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    AI expertise network growing in the Tampere Region

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    The Tampere AI ecosystem brings together the artificial intelligence expertise in the Tampere Region. Over 100 companies operating in the region are already connected to the ecosystem. In this article, we’ll get to know three of them: OCR expert Visy, robotic process automation expert MOST Digital and UDT Technologies that plans to change the public transportation.

    Tampere-based Visy is providing automated access control for factories, ports and logistics centres using image recognition and AI. Optical character recognition (OCR) is the core activity of Visy. The company supplied license plate recognition systems for industrial sites, when they were a novelty in the late 90s. Their next step in the early 00s were ports, reading license plates and container identification codes.

    – There is our system in all the ports of Finland and Sweden. Visy is also a big name in Egypt, Indonesia and some other countries where we have good representatives, says Heikki Huttunen, CTO of Visy.

    Visy keeps on innovating

    Visy has launched the world’s first commercially available Automatic Container Damage Detection System (ADDS). The system scans all sides of the container and highlights the ones that seem to be damaged. A human task is then to inspect only the highlighted ones.

    – Our aim is to bring AI as a ’support intelligence’ assisting humans in tasks that our customers are currently doing manually; rather than getting rid of the human contribution altogether. Damage detection is a very good example of that, says Huttunen.

    visy container portal
    Visy container portal / image: Visy.

    In ports customers utilise Visy’s systems for automated container imaging and tracking. Images are easily accessible afterwards by inserting the container ID into to system. This is important in the case of a damaged container: it helps clarify where the container has been damaged and clear liabilities.

    – Images and material from our system show the state in which the container has left the port. At certain areas just the awareness of this system has reduced damage claims by 90 per cent, says Huttunen.

    There is another recent accomplishment that Visy is very proud of: crane imaging system. It is capable of imaging a container while it is lifted by a crane from a ship to a vehicle. The container ID needs to be quickly recognised in very demanding circumstances.

    – This is a unique feature, and only recently we have been able to make it work in such a way that the cameras will stay intact and recognition is successful, says Huttunen.

    MOST Digital is a robotics expert

    Robotic process automation (RPA) arrived in Finland around 2015 and in the following years there was some substantial growth of the RPA market. RPA was perceived largely as automation of various work processes, using tools of a chosen technology. Lempäälä-based MOST Digital has been willing to change this idea from the very beginning and make robotic automation that is technology-wise enabling, not limiting.

    – A robot should be a platform where different tools can be attached. All our tools are open-source software, and we can bring diverse capabilities, intelligence and scalability into automation. Enabling technology-freedom has always been our business, says Olli Ainasvuori, one of the founders of MOST Digital.

    MOST Digital offers Robotics-as-a-Service (Raas) for its customers. The company has an information security certified automation platform in the cloud, with which the robots are brought to their customers.

    RPA has advanced enormously as a market, as an operating model and as technologies. According to Ainasvuori, the biggest steps are made as regards to the understanding of robotics.

    – Nowadays it is realised that robotics needs professionalism: cybersecure solutions, maintenance and support services. Digitalisation and automation are efficient and easier-to-get when they are connected to customer’s environment  through a cloud service, says Ainasvuori.

    SME’s would benefit from RPA

    Whether or not companies or organisations use RPA is an important question. Some have not even tried RPA, others may have automated their processes extensively. There are a lot of human workflows to automate, but largely RPA is going towards using the artificial intelligence.

    – Robotics is used more and more for gathering, combining, revising and defragmenting data. That lays the basis for intelligent data processing and using it as a tool for decision-making or predicting, says Ainasvuori.

    Ainasvuori worries about those SME’s that are not capable of joining the first wave of RPA. Many smaller companies would benefit from robots and AI solutions.

    – A lot of automations are made for such things as order information, invoicing or work time management. If there is a need to type information from system to system manually, it might be a suitable task for a robot, Ainasvuori says.

    MOST Digital’s SME customer include property management services, taxi companies and accounting companies. What they have in common is that they have identified a bottleneck in their operations and automated it – thus setting the entrepreneur free to do more productive work (and often more meaningful, too).

    UDT Technologies and the next level of public transit

    UDT Technologies is a Kangasala-based startup. After having examined the existing public transit system, UDT has come to the conclusion that current modes of transport are not sufficient to meet the needs of the users nor the society. The system should be accessible, flexible, energy-efficient and low on emissions – all that at the same time.

    UDT Technologies has a solution: elevate the transportation infrastructure above the congested ground level in city centres and build a urban disc track. On the track, pods will run operated by AI and carrying both people and goods. The idea is not a new one, as the first pod systems originates from the 70s.

    – We are combining existing technologies into new solutions. First we will create digital models that provide us with facts: what’s the impact of our track on a city and how will it change the current situation, says Matti Saarinen, Business Director of UDT Technologies.

    This is known already: elevated track will bypass traffic jams, and pods don’t have to stop at the red lights. Also the track stations are located on bypasses, which means that once a pod has started the journey, there is no need to stop until it has reached its destination.

    Pods run on an on-demand basis and are called with a mobile application. Electric pods are equipped with a removable and rechargeable battery. They are low on emissions and can be recharged while electricity is cheap. 

    urban disc track and pod
    Pods run on the urban disc track, operated by AI, obtainable with a mobile app. Pods will have ample space for two, or one person with a baby stroller. Image: UDT Technologies.

    Fast track from park-and-ride to city centre

    One potential use case of the urban disc track would be the park-and-ride facilities on the outskirts on Tampere.

    – Compared to using one’s own car, our service would make the trip to city centre significantly faster. It would also reduce road traffic, noise and dust in the most congested areas, while reducing carbon footprint, says Jussi Niemioja, Innovation Director at UDT Technologies.

    – AI is capable of predicting accurately where people tend to be, and pods will automatically move where they are needed. The track management system might also use news sources to take into account for example the events, says Saarinen.

    UDT Technologies has a competitive advantage: their commitment to create  an entire transportation and service ecosystem and thus improving the standard of public transport service in cities. The work has already began by planning the track network and  with impact assessment. The next step would be to build an actual part of the track in the city.

    – When we are enabling individual on-demand services, it is much easier to organise commercially profitable public transit for certain areas, says Niemioja.

    Tampere Region – pioneering intelligent transport systems

    For UDT Technologies, participating in the Tampere AI ecosystem is self-evident: the transit system planned by UDT is based on AI and machine learning. In the ecosystem,  there are a lot of companies and people with whom the cooperate.

    – The Tampere AI ecosystem makes it so much easier to find the knowledge and skills we seek. The Tampere Region is a forerunner of intelligent transport systems and smart mobility solutions; it is surely one of the Finland’s top locations to develop UDT as a company and a system, says Niemioja.

    Visy has always been and will always be a Tampere-based company. According to Huttunen, the region is a good place for business: convenient size, location and availability of expertise. Also, Business Tampere has worked successfully to open new connections for Tampere-Pirkkala Airport, and direct flights are important for the international business.

    According to Ainasvuori of MOST Digital, an excellent AI community and network has evolved in the Tampere Region, including people, expertise and big AI names. On the other hand, the company sees that the availability and stability of personnel is better in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Most of the company’s customers are also there, and MOST Digital wishes that the AI markets would strengthen in the Tampere Region as well.

    – Public sector is often seen as being more careful to adopt new things, but they have been the first ones to use RPA. For example, the City of Tampere is a very significant robotics customer for MOST Digital, says Ainasvuori.

    Spirit of Hervanta for the AI ecosystem

    Heikki Huttunen of Visy hopes that the Tampere AI ecosystem will one day evolve to be as vibrant as the Tampere Imaging ecosystem. There is already a good start, as Tampere AI meetings have generated insights on the many assets of the local AI ecosystem.

    Huttunen wishes to communicate ”the good old spirit of Hervanta  to the entire AI ecosystem. That is: openness and sharing when facing the new things.

    Author: Päivi Stenroos

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