Theme energy: The world of IoT comes home

VTT arranged the “Growth from the energy transition” seminar in Helsinki on 13 September 2016. During the event, VTT’s extensive know-how in the energy sector – the related research findings, scenarios and visions – was showcased. Together with our partners, we also pondered the energy revolution and growth prospects in Finland. The seminar themes are explored in more detail in our energy-themed blog series.

A wide range of visions have been presented and produced on the future of energy consumption in homes. One of the most familiar is the idea of the energy-flexible home. In addition, houses can be energy self-sufficient or, where appropriate, even generate energy for others.

The new technologies currently being tried and tested will provide the consumers of the future with the opportunity to consider various new, alternative types of energy production. As an example, let’s take the illustration in the picture of how a home of the future, with printed and energy-sensitive surfaces, might look. The wall surfaces and decorations could be energy-generating, in accordance with the situation. A table cloth, wall decoration, wallpaper or a computer’s surface could generate energy from ambient light. According to this vision, the design of living environments built around incoming light will gain a stronger foothold.


Future home.

In addition to gathering ambient energy, such a home could be smart and gather information on its surroundings and its own functions, communicating such information to cloud services or other devices. In this case, part of a home or office could be the subject of negotiated flexibility based on an agreed electricity contract, within the limits of the operational possibilities. The flexible use of energy is therefore dependent upon a definition according to the situation in question.

Consumer information and new services

In addition to energy systems, domestic appliances could ‘tell’ other devices about their own situation and ‘converse’ with each other. At the moment, it looks as though a platform economy is forming in which the so-called Internet of Things has a huge number and variety of actors at different levels. All manufacturers of home appliances and consumer electronics, and makers of sauna stoves or electricity meter readers, seem to be reaching out to consumers. Consumer information and its combination with other data appears to be the key to the new services. The impact of flexible energy consumption could be difficult to calculate in the absence of connected-up data. The greatest potential is thought to lie in the change in business models and new business opportunities. A wide range of estimates have also been made on the sums of money that the forthcoming IoT and platforms will involve worldwide.

Despite the great difficulty in estimating these sums, the change can be viewed as an opportunity in general. To ensure business continuity, it is important to identify the elements involved in such change. Legislation and various initiatives, technological transitions and standards will have an impact on activities in the long term.

For example, legislation can be used to define certain data as important to society and to rule that it must be open by law. What would the impact on business activities be if data generated by energy meters was defined as important to society and therefore open? This would avoid a closed system and data could be combined with other data, creating added value. There would undoubtedly be a major impact on business. Such situations are familiar in another context. Services related to payment services, in particular, are changing. The new Payment Services Directive will oblige banks to open up their own databases to third parties. External service vendors will gain access to a bank’s payment transactions. On behalf of customers, service vendors will be able to manage payments mainly online and through mobile channels. In fact, payments concern all services and both banks and other actors are now being consulted on the services to which payments can be connected. It is quite possible that this change will also cover energy solutions.

The role of the consumer is highlighted in the digital society. Consumers are interested in data related to their own activities and are becoming more interested in data and activities defined just for them. Digitalisation brings the service vendor closer to the consumer – the better digital services serve the consumer, the more certain it is that they will be used. Based on an integrated picture of household consumption and production, digital services can increasingly free consumers from vendor dependency. From the consumer’s perspective, the more flexibly and easily services work, the more attractive they are. Easy and clear switching between power supply agreements, comparison of terms and conditions, and integration of financial transactions with other services are already increasing consumer awareness of the alternatives and mobility on the energy markets.

To whom does data belong?

The transition will be based on a range of factors – such as regulations – and their combinations. To whom does data created by the internet, lamps, sauna stoves or televisions in households belong? This subject is so important that the European Commission has drawn attention to the matter by considering the rights to data within business chains. Another similar, but further advanced, regulation is the General Data Protection Regulation or the GDPR, which will define people’s right to their own data when it enters into force in 2018.

Secondly, standards are important when wondering what kinds of data communication layers to create. There are a number of initiatives and VTT is involved in several standards organisations and ventures. Thirdly, the technological revolution is unlikely to happen in isolation, but will require a suitable setting within the business environment. Although block chain technology is a new technical term, the passion surrounding it seems to have spread beyond the IT community. The term becomes more familiar when associated with the concept of virtual money and the word ‘bitcoin’. In this case, the interesting thing is that no single operator has centralised control over the data.  It is said that transparency and decentralization make this approach trustworthy. Examples are merely illustrative right now, but a moment may arrive when an electrical device can securely report energy quantities to a block chain.  The vision could consist of IoT devices making agreements with each other and engaging in regulated commerce in situations involving energy flexibility.

Tuomo Tuikka, Research Manager
Twitter: @tttuomo

Will sports technology replace the coach?


New digital products and services that analyse athletic performance are launched every week. They claim to help athletes improve their performance, encourage them to train, and give advice on when and for how long they should recover. These issues have traditionally been the coaches’ responsibility. Will digital sports technology make coaches a thing of the past?

From measuring the pulse to analysing athletic performance

Wearable products connected to wellbeing and sports have been actively developed in recent years. Heart rate monitors have moved from being specialist equipment for top athletes to being supermarket products available to ordinary people; at the same time, heart rate analysis is used to gather an increasingly large variety of information to help understand athletes’ training and recovery. Activity bracelets assessing people’s movement, sleep and energy consumption have rapidly developed into popular products for the general public, similarly to heart rate monitors.

At the moment, wearable sports technology is focused on products that can be used to measure the technique of a specific athletic performance and its flawlessness. In Finland, solutions are being developed for analysing the technique of running, swimming and cross-country skiing, for example. With such products, the performance analysis is based on data on the athlete collected using a small, wireless sensor. As for the business aspects, these are based on analysing the data and offering services based on the analysis.

Sports technology provides information to support coaching

The goal of sports technology is to provide information based on which the athlete and the coach can analyse the performance from a neutral point of view, without personal preconceptions. In world-class sports, the decisive moment of victory or defeat often lasts only a fraction of a second. Technology can be a great help when studying what happens in the high jump at the moment of take-off or in archery right before releasing the arrow, for example.

In addition to the trained eye, video cameras have been traditionally used to analyse performance, and measurements have also been made in test laboratories at training centres. These remain important tools, but they are starting to feel inadequate compared to the possibilities offered by wearable technology. Laboratory measurements can provide accurate data on a performance, but they nevertheless do not correspond to the performance at a competition. Video analysis of a performance that lasts for less than a second can likewise take several hours  to carry out.

Feedback immediately after the performance

With wearable technology, the performance can be analysed in the field instead of a measurement laboratory. We are approaching a situation in which the athlete’s total performance during training and competition is digitised through wearable technology. This gives the athletes detailed feedback about their performance immediately. The key performance indicators are an essential part of the feedback, but the performance can also be compared to previous performances during training or competitions, or they can be visualised for the athlete with the help of augmented reality.

Data-based coaching offers better tools for the coach and the athlete, who can focus on fine-tuning the performance. Director of Technology & Innovation for the U.S. Olympic Committee Mounir Zok agrees. At a sports technology seminar in early July he proposed that the use of technology in world-class sports is a key method in improving results: “Technology is the new secret sauce that will make or break any athlete, anywhere in the world.”

Smart networked products, the Internet of things, and real time data analytics revolutionise sports

The development of wearable sports technology is also promoted by the arrival of smart products on the wellbeing and sports market. It is based on the Internet of Things (IoT): the rapid development of sensor technology, wireless communication, data processing and digital services makes it possible to measure different kinds of events and phenomena with inexpensive, easy-to-use technology.

In the end, competitive sports share something fundamental with industry: improving competitiveness. If IoT looks like a solution for improving the competitiveness of the industry, the same logic can certainly work for competitive sports.

Will technology make coaching and coaches obsolete? No. Technology visualises what has happened during the performance. The new technology offers a more comprehensive picture than before, and it helps with understanding the performance and how it went. However, the athlete and the coach must decide together what to do next. Better information helps with making better decisions.

Petteri Alahuhta, Business Development Manager

Twitter: @PetteriA

The author has been a member of the Finnish national archery team and is currently acting as the Chair of the Finnish Archery Association.

Sports technology grows rapidly – Finland is at the top of the field

The goal of sports technology is to offer athletes and coaches better tools for improving performances. The investments in sports technology by capital investors have increased strongly in recent years. For example, during 2015 capital investors invested more than a billion US dollars in startup companies in the field. This shows faith in the demand for products and services in the field.

Finland has been a pioneer of sports technology for years. Established operators in the market such as Polar and Suunto have been developing their products for decades. In recent years, several startup companies have also started to develop their solutions for the sports technology market. Finland has high-level competence in data analytics, embedded devices, and software and service development.

As technology developers are combined with world-class sports research, Finnish companies will continue to create interesting wearable technology solutions for sports in future.

See also:

Wearable technology – VTT’s services

Presentations of the Sports Analytics Seminar in June 2016

Information about HILLA Sports Technology Growth Mill seminar

Theme digitalisation: How to navigate successfully through the digital transformation

Jukka Kääriäinen, Päivi Parviainen and Susanna Teppola continue our blog series “Theme digitalisation”, launched by Tuomo Tuikka.

People associate many threats with digitalisation, but they have expectations as well. One of the first fears is that digitalisation will take away their jobs and radically change the way companies do business. For example, the trends related to digitalisation that are already visible – the sharing economy and automation of knowledge work, such as automated decision-making through data analysis – change also the content of work and work duties, and, consequently, the labour market as well. Digitalisation also brings a lot of new opportunities for companies, the public sector and citizens alike, but they will not become achievable without a proactive change in how companies, organisations and individuals operate.

Digitalisation means a change in the modes of operation, where digital solutions are utilised comprehensively in the operations of individuals, organisations and society. The impacts of digitalisation on organisations on the one hand and on their goals on the other can be related to internal efficiency, external opportunities or disruptive change.

Internal efficiency means better internal ways of operation using digital methods (e.g. reduction of routine manual labour, real-time monitoring of operations, and reaction to/anticipation of change). External opportunities, on the other hand, mean new business opportunities in the present business area (new services, new customers). Disruptive change then refers to the disappearance of the current area of operation and emergence of new possibilities, new roles in the value chain.

In his blog text, Tuomo Tuikka introduced the digitalisation theme and wrote that there are challenges when considering the issue of digitalisation against business activity, but these can be alleviated by means of determined planning and consideration of alternatives. This requires a systematic approach, in other words, consideration of how to manage and alleviate the change caused to an organisation by digitalisation.

Unidentified opportunities of digitalisation 

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the phenomena enabled by digitalisation. At the turn of the year, we asked Finnish businesses and the public sector for their views on the situation of IoT and related challenges. Big companies in particular said that the challenge lies in the lack of an IoT strategy, whereas small companies highlighted their lack of understanding of what benefits the IoT could bring, and their uncertainty of how to proceed with developing the use of IoT in the company. Accordingly, one of the biggest challenges companies identified is adopting a novel way of thinking and, through that, new business opportunities in own operations. Such general uncertainty would seem to be associated with the change caused by digitalisation even on a wider scale.

In other words, companies have recognised digitalisation as an opportunity in Finland, but they do not necessarily know how it will affect their particular operations, or what opportunities digitalisation might afford them. In practice, it is easier for companies to make multi-million euro decisions on the purchase of new production equipment than to start considering own business operations from a new perspective. At the same time as companies should consider whether they could offer their customers or other network stakeholders totally new services, they must also evaluate the willingness, maturity and readiness of potential partners to exploit the opportunities afforded by smart solutions.

Get ready for the change required by digitalisation

People everywhere are fervently considering the transfer to digitalisation and the relevant threats and opportunities, but how can all this be implemented in practice? Nobody likes surprises – particularly if they are negative. VTT has been developing a model by which threats and opportunities related to digitalisation can be assessed in a systematic manner, and digitalisation methodically introduced to the company’s operations and products phase by phase. This model will make the company more aware of the development of digitalisation within its own sector and better prepared for the change required by digitalisation in its own business operations.

In the first phase of the model, the company analyses the potential impacts of digitalisation on the company and conjures up a picture of what the company aims at through the change. In the second phase, the company analyses its current situation in comparison with the goals. This is a natural part of the improvement activity, as we need to know where we are at to know how big a “digital leap” is required. In the third phase, the company defines the improvement steps in practice and draws up a plan on how it will take the digital leap. In the fourth phase, the digitalisation solution is implemented and validated. The model is iterative, so that the goals, plans and the solution for the company’s digital leap can be formed gradually and fine-tuned, if necessary.

For a company, digitalisation can be a threat or an opportunity but, by taking systematic steps, the company can successfully navigate through this change.

Jukka Kääriäinen, Senior Scientist

Jukka Kääriäinen

Päivi Parviainen, Principal Scientist, Research Manager

Paivi Parviainen

Susanna Teppola, Research Scientist

Susanna Teppola


Parviainen, P., Teppola, S. & Kääriäinen, J., Tackling the Digitalisation Challenge: How to Benefit from Digitalisation in Industrial Practice, under work, to be submitted to open access journal in spring 2016.

Industrial internet – hype or revolution?


The word pairing industrial internet has proved a hot topic in the discussion on the economy, industry and technology. The Finnish mainstream media have provided coverage in several articles and interviews over the past six months, while there have been a number of seminars, workshops and other events. The flood of requests to act as a speaker has prompted a number of date clashes. Major companies declare the industrial internet to be one of their strategy pillars, or at least one of its essential bricks.

Is this all hype, or is there really something behind it – a third industrial revolution, perhaps? Before giving thought to this question we should decide what we mean by ‘industrial internet’. I would describe it like this:

Industrial internet refers to the application of sensor and communications technologies and advanced data analysis methods for the purpose of increasing productivity of industry and services and generating new business. The industrial internet concept is often linked to extending digitalised operations, such as equipping employees with mobile devices.

Although the industrial internet is clearly related to what we call the Internet of Things, it is not quite the same ‘thing’. While the Internet of Things sees from an internet-technology perspective, the industrial internet approaches from the angle of applications and benefits.

The industrial internet and full digitalisation of operations are momentous developments that will affect all aspects of business life and the public service sector over the next 15 years. The forthcoming change is comparable to previous industrial revolutions, which not only altered production methods but wrought fundamental changes in business life and society as a whole.

General Electric estimates that full-scale exploitation of industrial internet potential will bring an annual one percentage point increase in global production for the next 15–20 years. One percentage point might not sound much, but calculating one per cent growth over fifteen consecutive years as compounding growth we end up with a global increase of ten to fifteen trillion dollars in national product – that is to say, an increase in products and services to the tune of 10,000 or 15,000 billion dollars each and every year. If even a part of this can be realised, we will have gone some way beyond mere hype!

Where the industrial internet is concerned we here in Finland are definitely on the move. We already have some good ingredients: a strong, international and progressive engineering sector, and an ICT sector on the lookout for new horizons. All we need is some forward thinking in developing our technology and business models. This is another thing that VTT is taking seriously, investing 90 million euros over four years in various research, development and innovation projects targeting the development of competitiveness and competencies within the business world and society relating to the industrial internet. The work falls within the framework of the Pro IoT spearhead project; view our vision publication “Productivity Leap with Internet of Things”.

Heikki Ailisto

Leader of the Pro IoT spearhead programme, Research Professor

Teollinen internet – hype vai vallankumous?











Sanapari teollinen internet on noussut taloutta, teollisuutta ja teknologiaa koskevassa keskustelussa vahvasti esille viime talven aikana. Helsingin Sanomat, Tekniikka ja Talous sekä Kauppalehti ovat käsitelleet asiaa useissa artikkeleissa ja haastatteluissa viimeisen puolen vuoden kuluessa. Erilaisia seminaareita, työpajoja ja muita tilaisuuksia on ollut useita. Pyyntöjä alustajaksi on tullut jopa niin, että ne ovat sattuneet samalle päivälle. Merkittävät yritykset julistavat teollisen internetin muodostavan yhden strategiansa peruspilareista tai ainakin kuuluvan siihen olennaisesti.

Onko tässä kyse hypestä vai todella merkittävästä asiasta – kolmannesta teollisesta vallankumouksesta? Kysymystä pohdittaessa on ensin päätettävä, mitä teollisella internetillä tarkoitetaan. Kuvailisin sen näin:

Teollisella internetillä tarkoitetaan anturi- ja tietoliikenneteknologioiden sekä kehittyneiden tiedon analysointimenetelmien soveltamista teollisuuden ja palveluiden tuottavuuden parantamiseen ja uusien liiketoimintojen syntymiseen. Usein teollisen internetin käsitteeseen liitetään myös toiminnan digitalisointi laajemmin, esimerkiksi työntekijöiden varustaminen mobiililaitteilla.

Teollinen internet on selvästi sukua esineiden ja asioiden internetille – keksisikö joku paremman suomennoksen Internet of Thingsille : ) , mutta se ei ole ihan sama asia. Kun esineiden ja asioiden internet katsoo asiaa internet-teknologian näkökulmasta, teollinen internet lähestyy sitä sovellusten ja hyödyn näkökulmasta. Kannattaa muuten muistaa, että teollinen internet on suora suomennos industrial internetistä, ja kuten ruotsin ja englannintunneilta muistamme, industrie ja industry ovat laajempia käsitteitä kuin suomenkielen konkreettinen teollisuus.

Teollinen internet ja toiminnan läpidigitalisoituminen on iso asia, joka vaikuttaa kaikilla elinkeinoelämän ja julkisten palveluiden sektoreilla seuraavien 15 vuoden aikana. Tulevaa murrosta on verrattu aiempiin teollisiin vallankumouksiin, jotka muuttivat paitsi tuotantotapoja, myös elinkeinoelämää ja yhteiskuntaa perusteellisesti.

General Electric arvioi teollisen internetin mahdollisuuksien täysimittaisen  hyödyntämisen tuovan tuottavuuteen maailmanmitassa yhden prosenttiyksikön lisän vuosittain seuraavien 15 – 20 vuoden ajan. Yksi prosenttiyksikkö ei kuulosta paljolta, mutta kun yhden prosentin kasvua pannaan peräkkäin vaikka viitenätoista vuotena, ja lasketaan kasvua kasvulle, päädytään maailman mitassa kymmenestä viiteentoista biljoonaan dollariin lisää kansantuotetta – siis 10 000 tai 15 000 miljardin dollarin arvosta enemmän tuotantoa ja palveluita joka vuosi. Jos osakaan tästä toteutuu, kyseessä ei ole pelkkä hype!

Suomessa ollaan vahvasti liikkeellä teollisen internetin suhteen. Meillä on hyvät edellytykset: vahva, kansainvälinen ja edistyksellinen konepajasektori sekä uusia suuntia hakeva ICT-ala. Nyt tarvitaan ennakkoluulottomuutta sekä teknologian että liiketoimintamallien kehittämisessä. VTT ottaa (tämänkin) homman tosissaan ja satsaa neljän vuoden aikana yritysten ja yhteiskunnan teollisen internetin kyvykkyyksien ja kilpailukyvyn kehittämiseen 90 miljoonan euron arvosta tutkimus-, kehitys- ja innovaatiotyötä useissa projekteissa. Työ tehdään Pro IoT -kärkiohjelman puitteissa, käy tutustumassa myös visiojulkaisuumme ”Productivity Leap with Internet of Things”.

Heikki Ailisto

Pro IoT –kärkiohjelman vetäjä, tukimusprofessori