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.

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.

Gacha robotbus – The first autonomous shuttle bus in the world for all weather conditions

Sensible 4 combined their expertise with Japanese MUJI to create an elegant robotbus, first in the world to function in all weather conditions. For this shuttle Sensible 4 provides the autonomous driving technology which ensures the vehicle with superior positioning, navigation and obstacle detection performance. MUJI provides the vehicle its famous design and user experience.

Weather plays a critical role in opening the market for autonomous buses or robotaxis. Currently heavy rain, fog or snow are preventing autonomous vehicles from driving as the existing technologies are mostly being tested and developed in warm climate conditions. Meanwhile, Sensible 4 has focused in technology test and validation under the arctic Finnish Lapland conditions giving the company a unique advantage over the other self-driving technologies.

Elegant robotbus that drives through rain, fog and sleet

The advanced technology of autonomous driving has a lot of potential in urban environments but also in the countryside where decreasing birth rates and aging populations are causing problems in these communities. The GACHA autonomous shuttle bus can be shared among the community which paralleled MUJI’s philosophy. Thus, the collaboration with Sensible 4 started in 2017 through introduction made by Helsinki Business Hub and GACHA was launched in Helsinki in March 2019.

“The GACHA development got started when Sensible 4 team, working back then with the first generation of robot buses, noticed that they just don’t perform at all even in light rain, not to mention the typical winter conditions in Finland. Completely autonomous self-driving technology is not here yet. Most self-driving cars can operate only in ideal weather conditions and well-marked roads. This is what Sensible 4 has managed to change through repeated tests in the harsh winter conditions of the Finnish Lapland”, says Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4.

Sensible 4 is an Espoo-based startup that delivers systems to autonomous vehicles and aims on collaborating with the leading automotive OEMs and their suppliers. Their software can be integrated into any autonomous vehicle platform from small cars to full -size buses. The company provided the technology for GACHA, including superior positioning, navigation and obstacle detection to allow year-round autonomous driving regardless of the weather. MUJI, a Japanese lifestyle retail company, provided the vehicle’s design, developing the functional aesthetic and optimum user experience.

Aside from its all-weather capabilities, MUJI’s design differentiates GACHA from similar projects, in particular the vehicle’s lack of a front or rear. The interior seating follows the soft rounded square shape of the bus, creating more space for passengers while the LED light belt serves as both headlights and an external communication screen. Inspiration for the design came from a toy capsule, a universal shape that embodies joy and excitement, bringing peace and happiness to those who encounter it.

Integrating robotbuses into the daily transportation service chain

Finland is leading the way in developing autonomous system and the government is committed for further enabling future intelligent mobility. One major advantage is the favorable Finnish legislation for new experiments – the Finnish legislation not only allows automated vehicles to be used in public roads but also encourages the digitalization of all transport services. The recent heavy deregulation makes it easier for new types of transportation services to enter the market. Also, the cities of the Finnish capital region are committed and open in enabling new mobility services and solutions, like GACHA, being developed in the area.

“We are developing these vehicles so that they can become part of daily transportation service chain. Autonomous vehicles can’t become mainstream until their technology has been insured to work in all climates”, says Harri Santamala, CEO of Sensible 4.

After the preview in March, GACHA began pilot operating for the general public in Espoo in April 2019, later rolling out to Hämeenlinna, Vantaa and Helsinki. MUJI and Sensible 4 are currently planning to produce the first GACHA fleet for use on public roads in 2020 for various cities in Finland and abroad. MUJI and Sensible 4 aim for the self-driving shuttle fleets to operate as a part of the cities’ existing transportation systems in 2021, with a long-term objective of establishing partnerships with other pioneering cities around the world.

Contact information:

info@sensible4.fi
https://www.sensible4.fi/