Tampere is the centre of industrial AI in Finland24.1.2020
Tampere has evolved as the centre of industrial AI solutions, providing companies with a wealth of business-enhancing AI solutions and related services. The emergence of an intelligent industry cluster traces its roots to the area’s deep expertise in software and industrial artificial intelligence.
Finnish industry is digitalising: AI increases productivity, security and sustainability
Heikki Huttunen is Associate Professor of Machine Learning and Signal Processing of the Faculty of Information Technology and Communications at the Tampere University of Technology. Huttunen leads the university’s AI Hub Tampere, which helps companies adopt and implement artificial intelligence (AI) in their operations.
“Integrating AI into the intelligent machine tool manufacturing ecosystem is the best way to combine artificial intelligence and robotics. We have a long history of manufacturing machine tools here in Tampere Region, that, combined with AI, could put us in a strong position in the export market,” says Huttunen.
Juha Latvala is the CDO of Insta Group and Deputy CEO of Intopalo Digital. Insta’s experts help companies leverage digitalisation to generate new revenue and reduce costs. According to Latvala, while industrial companies are highly interested in artificial intelligence solutions, few have taken steps in this direction.
“The subject of artificial intelligence is not exactly uncomplicated. It requires business intelligence, production- and automation- as well as data analytics expertise, says Latvala.
“Industrial players interested in data-centric solutions and AI often want to increase productivity, improve the quality of a product or part of a process, or create a safer working environment. We want to increase not only efficiency but also sustainability by optimising the use of raw materials and consumables,” continues Latvala.
Artificial intelligence can increase productivity through smart machines, among other applications.
“When machines are automated, for example, in harbours or mines, special provisions have to be made and workers have to keep away from the area. This is not only expensive, but it slows down production in some respects. Smart machines, on the other hand, can use sensors to detect their surroundings, allowing people to move around the production area freely, thus greatly reducing the needed infrastructure,” Huttunen explains.
Artificial intelligence can also enable the transfer of tacit knowledge.
“Artificial intelligence can transfer human knowledge to machines. We’ve been exploring how, by using sensors, the decades of knowhow that an experienced driller possesses can be ‘passed on’ to a machine so that a young person, who’s just starting out, can perform a task on the same expert level, says Huttunen.
Artificial intelligence at its best is supportive. It has often been said that AI enables machines to operate independently, but I see its role more as facilitating human work. AI makes the machine easier to use, so you don’t have to remember ten different settings for it to operate optimally,” concludes Huttunen.
Finland excels at utilising data to increase production value
At the heart of AI solutions is data. According to Latvala, it is up to management to make a conscious choice about how they approach data and how they define the value of making data-based business decisions.
“Deciding what business strategy, from value-based modelling, to pursue is a management prerogative. I usually start by discussing with the CEO and his team how the company can improve production by utilising data”, says Latvala.
“Data analytics has been proven to improve annual production value by 4-6 percent. It is almost irresponsible not to optimise production processes, because of the cost savings on raw materials and the environmental benefits of lower emissions,” Latvala emphasises.
Huttunen agrees that companies need to see that data collection is a profitable investment. While purchasing a sensor such as a camera is easy and inexpensive, there is much more to machine learning and adopting AI.
“When companies plan to deploy AI, they may not necessarily know how to outsource AI services. There is more to AI project than software. Data collection and processing are at the heart of everything. Good artificial intelligence companies support the company’s whole process, not just machine learning,” says Huttunen.
According to Latvala, Finland is already on its way to becoming a world leader in data utilisation in industry.
“The high level of engineering and automation production skills in the Tampere region stems from the software expertise that Nokia, Intel and Microsoft brought to the area in the pastm, he says.
“Our software expertise is world-class, but the next step is to take us to the forefront of using data to drive production value. Data, not people, should decide what the software is capable of doing. Only then can we transcend the limits of human growth. In Finland, steps are being taken to this end all the time,” Latvala concludes.