posts displayed by category
One of the grand themes in China-Finland collaboration is urbanisation. In digital solutions, the concept of Smart City combines a variety of technology and application areas that have been selected for joint R&D&I and piloting activities that involve multiple stakeholders in active cooperation. Smart cities are not primarily about technology but about solutions for supporting planning, decision making and operative activities for the city for better serving citizens while ensuring economic and environmental sustainability and best use of resources. Many of the enabling technologies and services for smart city being studied and developed in ICT Alliance activities, also involve pre-commercial pilots in Finland and China. The topics include such as sensing, connectivity, cloud computing, geospatial services as well as social media and mobile messaging platforms, linking people and the intelligent environment. Data fusion and analysis of data originating from the variety of sources, i.e. big data, is also involved. These ongoing projects include the Finnish-led Tekes funded projects, Everyday Sensing (Cloud, IoT, data analysis, and social media), Sensing City Traffic, Finland’s Enhanced Navigation using COMPASS/Beidou Signals, and the Finnish-Chinese Green ICT R&D&I Living Lab for Energy Efficient, Clean and Safe Environments, and well as the Chinese-led MOST funded projects, IoT applied to traffic information and Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication.
For establishing active links with relevant forums and facilitators in this area the ICT Alliance coordination team (DIGILE) has recently been in discussions with such Chinese industry alliances that play key role in the area. In particular, the National Industry Alliance of Smart City Technology Innovation (NIASCTI) that is supervised by the MOHURD and being supported and cooperated with MOST and NDRC, will provide a relevant network to work with ICT Alliance for moving forward in the China-Finland cooperation.
The new services enabled by the technology and rapid penetration of mobile Internet include a variety of demand responsive services in traffic and other areas. Thus, in the Internet Economy era, innovation is very much about business models and service experiences instead of being just technology-driven. Many such services are already provided both by public actors (e.g. Kutsuplus.fi by Ajelo offered by HSL, Helsinki Region Transport) and by rapidly growing private companies. The Uber taxi service that originated from the US and since grown to a globally operating Internet company and similar services supported by the Internet giants, Alibaba and Tencent, in China, are among the prominent examples already in wide use. When combined with better understanding of users everyday activities, contexts, behaviours and needs we can expect the future demand driven and “resource optimal” services to emerge.
Smart cities – and innovative cities – are also about enabling the communities and citizens to become actively involved in services creation and in contributing to the development of the urban environment and the quality of life. Thus solutions that support participative development as well as open innovation are relevant in the future. In particular, the Open Data movement that makes public data sources, such as the data from various city services, available via open APIs for third parties to innovate new services are under active development and may form one element for joint projects. Social media analysis and creating of new solutions that leverage social media and chat services for communication with the “smart devices” are among recent trends and already included in some of the ICT Alliance projects.
Smart cities – being smart in developing neighbourhoods, building and homes
The work on smart cities in ICT Alliance can be described in a multi-layered view: smart cities consist of smart neighbourhoods with smart building and smart homes in a setting where users and communities are key actors. The related service architectures and platforms are being studied involving approaches that may provide guiding principles for the work. A good example, being jointly developed in international cooperation, is the “city-on-demand” concept that has been developed in the cooperative of led by Prof. Jarmo Suominen, Aalto University and MIT, and Dr. Su Yunsheng, Tongji University.
A sustainable city is developed by optimising the use of existing and emerging resources, supporting resource sharing, and by involving the citizens and communities in active role. For example, energy efficiency results from efficient on-demand usage of resources in mobility and housing. Work environments will be increasingly rented as a services that adapt according to the intended use by employing configurable spaces and related services, transportation will be based on combination of on-demand solutions and user optimised travel chains where environmentally sound solutions can be prioritized by users, and services for living at home support our changing habits and over time changing needs of living by providing situationally relevant configurations of spaces and services – in the best case automatically created based on observed rhythms and needs.
Such solutions range from home level, to buildings, neighbourhoods, city districts and eventually to city levels. For future cities it will be important to make the top-down City-driven initiatives and the bottom-up user and community-driven initiatives “meet-in-the-middle” and to leverage the synergies. In particular, the development of solutions for the public sector, private sector and consumer markets should be supported the variety of services in a city ranging from transport, to environmental solutions, and to health, wellbeing and senior care.
In smart city the “Service Architecture (in the city context) refers to the linking of the physical and digital environments, circumstances and people’s action. It aims at supporting people’s and organisations goals with regards to actions, habits and daily routines based on analysing the environments, circumstances, and service capability, and by linking the technical, economical and operational value to the emotional value and the customer experience. A socially dense city can also be a truly human city based on local neighbourhoods connected together in most efficient ways and energising and inspiring its users. Neighbourhoods that support flexible and multifaceted services are desirable areas – and create editable cities – where the services support their users’ everyday life and bring added value to it.
ICT enablers, in addition to the above mentioned sensing, connectivity, cloud and other technologies, include e-identity, authentication and easy to use payment solutions that make the efficient service use as easy and attractive as possible. Specific technologies currently studied in China-Finland cooperation as enablers for enabling easy access flow with automatically configurable spaces and payments is NFC. However, more advanced biometric solutions that would enable “Me as my signature” approach will also be studied. With personal data being collected from almost every aspect of people’s online activities and their physical life it will become a major asset and basis for future services.
Consequently the research and development of solutions for Personal Data Ecosystem is actively ongoing. Importantly, trust is required among the personal data ecosystem parties to allow data to flow and to be leveraged and enriched. For example, in the above outlined sharing economy services establishing trust among the parties is a necessity for their growth (examples such as Airbnb apartment rental service and Uber and other transportation network companies are well known examples). Finland as a globally recognised gateway for trusted digital services, and China as a prime mover in new digital and Internet services innovation and adoption, are well positioned to leverage their complementary capabilities and expertise in this area for the global markets.
Smart City – basis for international multi-sectoral R&D&I collaboration
The solutions for smart cities are of systemic nature and need to involve a variety of stakeholders, disciplines and technologies as well as several administrative and industry sectors. Thus, they form a natural context for cross-sectoral cooperation. For facilitation of international R&D&I and piloting activities in this area it is important to establish cooperative links among entities that represent the relevant government sectors both at national and at city level as well as close cooperation among the industry specific research entities. In Finland, the Strategic Centres for Science, Technology and Innovation, SHOKs, being prime actors in their respective industry sectors and there are several who are already involved, or becoming active in China cooperation such as CLEEN – Cluster for Energy and Environment, RYM – Built Environment Innovations, and SalWe – Health and Well-being.
Contributing to Beautiful Beijing
In ICT Alliance the current activities can be categorised by a few thematic areas including intelligent traffic and urban mobility services, environmental monitoring services, and smart home and smart building solutions. These all contribute to sustainability, in particular in resource use, and to the improved quality of living environments and services in the city and at home. And, all these areas are such that they contribute to Beautiful Beijing cooperation.
In traffic and urban mobility services ICT Alliance has launched the International Research Forum on Intelligent Sensing and Services in Urban Environment for Traffic and Mobility (ISSUE-TM) to bring the active research teams and other involved actors together in China – Finland cooperation and in wider international cooperation involving e.g. team from the US. This is the first thematic Research Forum launched under the ICT Alliance.
More information about the:
Learning from the experiences other such Research Forums are being planned in areas where active multiparty China-Finland cooperation is ongoing and there is call for such as facilitating forum that goes beyond individual projects and organisations. The ISSUE-TM involves pilots in Finland (e.g. City of Oulu, City of Tampere and Helsinki region), with University of Oulu, University of Tampere, and Aalto among key research partners. The work involves companies of current ICT Alliance projects and DIGILE’s Data-to-intelligence (D2I) programme and new are being invited. In China there are corresponding ICT Alliance projects e.g. in Shanghai and Hangzhou, and active teams in Fuzhou and in Beijing.
In environmental monitoring services the focus has been on air quality monitoring and analysis services where there has been already several years of activity towards China in the CLEEN MMEA China Testbed project. It has involved several companies such as Pegasor and Vaisala, research centers and sectoral research institutions such as VTT and FMI, and universities such as Aalto and Tampere University of Technology. This area has become particularly timely and urgent as the air quality situation has become very challenging in cities such as Beijing, and others. Among the other smart city topics related to traffic and to buildings, this is a priority in the Beautiful Beijing cooperation between China and Finland.
To facilitate joint research in digitally enabled new solutions in air quality monitoring ICT Alliance organised meetings in March 2014, leveraging also the synergies with CLEEN, for bringing together companies such as GeoStar and NavInfo in China and Pegasor, Vaisala, FMI, Active Life Village, in Finland. The concrete aim was to create cooperation in developing and testing new services to extend the already existing AirQuality Platform for Beijing provided by GeoStar and its partners. This resulted also to the submission of a joint proposal to the joint call of Tekes and MOST submitted by May 2014. In addition to fine particle monitoring and analysis, linking user generated observations as well as health advice and alerts are planned to be included. This will be important in particular for people at risk due to age or health conditions.
While the outdoor air quality will take time to improve even if strict measures would be immediately taken there are immediate opportunities to improve the quality of air – and the quality of life – indoors. This area is included in the work of some of the ICT Alliance projects, like the Finnish-Chinese Green ICT R&D&I Living Lab for Energy Efficient, Clean and Safe Environments, led by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. It will also be one of the areas to be promoted in the smart home and smart appliances cooperation aiming at wellbeing for at home. For example, the ”Home-as-a-Service Platform” concept will be adopted and demonstrated in the new Joint Lab on Intelligent Services Embedded in Everyday Life (ISEEL) in Shanghai at Sino-Finnish Centre, Tongji University, to be set up in 2014. It will initially focus on the wellbeing of seniors and will provide a base for more generic smart home services and elements in creating more comprehensive smart neighbourhood and smart city solutions. This area is discussed in more detail in Focus Area: Elderly Services and Smart Home.
Ageing of the population is a common trend in the developed countries and will start to face some of the developing societies as well. In China the challenges related to ageing society services – and the associated opportunities – are of exceptional scale. The statistics of Sixth National Population Census by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs indicated that the number of people older than 60 years was close to 200 million (over 13 percent of the total population) in 2012 and the senior population will continue to grow very fast in coming 30 years. The one child policy (4-2-1 family structure) and urbanisation will further amplify this challenge.
Consequently, there is a vast gap between the elderly care resources and the needs in this growing market. The government naturally cannot alone take the responsibility of providing the needed services for the rapidly aging population in China. This creates new business opportunities in public services, private services and in citizen and consumer driven solutions. For example, the rapid growth of the (mobile) Internet in China as well as the rapidly developing communications and cloud infrastructure and the investments in IoT and related technologies will help to provide the needed infrastructure and building blocks for new services.
The development of digital solutions for new innovative services for the aging society has been a jointly identified area for China-Finland cooperation already for some years. For example, the Sino-Finnish Active Ageing cooperation initiative was launched at Shanghai World Expo 2010 and since then developed to involve activities in other cities, like Beijing and Wuhan and being extended e.g. to Shenzhen. China-Finland ICT Alliance has also chosen Senior Services as one of the focus areas. The aim is to help senior citizens to live active and quality life at homes longer, reduce the time period spent at hospitals by supporting rehabilitation and home care, support their active participation in the society, and facilitate social interaction with relatives and friends. The focus is not just on creating solutions that would categorically set elderly apart by “old people” but taking an integrative and holistic view. One element is to use the widely deployed consumer platforms for ensuring wide availability and for having basis for rapidly scaling solutions. For example, the very recent announcements (in June) on smart home and smart health platforms and development tools by major companies like Apple and Google and similar developments in China can be leveraged. The ICT Alliance activities combine research and developments in related areas, such as smart home, personal health and wellbeing, and smart communities and cities where demand responsive and situationally relevant services for the citizens are being studied.
A prerequisite of successful and wide adoption of technology solutions in elderly services is properly organized education and training. It has been estimated that up to 30 million people need to be (re)trained in the coming years in China to provide the services and to boost the creation of this new “senior industry”. When linked with the introduction of appropriate processes and supporting technologies, the benefits from new solutions can be realised. Even training as such is a substantial joint opportunity for Finnish and Chinese partners and relates well to the also on-going cooperation in learning solutions. It is important to put these activities in the “big picture” for understanding the market and priorities. The role of real estate industry that may for example enjoy special preferential treatments and support when developing senior communities with relevant services, the on-going and planned reforms in health insurance and medical services, and the initiatives aiming at better integrating IT industry and health sector in China are examples of such major areas and initiatives to position with.
In the ICT Alliance there has been an interest among a group of universities and companies to develop cooperation that would more actively link the areas of elderly services, personal health and wellbeing and smart home together. Recently, “Home-as-a-Service Platform” concept has been introduced by DIGILE as a potential framework to bring together related activities in these complimentary areas. For example, a “Home based personal services for elderly” concept is being developed by a consortium led by Active Life Village in close cooperation with DIGILE, with cities, such as the City of Espoo and Municipality of Pyhtää, and with the Ministry of Transport and Communications. With such a comprehensive initiatives that bring together companies, universities and key public sector actors – working closely together with the Chinese development and channel partners and with the key stakeholders – we can together create more relevant propositions for the Chinese market. And in the next phase, with Chinese partners, to bring very competitive and advanced solutions to the growing international markets.
The new Research program on promoting health and wellness, planned jointly by SalWe and DIGILE, could play an important role in the senior services area and in China cooperation. It is tentatively titled as “Speedy Recovery” as it aims at drastically shortening the stay in hospitals and speeding up rehabilitation at home.
China-Finland ICT Alliance and DIGILE activities in education represent the “Learning Solutions” part of the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden (SFLG) that has been initiated by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC) and being developed in cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE). Working together with the key academic, public and industry partners in both countries, this focus area aims at bringing schools, academia, national research programmes (e.g. the Academy of Finland and Tekes, the SHOKs such as DIGILE), China-Finland ICT Alliance, companies and authorities to join their efforts to co-create modern learning solutions to foster 21st century skills among students in China and Finland. It covers learning research, teacher training and learning solutions, i.e. technology, services, and content, ranging from kindergarten to primary, secondary, higher education and to vocational and professional education.
The DIGILE and China-Finland ICT Alliance activities take place in two main areas in learning solution cooperation:
I EduTech Business Ecosystem: for creating, testing, adapting and scaling innovative solutions in education, involving international business pilots together with Chinese partners. The EduTech Ecosystem is meant for companies.
II EduTech Research Forum: for universities and research institutions, planned to launch in September 2014 (at the Forum on Education Solutions for Sino-Finnish Learning Garden – ”21st Century Learning Skills”).
In addition there are ongoing discussions for setting up joint education Cloud services for R&D&I and pilots in China.
Some observations on online education and learning solutions market in China
Online education and learning solutions area is under an active development both for serving public sector and private sector educational institutions as well as the huge online (and mobile) consumer market in China.There are several major developments and education reforms ongoing or being planned that may provide joint development and business opportunities. Examples of these include the need to deliver education to the countryside, the growing demand of vocational education including in public and private sectors, and the education reforms ranging from Kindergartens to universities that will extensively leverage digital delivery (e.g. the education cloud services, the e-textbook and e-Schoolbag initiative and others).
The Chinese education tradition has emphasised performance in exams at various levels and the major goal for students is the Gaokao national university entrance exams. In June 2014 close to 10 million students participated.There is a call for renewal of the education system to emphasise more open-ended and innovation-driven approaches and the learning of “soft skills” in addition to the “hard facts” as the prevailing education approaches are not optimal for meeting the future needs.
What Finland may bring into play also in the EduTech area is the support for enabling the move towards student-centered approach, complementing the theory and textbook based materials with real-life experiences, and providing solutions for learning the so called “21st century learning skills” in social settings, encouraging experimentation and allowing for failure. The “Learning is Fun” approach promoted by many of the Finnish education experts and EduTech companies can also encourage students to become involved in social and physical activities for learning the “soft skills” and for better wellbeing.
The rapid growth of China’s Internet and mobile user base has continued and the number Internet users in China reached over 600 million by 2013. It is particularly noticeable that since the penetration of (mobile) Internet reached close to half of the population the online education market has grown even much faster. While market growth demonstrates the potential, the field is becoming fiercely competed as market positions are being built. The established players, like New Oriental, face new challengers, including the Internet e-commerce, social networking and games giants, like Alibaba and Tencent, that provide education services and apps stores. Actually, new partnerships are being formed among the players (e.g. New Oriental has teamed up with BesTV and rumoured to also join forces with Tencent).
Some recent trends in the market indicate that parents are prepared to spend even more on the education of their child as the income level has risen. In order to adopt new solutions there should be demonstrated evidence on the benefits, including not only new skills and wellbeing but also maintaining or improving performance in the mandatory tests, when dealing with curriculum topics.
The rural-urban migration continues and will be increasing demand for vocational education and adult education encouraging private investments. Working together with actors involved in the development of the vocational education and well as in the renewal of the university sector, like the development of the universities of applied sciences in China, there will be better visibility to the needs for digital solutions and possibilities to cooperate with their development and large-scale deployment. While cooperating on research and pilots related to education reforms the learning solutions (technology and services) should be considered as a part of more comprehensive Sino-Finnish solutions, involving teacher training, curriculum development so that the learning solutions are integrated, and the development of the physical and virtual (online) learning spaces, including classrooms and complete schools that enable new kinds of learning and also support wellbeing of students.
About the challenges and opportunities in the public and private sector and consumer market
Despite the rapid growth, the consumer market in digital content and services appears to be challenging for international players. For example, the entertainment content, such as movies, music, TV shows and games the models differ from those in the West. For example, in mobile apps and games, the revenues are seldom generated from the downloads but rather in-app (in-game) purchases of value adding services, such as speeding up in the game, getting to next levels, etc. Due to the sheer size of the market experiencing growing demand of learning services in areas such as English language or mathematics, there is a lot of competition, including also free offerings. However, the parents often pay for the solutions if they can be demonstrated to bring progress in learning (e.g. in passing the curriculum tests).
Taking the market environment into account in planning, the offerings and business models will be needed. With quality content and right kinds of partnerships, the consumer market is a viable area. There is a good track record of Finnish game companies to be followed by educational offerings.
In parallel, the public education and private schools markets will be addressable when the appropriate channels are established and solutions certified. Indeed, in the public sector where the solutions are part of the curriculum, the role of education authorities is essential and without being approved to the curriculum it will be difficult to bring solutions to the market. As some parts of the curriculum may be defined at the local level, it will be important to establish cooperation with authorities and education experts who can mandate and carry out special pilots at the City and District levels. In the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden, contacts have been established with Municipal Education Commissions in Beijing and in Shanghai. For a Finnish provider, one school district even in a second tier city may be a major case.
The EduTech Ecosystem – enabling business pilots in China
While there are many interesting learning area comes in Finland they often lack the resources to go alone into new markets, like China. With EduTech Business Ecosystem, representing the learning solutions of the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden, we gather together companies to form business pilots and “clusters” to better to meet the demand. In the Ecosystem the effort and risk can be shared and the creation of a more comprehensive and therefore more attractive offerings becomes possible.
More importantly, the aim is not just to enable of Finnish solutions export and localisation in China, but together with Chinese partners to develop solutions for China and Finland – and to the global learning market.”We try to get contacts for the benefit of business solutions, experimentation, implementation and business development in China. And when we put the reputation of Finland in the game, we have together with companies to ensure that we keep our promises. This is for all of us it is a positive challenge.”
Cooperation with Tekes Learning Solution programme
EduTech Ecosystem and ICT Alliance have initiated cooperation with Tekes Learning Solution programme to leverage the synergies. On 3 June Tekes Business Breakfast was organised at Finlandia Hall by the Learning Solutions Programme in cooperation with DIGILE. The meeting gathered a number of companies and organisations interested in the EduTech Ecosystem and in exploring the Chinese education market.
The programme was opened by Ms. Suvi Sundquist, Director of the Learning Solutions Programme of Tekes, followed by presentation on EduTech Ecosystem and the Sino-Finnish Learning Garden by Mr. Matti Hämäläinen, and the FORGE Service Lab by Mrs. Pia Erkinheimo, Head of Crowds & Communities, at DIGILE. The session resulted to the group of interested companies join EduTech in areas such as primary school education as well as professional education.