected to slow down. This trend has been reflected positively in the demand for parcel services provided by Matkahuolto.

“Consumers and merchants are now accustomed to online shopping, so its popularity is likely to continue once the exceptional circumstances end. In the volume-driven logistics industry, this means more competition,” says Mika Rajanen, CIO & CDO of Matkahuolto.

Matkahuolto, which started operations in 1933, has a strong position in Finland not just as a provider of passenger services but also in internal logistics, which has enabled co-operation agreements with major international players. The positive boost in e-commerce and parcel traffic will also accelerate Matkahuolto’s product and service development, where new technology plays a significant role.

Competitive advantage from digital user experience

With the digitalisation of parcel traffic, customers can now follow and manage their orders on their mobile devices. Matkahuolto’s goal is to further develop this user experience to be even better and smoother.

“Throughout the industry, goods have long moved solely based on logistics considerations. Consequently, although there has been automation, it has not reflected consumer needs. This is the area we want to pay more attention to,” says Rajanen.

The digitalisation of Matkahuolto’s business, which began in 2019, has advanced at a tremendous pace. A rapid leap has been taken from traditional on-premise solutions and the construction of IT services within the subsidiary Trimico to the cloud world and cloud native development. Global IT service provider CGI was selected as Matkahuolto’s strategic outsourcing partner in Finland.

“CGI has a great deal of cloud expertise and experience in application development. Both of these capabilities were required in our major transformation project,” says Rajanen.

From the data centre to the cloud in about six months

Planning for the transfer of IT services began in May 2020, when 17 employees of Trimico, Matkahuolto’s subsidiary, were also transferred to CGI as existing employees. Between August and October, system services were migrated from the traditional server environment to the AWS cloud. This phase utilised the CGI migration model, based on AWS best practices, which enabled a rapid and uninterrupted transition.

“Matkahuolto’s entire production environment was migrated into the cloud by the end of October, and new services were immediately launched in November. All transfers were completed successfully and within the agreed schedule,” says a pleased Rajanen.

In addition to personnel and system transfers, Matkahuolto has addressed information and cyber security issues, which are covered in the agreement with CGI by the services of CGI’s Cybersecurity Operations Centre (SOC). In addition to traditional infrastructure, end-user and application services, the agreement covers the development of new services.

In the implemented cloud migration, CGI operates Matkahuolto’s cloud environment cost-effectively alongside application development and in accordance with the CloudOps model. The next step is to start reforming the application architecture to be cloud-native.

“Matkahuolto’s digital acceleration brings savings in the form of both investment and the dynamic scalability of cloud services. The comprehensive reform will also create better conditions for the development of new digital services and solutions, improving the customer experience and growing the business,” Rajanen concludes.

HSL combined all web services under one roof – CGI involved in renewing the user interface

HSL has implemented an extensive reform of its online services, including the incorporation of the popular Reittiopas journey planner in hsl.fi. The project was carried out in a multi-vendor environment, with CGI Finland responsible for the renewal of the Reittiopas user interface.

In the spring of 2020, Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) launched a major online service reform with the goal of improving the usability of the new website. The aim was also to ensure that all the necessary information related to public transport could be found on the website faster. For this reason, the previously separate Reittiopas service was combined under the same roof with other HSL online services.

“We’ve made the look and feel of our website and the journey planner even clearer. Special attention has also been paid to accessibility. The starting point for the reform was the needs and wishes of our customers,” says Milla Laita, product owner of Digitransit at HSL.

In the multi-vendor environment, HSL’s long-term partner CGI was also responsible for the technical implementation.

“CGI has been involved in the development of the HSL Reittiopas since 2001. This has provided us with a solid understanding of the industry and customer needs. We have strong expertise in geographic information and public transport information systems,” says Elina Ruokari, Customer Relationship Manager at CGI.

Smooth cooperation across boundaries

The new user interface was built in a multi-vendor environment, where different aspects of the project, such as coding and visual design, were the responsibility of different parties.

“One success factor in the project was seamless collaboration across organisational boundaries. Since most of the results needed to be sharable from the start, particular attention has been paid to quality. In this project, all parties have certainly been motivated by the relevance of the work: the results affect the mobility of more than a million people,” says Vesa Meskanen, Systems Specialist at CGI.

The user interface renewal was implemented based on the DevOps model using agile development methods and the JavaScript React platform. The solutions will be implemented for HSL as docker micro services in the Microsoft Azure cloud.

“The Reittiopas journey planner is a popular service, which promotes the transition to lower-carbon modes of transport and provides significant time savings for end users looking for information,” explains Milla Laita from HSL.

The HSL journey planner is based on the open source Digitransit service platform, which is partially developed and maintained by CGI. The Digitransit service platform has been built with funding from the twenty owner municipalities of HSL, Traficom and the TVV ticket and payment systems for the routing of public transport in Finnish urban areas.

The HSL Reittiopas service is the most popular online transport service Finland. HSL and CGI have been developing public transport services together for 30 years.

Raed more about the cooperation between CGI Finland and HSL in another case story Helsinki Region Journey Planner and automated accessibility testing.

Advanced analytics is reforming public transport

Smooth information flow results in smooth public transport flow. The new reporting platform of LMJ, an IT procurement and service company operating in 21 urban areas, gives public transport planners more efficiency and access to previously inaccessible data.

Developing public transport is a complex process that requires the consideration of many variables. In order to make the right decisions, up-to-date and reliable information is needed on issues such as the utilisation rates, load and profitability of different lines. The challenge is often not the lack of data but its coordination and utilisation. Traditionally, a great deal of manual work was required for the calculation, decreasing not just the efficiency but also the meaningfulness of the work. Monitoring and anticipating trends is particularly challenging. In order to change this, LMJ decided to harness the potential of modern cloud technology and reporting together with CGI.

Managing data masses

In public transport, events such as purchases and the validation of tickets can amount to tens of thousands per hour, and volumes can vary considerably. In practice, the data collected from public transport consists of three basic components: ticket sales, the validation of tickets, and usage events, such as variation in passenger numbers per stop and over time. Thus, both scalability and computing power are required of the reporting platform. LMJ uses Azure as the data warehouse, and the reporting solution is Power BI, which allows data to be visualised and combined from almost any source.

The role of CGI is to optimise the use of data masses so as to support LMJ’s reporting models as well as possible. The best user and passenger experience is created when the data is presented in a form that is useful to traffic planners – that is why development work is done using agile methods and stage by stage.

“CGI took control of the project confidently. They provide us with expert insights and clearly justified development proposals on how to make the data visible for a sufficient period of time, how different data sources can be combined, and how details can be more easily accessed, for example. The cost structure of using the system has also been considered to ensure that it does not get out of hand,” comments Jari Paasikivi, CEO of LMJ.

New insights from data

LMJ’s new reporting platform allows traffic planners to look at variables deeper than at surface level and from several different perspectives. The solution also helps in financial planning, such as calculating key figures and profitability. It also allows us to influence passengers’ customer experience and create more sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions.

“We will continue to test use and systematically develop the reporting platform together with CGI. I hope that as many city representatives as possible will hear about the new opportunities and participate in the development of this important service,” says Jari.

Customer benefits

  • Utilisation of data generated by public transport and efficient use of data warehouses: the best starting points for optimising public transport.
  • Cost-effective and scalable cloud service: capacity as needed, no need for in-house maintenance.
  • Time savings and efficiency for traffic planning: manual work is reduced, resources are freed up, and costs are reduced.
  • Customer-oriented development of public transport: better passenger experiences and increased customer satisfaction.

Helsinki Region Journey Planner and Automated Accessibility Testing

HSL Journey PlannerHSL Journey Planner is a service provided by Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) that in essence provides users the quickest route from point A to point B using multimodal routing. On top of getting the user to their destination in time, HSL Journey Planner also provides information about closest stops, routes, possible disruptions and vehicles in real-time.

HSL Journey Planner serves 1.7 million customers in the Greater Helsinki area providing over 2.6 million itinerary searches a month. The same UI is also used across Finland with different configurations tailored to meet the needs of each city or area. In total, there are 17 journey planners in Finland based on the same UI, geographically spanning entire Finland.

 

HSL Journey Planner UILast winter HSL.fi and its Journey Planner part was overhauled and a new version was released. The new version of the UI focuses on giving users the most essential information by reducing noise, and providing more contextual information such as the closest stops near the user.

The new HSL.fi won the Grand One 2021 award for the best web service in Finland. HSL.fi was commended for its scalability and ability to serve the diverse user base, offering the essentials for both power and casual users. HSL Journey Planner and HSL.fi create a cohesive unit which would have not been possible without seamless co-operation between CGI, Solita and Futurice.

Accessibility

 “Accessibility is the practice of making your websites usable by as many people as possible”

WHO estimates that about 15% of the world’s population, over a billion people, has some form of a disability. Without accessible websites a huge number of users are left out – A loss for both the users and the service providers.

But accessibility also benefits people without any disabilities. For example elderly people, users of lower spec devices and power users. Contrast requirements may help people with poor vision but also someone who is browsing the site on a phone in bright daylight. Keyboard navigation may be vital to those who navigate the site with screen readers or cannot use the mouse but may also benefit a power user who prefers to use keyboard shortcuts for quick navigation.

EU directive

A new EU directive in 2015 lead to a surge of interest and challenges with accessibility. Many development teams started to implement accessibility as an add-on to already existing services in the wake of the new laws. These teams often face challenges when trying to make an already finished website accessible as an afterthought.

The directive requires certain web services to meet certain standard requirements, provide an accessibility statement and a feedback mechanism. The standard that the web services must meet is the Web Content Accessibility Guideline 2.1 (WCAG2.1), by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

EU Directive timeline

 

wcga2.1 principlesWCAG2.1 standard provides four basic principles, which are base for set of requirements that aim to ensure that as many people can access the information as possible. Fulfilling the WCAG2.1 standard does not automatically mean that the site is accessible by everyone but it is the best unified standard we have available.

From the basic principles we can deduce that some of the requirements are perhaps subjective and difficult to evaluate. But actually a newly developed AXE accessibility testing engine promises to find up to 50% of the WCAG2.1 related accessibility problems automatically.

Technical tools

Axe is an open-source accessibility testing engine for websites and other HTML-based user interfaces. It was built to integrate with existing environments to easily automate web accessibility testing along with regular testing.  Axe is actively supported by Deque systems, a major accessibility vendor. The Axe engine is currently used by the biggest players in the industry, including Google.

Axe differs from the other automated accessibility testing tools such as react-a11y by testing the accessibility of the actual rendered website as opposed to just validating the syntax of the code. Axe can test a web page or a component against WCAG standards and help towards the best practices such as HTML semantics with header tags and aria labels.

There are many different ways to integrate AXE into your workflow but one of the most productive uses is to create automated accessibility tests with it. Axe can be used together with Selenium webdriver to open up the website, simulate normal use and test the accessibility holistically. Using the Selenium webdriver means that the tests can also be easily integrated into existing end-to-end tests that are industry standard.

Benefits

What kind of benefits would these accessibility tests provide? The obvious benefits for developers are less manual testing and more confidence that the changes are not breaking accessibility. The less obvious benefits are that it spreads knowledge about accessibility to developers and provides a metric for accessibility. It is easier to improve things you can measure and the metric can also be used to support business decisions. This constantly updated metric can also easily be translated into an accessibility statement, which shows the current accessibility problems of the page. A metric that shows the trend of improving accessibility is also for covering the project legally. It can be used to document that a reasonable effort has been made towards accessibility.

Summary

Start early with accessibility in the development process, don’t try to implement it as an afterthought. Integrate automated accessibility tests into your pipeline and start measuring accessibility now. Provide equal access to everyone and don’t miss out on a huge number of possible users.

Over a billion people is not marginal.

Aleksi Siitari

Text by Aleksi Siitari, Consultant, CGI

Virta bringing smart and easy EV charging to the Western Balkans

Sustainable transport is slowly but surely gaining ground also in the Western Balkan region. Belgrade-based company MTKOMEX is building electric vehicle charging network in the region. Thanks to the partnership with Virta, MTKOMEX can offer companies the opportunity to enter the growing EV charging market in an easy, smartand reliable way. Together with Virta, they are helping companies such as Gazprom Neft, BMW and Heineken to futureproof their business.

The world is moving full force towards electrification. In Europe, Norway, Iceland and Sweden are leading the charge. In 2020, plug-in electric vehicles accounted for 74.8%, 45% and 32.2% of the car registrations, respectively At the same time in Serbia, only about 300 fully electric cars are cruising throughout thecountry, together with 2000 hybrid vehicles. 

But the future of mobility is electric also in the Western Balkan region. The Serbian government has announced that the purchases of electric and hybrid vehicles will be subsidized with one million euros in 2021, the same as in 2020.  

Sustainable transport is slowly but surely becoming mainstream in our country, too. E-mobility and EV charging business is expanding in Serbia and we are proud to be at the center of it”, says Miloš Kostić, the CEO of Belgrade-based company MTKomex. 

MISSION: BUILD A CHARGING NETWORK

MTKOMEX is the undisputable forerunner in bringing e-mobility to the Western Balkan region. The company has almost three decades of experience in the construction of solar power plants. In the past ten years, they have gradually expandedtheir core business to include electric vehicle charging and have actively participated in building the charging network for electric vehicles in the Western Balkans.

Early on, the company realized that it is not enough to just install the chargers. The EV drivers need an easy way to find the charging locations & charge their cars. In order to put this idea into practice, MTKOMEX started looking for a partner. 

SOLUTIONS, SUPPORT AND SERVICE IN ONE PACKAGE

Virta’s commitment to merge renewable energy and mobility as well as the extensive experience of running 1000 professional charging networks made Virta an interesting option for MTKOMEX. Virta is also an expert in EV energy demand response solutionsthat will become increasingly important when EV markets expand and energy systems transition to renewables. 

“Virta – as a global innovation leader and one of the world’s leading vehicle-to-grid technology providers – stood out. We were also impressed by the extensive support and service solution package that Virta offered”, says Kostić. 

Kostić and his team contacted the Finnish Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia and the embassy helped MTKOMEX to get in touch with the Virta team. And the rest is history. 

Soon the process of acquiring know-how started. Together we found the best approach to integrate Virta’s Charging Solution into MTKOMEX’s business model. We are glad to say that the cooperation has been great, and our team has gotten valuable training”, states Kostić. 

THE FIRST DIGITAL EV CHARGING EXPERIENCE IN THE REGION

In cooperation with Virta, MTKOMEX launched in 2020 the charge&GO platform, and a mobile application. The web platform gathers all the information about the charging network, charging methods, electric cars and MTKOMEX service offering. Kostić is even more proud of the branded charge&GO mobile app which makes it easy for EV drivers to find available charging stations, start and end charging sessions as well as make in advance payment and reservation of the chosen charger

With a help of Virta, MTKOMEX is able to offer the only integrated EV charging solution in the Western Balkans region.  

“The results of our cooperation with Virta are already fantastic: We have entered the market with our own brand and gotten clients and customers in a short time span. This is a tremendous outcome concerning the fact that EVs are still scarce in Serbia. As the number of EVs in Serbia is growing, we are getting more and more inquiries and new clients”, says Kostić. 

Read the full case story on Virta’s web page: Case MT-KOMEX – Bringing smart and easy EV charging to the Western Balkans

GreenMobility launches Helsinki’s first electric car sharing service

The Danish start-up GreenMobility arrived in the Finnish capital as the first and only electric car sharing service on the market. Starting out with 25 Renault Zoes in December, GreenMobility is looking to expand their fleet to 200 by the end of 2021 adding new zones and growing their local team as they strengthen their position within the local transportation offering. While some might say these goals are ambitious, GreenMobility is convinced that Helsinki provides all the framework and potential needed to reach them.

GreenMobility was founded in Copenhagen in 2016 as one of the only European vehicle sharing services investing entirely in electric cars. The service works via mobile app and is extremely simple to use: book a car, once within range the vehicle can be unlocked and you’re good to go! The fee is all inclusive, so customers need not worry about charging or parking fees. The company vision has been international from the start, and prior to the Finnish launch GreenMobility was already available in 6 cities: Copenhagen and Aarhus in Denmark, Malmö and Gothenburg in Sweden, Antwerp and Ghent in Belgium. Expanding to Helsinki was in the talks since early days.

Helsinki Business Hub is the Helsinki whisperer for international businesses

It all started in 2017 and Helsinki Business Hub was along for the shared electric car ride from the very beginning. Launching a service such as GreenMobility’s requires quite a bit of setting up, and a knowledgeable and well-connected partner is a huge asset. In 2019 collaboration intensified and the service was launched on December 15th. Helsinki Business Hub was key in providing business and market insights and connections to potential partners as well as help and guidance with soft landing services, financing and recruitment.

“For a shared electric car service, it’s crucial to not only understand the business and how things in Finland work on a general level, but also to really understand the city. HBH was a really valuable local partner for us. They helped us determine our operational zones and assisted us with establishing the company, recruitment and finding the right kinds of partners like Helen for charging infrastructure and local garages for maintenance needs. They always answer fast, and they are always ready to assist and guide on all business-related matters!” International Project Manager Daniel Thorius describes.

Helsinki – forward-thinking, ever-growing, warmly inviting

As a Danish company it makes sense to have a strong foothold in Scandinavia’s largest cities. However, Helsinki was an attractive choice for more than geographical reasons.

“The city has a green agenda, and it is investing strongly in sustainable mobility options to reach its CO2-neutrality goal. Marketwise, the local sharing economy is booming, and the sharing community is already big in Helsinki. Digitally, Finland is wonderfully advanced and establishing a company here is fairly straightforward. Also, the local start-up scene is quite impressive, so we’re in good company,” Thorius explains.

GreenMobility joins the ever-growing number of MAAS service providers Helsinkians have grown accustomed to during the past few years. Thanks to shared electric vehicles – such as scooters, bikes and cars – and modern taxi alternatives gaining popularity, not to mention excellent local public transportation services, residents of Helsinki are being offered more and more mobility alternatives by the quarter. According to Thorius although service providers and products vary, the ideology behind these services is similar:

“It’s really a question about completing public transportation, not competing with it – GreenMobility is a supplement, not a substitution! Our concept works best when public transportation works well. Because in the end, we all have the same goal: to decrease private car use. People in Helsinki are used to these kinds of digitally operated transport services. The more choices there are, and the more accustomed users are to these options, the better it is for all us. In Helsinki it really is possible to live without a car, and we’re all working to make that choice more appealing.”

From small launch to big goals

Currently GreenMobility’s car sharing service offers 25 electric vehicles, and the start-up employs 5 people, including both full-time staff working at the local office, and part-time street crew responsible for vehicle maintenance etc. While original plans were more grandiose, the company ended up choosing a soft launch due to the pandemic taking its toll on mobility. Thorius sees the easy-going start as an opportunity:

“A smaller launch definitely has its advantages. We get the chance to familiarize ourselves with the area, the market and the customer base, tweak our service, and then scale up in an informed manner.”

Regardless of the scale of the launch, by no means is GreenMobility taking it slow. The company plans on reaching a fleet of 200 and a staff of 10 by the end of the year. The start-up is adding new zones to their map, and the electric car sharing service might well expand to include at least some industrial and airport-adjacent areas in Vantaa in the very near future.

“We have proven the concept in similar cities where it works really well, so we are very confident in the Helsinki area. So far, we have been greeted well and engagement has been good. In fact, we have already extended the reach of the service to include new zones within our first month. Although people are moving less right now, customers appreciate that they can socially distance themselves, but still choose an environmentally friendly and practical mode of transport. For others, this is a great opportunity to try out an electric car,” Thorius elaborates.

Read the original case story on Helsinki Business Hub web page.

Varjo: virtual and mixed reality accelerates the global digital transformation

Finnish company Varjo, founded by four former Nokia and Microsoft employees, is a pioneer of the ongoing transformation enabled by virtual and mixed reality.

Varjo’s human-eye resolution VR and XR headsets are designed for demanding professional use and are the leading products in their field. Varjo’s headsets are already used for training astronauts and pilots, in the design of many of the world’s top car brands as well as in medical imaging and university research projects around the world.

– For example, a car designer can make changes in CAD software and immediately see what the car’s stitching looks like on the seats or what font size fits the instrument panel best. The iteration cycle can be reduced to just minutes, says Urho Konttori (photo), Varjo’s Chief Innovation Officer and one of the company’s founders.

In the next few years, immersive virtual reality will be increasingly used for training car and professional vehicle drivers, defence sector training, and for teleworking in companies. At the same time, as the high-resolution headsets become available to consumers, people’s perceptions regarding the possibilities for entertainment and different kinds of experiences will be revolutionized.

PROTOTYPE SPARKED AN AMBITIOUS STARTUP

– In the summer of 2016, we were getting to know Finnish startups and the world outside the giant companies. With the CEO of Umbra 3D, we thought that video-based mixed reality could be an interesting opportunity for the future. I made a quick prototype in a couple of days. He thought that this prototype would be the future of mixed reality, and asked if I could show it to the investors, says Konttori.

Finnish early-stage private equity investor Lifeline Ventures immediately recognized the potential of the product.

– We presented the prototype, and 20 minutes later, walked out with a million euros, feeling a little confused, with a request that we should have a founding team ready in one week.

Varjo’s cooperation with Business Finland started from the get-go when the small startup was developing the core technology for its product.

– From the beginning, our attitude was to operate as if we were a world-class company. The quality level had to be of the same standard, both in terms of external visibility and internal operations. As soon as an innovation was born, it was protected. The first patents were filed with the US Patent Office when the company was a couple of months old, recalls Konttori. Business Finland’s first-year support package was vital for us. The company would have gone bust without it.

MEDIA VISIBILITY BOOSTED THE FUNDING ROUND

Another Nokia colleague, Jussi Mäkinen, was recruited to lead Varjo’s marketing before the A-series financing round. The strategy was to make a big media splash when the funders were ready to push the button.

– We hired a top PR agency that got us interviews with CNN, the New York Times and MIT Technology Review, as well as visibility throughout the technology press. We had great articles saying, ‘A Finnish startup shows us the future of virtual reality’. It was fairly easy to complete the financing round after that, says Konttori.

Varjo selected Nordic EQT Ventures as the lead investor from about 20 investor candidates. Varjo received EUR 8 million in cash and, almost at the same time, a EUR 6.7 million loan from Business Finland.

– EQT funded the product development, validation and testing, and the loan took us straight to the next level in operations. Otherwise, we would have needed a new financing round in six months or had to give a lot more shares to the investors. The loan gave us the courage to move forward faster and stronger.

INTERNATIONAL BREAKTHROUGH

During a development phase that lasted about a year, Varjo’s personnel grew from 15 to more than 50. The startup’s Series B financing raised about EUR 27 million and brought Niklas Zennström, the founder of Skype and venture capital firm Atomico, to Varjo’s board. Siemens’ venture capital firm Next47 also participated in the round which Varjo used to finance the factory production of its first devices. The VR-1 headset, launched by Varjo in early 2019, received an enthusiastic reception, and the breakthrough was reinforced by the success of the VR-2 and VR-2 Pro headsets. And now with VR-3 and XR-3 headsets published in December 2020.

– At the end of the year, we launched the XR-1 Developer Edition headset, which in a way was the culmination of what we set out to do at that first investor meeting, says Konttori. The seamless combination of the real and virtual worlds delivered by the 10.000 dollar XR-1 headset even made an experienced CNET journalist cry: for him, testing Varjo’s headset was the first time that VR looked good enough to replace television and everyday screens.

BUSINESS FINLAND STRONGLY INVOLVED

In summer 2020, Varjo used Business Finland’s corona funding to produce a series of webinars to support its customer relations work. Business Finland also helped Varjo find a partner to prepare its EU Horizon 2020 funding application, which resulted in more than two million euros in direct support.

– Business Finland has been involved since the beginning and helped us to grow from a small unknown startup to the world’s leading VR and XR equipment manufacturer. It’s quite an incredible achievement, says Konttori, who thinks that Business Finland’s operating model is unique in the world.

– When I talk to startups at our level – whether Swedish, American or British – they are always stunned that such a support network exists and that Business Finland’s loan financing can be almost as much as the capital investment raised by the startup. For example, a loan of EUR 5-7 million is of huge importance to startups. It is a unique factor that helps to scale Finnish companies to the global market.

NEW DIMENSIONS AND IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES

According to Konttori, the fourth information technology revolution is now underway, where VR and XR headsets are entering the world of work and everyday life alongside mobile computers, offering new dimensions and methods of use.

– In the future, you can transport yourself to any museum in the world or enjoy any ballet performance from the best seat in the theatre. In about five years, the technology will be ripe enough for the transformation to really take off, Konttori predicts.

The uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic has not weakened investors’ confidence in Varjo, whose turnover has by now increased substantially. The company’s Series C financing round, completed in August 2020, raised EUR 45.7 million. At the same time, Varjo has been strengthening its reseller network in Europe, Asia and North America. The startup’s rapid growth so far is just the beginning.

– We first set out to solve the most difficult challenges for large corporate clients. Next, the intention is to do the same for smaller companies and to expand the customer base considerably. Also, we would not have set out to build an accessible brand if the goal was not to scale the company significantly along the way.

Read the original case story on Business Finland’s website.

Basemark enables autonomous driving in the fast growing global market

Futuremark, Rightware and now Basemark – Tero Sarkkinen has been the dynamo behind the success stories of three Finnish software companies, managing computer graphics companies in Finland, the United States and China since 1999. Sarkkinen founded Basemark a few years before Chinese company Thundersoft acquired Rightware from him in 2017, which developed software for car user interfaces, graphical instrument clusters and entertainment systems.

– Rightware’s other owners asked if I would be interested in buying the same business out of Rightware, which I had originally bought out of Futuremark. It had done its job: the child had grown up and could run faster than the parent, says Sarkkinen, who is now chairman of the board at Basemark and the company’s largest shareholder.

Basemark’s Rocksolid Engine, a real-time graphics and compute software solution launched in 2017, is targeted for the automotive industry giants. The software processes all the smart car’s calculations from its different sensors, orchestrates and schedules the data, thereby optimizing the car performance.

– We make tools for customers who develop artificial intelligence – the algorithms that analyze the data – based on which the self-driving car makes the right decisions in traffic.

Rocksolid Engine is also suitable for machine vision processing in industrial robots and edge devices as well as AR and VR systems.

FOCUS ON THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY

In the company’s early years, the 2015 founded Basemark invested the cashflow from consulting and different projects into developing its own product.

– We were looking for direction in the first three years e.g. with mobile device performance testing software. Then we decided to focus on the automotive industry because self-driving cars are a huge trend and I have an extensive personal network of companies and people in the industry, Sarkkinen recalls.

The clear focus and recruitment of top talent from Finland and around the world has quickly produced profitable growth. Basemark currently has about 40 employees in Helsinki and subsidiaries in Munich and Detroit. The company’s customer base includes the world’s leading automotive OEMs, semiconductor suppliers like AMD, Intel, Mediatek, NVIDIA and Qualcomm, as well as major companies in consumer electronics and other industries.

BUSINESS FINLAND ENABLED INDEPENDENT GROWTH

Basemark has used Business Finland’s product development loan funding to develop the Rocksolid Engine software as well as other projects.

– Business Finland’s support has been paramount, especially in the early stages of the company. Without the loans, moving forward so quickly would not have been possible, and we would have had to go to a private equity investor. We grew to a turnover of EUR 8 million without a venture capital investment, says Sarkkinen.

In July 2020, Environmental Technologies Fund (ETF) announced a EUR 7 million capital investment in Basemark. According to ETF, the introduction of autonomous vehicles can reduce transport emissions by as much as 80% through the introduction of Transport as a Service and improved asset utilisation.

– When cars can be shared, there is less need for private car ownership, and the amount of traffic is reduced. Someone can order a half-hour ride in the car while I go to the store, says Sarkkinen.

SAFETY REQUIRES MORE POWER FOR AI

Safety – and the real-time processing of the vast amount of data needed to deliver it – remain the most significant challenge that is holding back the long-predicted breakthrough of self-driving cars. When it comes to safety, 99% accuracy in the algorithms’ decision-making is not enough.

– The challenge increases exponentially when the accuracy has to be 99.999%. If you drive at 120 kilometres per hour, the car is moving more than three metres in a tenth of a second. At the same time, there can be a million data points generated by various sensors, LiDAR, radars and cameras. All that data must be processed in well under ten milliseconds, so the car also has time to think what it needs to do in that situation, Sarkkinen explains.

Even today’s top processors may not be powerful enough.

– Currently, even the high-end models consume so much power and produce so much heat that an electric car’s operating range can drop by two-thirds. When you brake, a wave of hot air comes from the trunk, as if you are in a sauna.

AIMING FOR POLE POSITION

According to Sarkkinen, the current premium car models are starting to reach Level 3 Conditional Automation, but even the step up to Level 4 High Automation is very demanding. There is plenty of work for Basemark as the automotive industry leaders compete towards Level 5 Full Automation.

– Nevertheless, these cars are now getting pretty close. Automatic parking, lane assist and highway pilot automation take care of most situations quite well. But urban driving, with its many intersections and unpredictable road users, is still especially challenging.

Basemark is using ETFs capital injection to accelerate product development as well as boosting its sales and marketing firepower.

– Our vision is to be the world’s most used brain in smart cars, says Sarkkinen.

Read the original case story on Business Finland’s webpage.

Awake.AI Enabling Smart Ships to Make Port Calls in Port of Rotterdam

Port of Rotterdam chose Awake.AI as a smart port development partner to enable smart ships to make port calls in the future.

Awake.AI is a frontrunner in the field of digitizing maritime logistics for more efficient port calls and smarter operational planning. Port of Rotterdam is fully committed to innovation, maximizing the benefits of the new potential that digitization offers. Together they worked toward a smarter future.

Shifting Toward Autonomous Future in Maritime

Maritime logistics and port operations are experiencing ever more extensive digitalization in the coming years. Environmental sustainability is the key driving force in this transformation. More automation of processes will be introduced, more mandatory environmental reporting will be enabled. As maritime businesses will have to adapt to more stringent environmental regulations, for example complying with the “Paris Agreement” and the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, it will have an improving effect on air quality in port cities as well as providing much greater efficiency and profits for all collaborating actors.

Automation will eventually lead to smarter and even autonomous ships plus more extensive autonomous maritime logistics operations. For the whole maritime shipping industry to stay relevant in the future, it needs to start offering constantly better customer service in all dimensions. This means introducing more digital services throughout the value chain. Those companies and ports who do not fully engage into digitalization now, will be left behind. Trying to play catch up later, gets harder and harder for them.

The Need – Digital Twin for The Port of Rotterdam

The largest seaport in Europe, The Port of Rotterdam, seeks to host smart ships in the future. Port of Rotterdam wanted to make their port operations more efficient, reliable, and predictable with a commitment to provide outstanding digital facilities and data services. Also, the port wants to offer their users a seamless and trusted experience when doing business with them.

To achieve this objective, they wanted to create a digital twin of the actual port to test and learn about the transformational process for this smarter future, without risking their ongoing port operation.

The physical properties and characteristics of the Port of Rotterdam were required to be transferred into a simulation where their multiple variables could be changed and tested fast and effectively, and without risking the physical operation of the port. Also, with digital twins, addressing the potential risks in safety is a tremendous help, when compared with real-world trial and error. The Port of Rotterdam aspires to be the safest and the most efficient port in the world as well, and is constantly working on this ambition.

The massive scale of the operation of the Port of Rotterdam with its 8,8 million containers and almost 15 million total TEU (fourty-foot equivalent unit) also translates to a tremendous environmental impact when port calls, material flows and smart ships are optimized. Using digital twins is a pioneering way to build an understanding of the key metrics of large industrial companies and organizations, as well as to learn.

The Solution – The Smartest Port of the Future Meets Awake.AI

Awake.AI’s solution was to enable smart shipping by creating a digital port and ship platform with digital handshakes between ships and ports through Awake’s own smart platform. This gives an excellent view on determining possible information gaps, standard development requirements and offers better overall optimization of port calls.

For testing smart ships and digital port operations, a smart ship port call management system and simulator was created, which is not only simulating real world scenarios, but also demonstrating the impact of any given changes, before any physical changes would be made to the infrastructure of the port. This truly provides a better operational planning capability and more efficient port calls. Awake.AI specializes in AI and machine learning (ML) in maritime logistics, and thus it was a natural choice for the Port of Rotterdam to work together with Awake.AI for exploring changes in Europe in the field of smart shipping and smart ports.

Benefits

Toward smarter maritime logistics

Awake.AI expects that the first physical smart vessels in commercial operation will already be operating by 2025. The first vessels can perform missions in or near the port area such as remote piloting.

Awake.AI is highly committed to helping its clients in becoming early adopters and industry leaders in digitizing and automating port operations, as well as optimizing complete value chains. This is done through supporting the clients all the way from conceptualization to design, implementation to optimization.

Leading role for Europe

As environmental concerns are at the very core of the Port of Rotterdam, they are also committed to combating climate change and aim to play a leading role in the global energy transition.

Digitalization and automation are introducing entirely new avenues for making maritime logistics and port calls more efficient, eventually leading to cleaner waters, significantly lower emissions, and lower operational costs, as well as wasting less time. A smarter future is also a greener future.

With Awake’s platform and its growing number of ecosystem partners, the ambition is to reduce cumulatively 10% of the global CO2 emissions from shipping by 2030. Awake.AI is ensuring the future of sustainable and intelligent maritime logistics.

Learn more

Read the whole case story on Awake.AI’s website.

Telia’s smart solutions boost sustainable transport

Public transport can transform cities – but only if we, the citizens, give it a chance. Public transport needs to be more than an economical option; it needs to be the most efficient and enjoyable ride. That’s why Telia started from the commuter experience and worked outwards to build an end-to-end connected public transport experience. We are redefining what public transport means for commuters, transport operators and cities.

Telia Connected Vehicle also helps transport and logistics companies to optimise their business by consolidating their onboard systems, reducing fuel consumption, and handling vehicle and fleet management more efficiently.

Let us inspire you with some customer cases.

 

Telia Connected Vehicle

Telia launches a new service that makes vehicle and fleet management more efficient, helps promote more environmentally friendly driving, and enables fuel consumption to be reduced by up to 12 percent.

Telia Connected Vehicle is built on the Fältcom platform that was originally developed and proven in the public transport industry. As well as providing “out of the box” features, it is also an open platform that enables transport and logistics operators to consolidate their own and third party applications.

”Several logistics and service companies, such as Neste, have been involved in the development of the new service,” says Kalle Mehtola, head of IoT sales at Telia Finland. “We aim to create completely new types of services for the industry, simultanerously enhancing operations and saving both operational costs and the environment”.

Read more on Telia’s website.

 

Data Insights help Helsinki Regional Transport Authority measure impact

The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority spent € 1.2 billion on a subway extension from Helsinki to the suburban city of Espoo in order to improve the commute for thousands of travelers while reducing CO2 emissions. To optimize connecting bus routes and also measure the sustainability efforts of the subway extension, they used Telia Crowd Insights.

Telia Crowd Insights are based on anonymized mobile network data providing information regarding where crowds are coming from and going to at a particular time. In this way, HSL was able to get clear and lucid views of exactly how the travelers used the existing bus services. This gave HSL a reliable basis for decision-making in order to re-plan the connections. And immediately after the new services began to operate, HSL was able to see how the travelers´ moving patterns changed.

“Benefiting from the new data source and continuous data requires changing the way we operate,” says Tapio Levä, Senior Business Development manager for data insights in Finland. “In the past, many organizations have based their operations on statistics that were updated once a year, for example, but now they have constantly updated data available on, in this case, the flow of people.”

Read more on Telia’s website.

 

Fuel savings and better driving habits for OnniBus.com

OnniBus.com is a leading long-distance bus service in Finland. The company that started its business with one bus between the cities of Tampere and Pori has rapidly grown into one of the best known brands in Finland, revolutionising the entire public transport business and making buses once again a considerable means of travel. With Telia’s Connected vehicle solution, the company is primarily seeking fuel savings.

“OnniBus.com was among the first ones in Finland to start using Telia’s Connected Vehicle offering, that has been designed to optimise the operations of heavy equipment using real-time operating data. The service will be installed in all 68 double-decker buses and possibly also in the 60 single-deckers,” says Telia logistics solution specialist Satu Orava.

“Connected vehicle provides many benefits compared to the present state. With the service, we can combine many services that were previously sourced from several vendors. The number of mobile subscriptions has decreased from seven to two, and we can access the vehicle’s CAN bus errors, allowing us to fix things,” says Lauri Helke, CEO at OnniBus.com.

Read more on Telia’s website and watch Telia’s video on the subject.

 

Telia connects 2,000 buses to smart heating

Telia Company has, together with public transport company Nobina, developed an IoT-service for smart heating of buses. 2,000 buses in Sweden have been equipped with the solution which will lower power consumption equivalent to the yearly output from two wind turbines. Nobina is the Nordic region’s largest public transport service provider.

The usual way of heating buses is to heat them at the garage before they are dispatched. The new IoT-service makes the heating more efficient. 2,000 buses have been equipped with connected temperature sensors and control systems that ensure that the proper amount of energy is supplied at the right time to keep an ultimate temperature profile. The connected temperature sensors are screened in real-time and the temperature profile is updated depending how the buses are utilized.

The IoT-service lowers Nobina’s power consumption with 22GWh yearly which is equivalent to the output from mid-sized two wind turbines.

Read more on Telia’s website and watch Telia’s video on the subject.

 

Improving traffic flow in New York

New York is where the term gridlock was invented: traffic jams that block all directions grinding the city to a halt. And with ever more vehicles competing for road space with cyclists and buses, it’s a problem that effects all New Yorkers. The New York City Department of Transportation is approaching the problem in two ways:

  1. Firstly, traffic management: using data to identify stoppages in the traffic system so they can fix them before they compound into larger problems.
  2. The second way is to make bus services a better experience so more New Yorkers will choose the bus instead of the car. Part of this is to make bus services more predictable by providing accurate real-time bus arrival times displayed at bus stops and pedestrian information signs.

They needed a robust, plug-and-play edge gateway that could be fully managed remotely, without needing to send technicians out to physically reconfigure. They also needed one with high enough security to work in the city’s closed communications network. By connecting traffic lights and bus stops, Telia is delivering real-time data to help the NYC DOT keep traffic flowing and make public transport a better experience.

By providing real time bus arrival times to passengers, the NYC DOT aims to deliver a better service. When people know exactly when the bus will arrive – in minutes away rather than stops away – it is more predictable and a better experience.

Buses send position data to the traffic control center which calculates how many minutes away the bus is. This data is then sent on to Telia IoT Edge Gateways installed at bus stops and pedestrian information signs to feed real-time data for digital displays. The information is also provided via text-to-speech for the visually impaired.

Read more on Telia’s website and watch Telia’s video on the subject.

Picture: Telia Company