Companies focused on data analysis in the Programme are the top in their field. For example, Avaus is designing and implementing solutions related to data management for many large companies in the European market; whereas Invenco specializes in data storage and its operations cover all the important database products.
The N4S Programme includes expertise in designing embedded systems. Applications where microprocessors have been used to provide intelligence for the devices are abundant in consumer electronics, automation, mobile phones or, for example, in switchboard operations. These applications exist in vehicles in particular: combustion engine control systems, anti-lock brakes, traction control and on-board computers.
Metso operates in many sectors and is a supplier of device and service solutions for industries that design embedded systems for the process industry. Another Finnish company, Elektrobit develops the most progressive embedded technology solutions in its field for the car industry and wireless systems.
Digitalization is taking traditional industries by storm. Future devices and home appliances consist increasingly of embedded systems that use information networks to communicate with each other. Ericsson, a world-leading supplier of internet solutions, forecasts that by 2020 there will be more than 50 billion devices operating with a network connection.
Janne Järvinen, External R&D collaboration Director of F-Secure and Focus Area Director of the N4S Programme, believes that the business operations of traditional large industrial companies will gain new opportunities when the latest technology developed by software companies is utilized.
"It will not merely be small and medium-sized software companies leveraging the new opportunities, there are also large companies, such as Ericsson, Huawei and Elektrobit, involved in the programme."
It is not sufficient enough that digital products are available to everyone in the Cloud. In addition to mobile applications, successful companies must also collect data regarding customer behaviour in a sensible manner. According to Janne Järvinen, companies must understand their customers very well and engage in constant interaction with them. This applies to traditional industries as well as sectors of new innovation.
"The transformation of the new digital economy is so rapid and immense that companies must be able to follow and manage their business with a new flow and rhythm. This is how the best gaming companies operate already. If large companies wish to maintain their competitive edge, I do not see any other possibility but to adopt a new kind of rhythm. This requires critical inspection of existing structures, and their possible elimination."
Janne Järvinen believes that change is possible if the companies build an infrastructure that enables real-time reactions and service. The N4S Programme is actively creating this type of infrastructure.
"In practice, you have to have the technical competence to produce, test and deliver software to customers customer almost in real-time. You also have to be able to obtain feedback and react to it just as quickly."
As an example, Janne Järvinen mentions F-Secure, which has developed such a system for virus protection. It is proven that F-Secure provides the best data security in the world. The company, who has received many awards and certificates, has quickly started developing different Cloud services. Younited, their new private Cloud solution for everyone, specialises on security with sharing and syncing capability for any device, anytime and anywhere. F-Secure can process as much as 300,000 malware samples per day, and it can provide a nearly real-time response at best.
"Reacting through the system developed by F-Secure is very quick, because it is a system dedicated to combating malware in particular. Similarly, some gaming companies are able to provide a very quick response too. The idea is to apply the same method systematically and broadly in Finnish software-intensive industry."
Even though reacting to changes must become faster, it cannot be done at the expense of quality. Traditional quality assurance methods are not sufficient in real-time business operations. Therefore, new analytic methods and testing techniques are needed, based on lean thinking. New methods for designing, developing and testing software and accelerating production are being created during the N4S Programme.
"New methods are related to making the whole production chain faster. These methods include dividing things into smaller parts, iteration and strong automation. In practice, therefore, one small amendment can be made for the customer, which will be implemented and reviewed. Then it will be locally tested and integrated with other parts, against the whole system. When this has been done, it will be delivered to the customer for deployment. The change is significant, since previously even the smallest amendment was delivered to the customer but only together with a larger update."
Janne Järvinen's vision is an application with which, just by clicking, it is possible to easily conduct 'business experiments', as he puts it - for example, testing two or three versions of the new property for the product or service. Through the system, the different versions are implemented and tested with different customers in different countries. The following day, Janne Järvinen would obtain information about the purchase behaviour of the customers. If, for example, 64% of people in a certain country liked version C, it will be selected for further development.
Before becoming the Director of the N4S programme, Janne Järvinen spent four years as the Director of the Cloud Software Programme. What were the lessons learned from the Cloud Software Programme and what kinds of good practices did it bring to the N4S Programme?
"Co-operation, co-operation and co-operation. The Cloud Software Programme proved that even large joint projects can be successful, if common values are discovered and genuine cooperation constantly sought. A tangible innovation was to apply incremental techniques known in the software industry, such as SCRUM, in the research project. In this manner, transparency was gained for work in different organisations faster compared to the traditional models."
The N4S Programme has been divided into work packages, which focus on three large focus areas:
1. Delivering value in real-time provides approaches, methods and tools for quickly and inexpensively designing, creating, and empirically evaluating mock-ups or prototypes of new products and services. These include software-intensive systems (SiS) and hardware-based products.
2. Deep customer insight work package aims to create data-informed design solutions. A deep understanding of customers and products is garnered by gathering data continuously from the live use of the products.
3. Mercury business work package enables companies to seek new ways to run their existing business, but also to transform themselves into completely new businesses and fields of business - behaving much like liquid mercury.
There are 33 companies and research institutions operating in Finland who are involved in the NS4 Programme. These include: Aalto University, Åbo Akademi University, Avaus, Cybercom, Descom, Digia, Elektrobit, Ericsson, F-Secure, Gosei, Huawei, Inno-W, Invenco, Ixonos, JAMK University of Applied Sciences, Jutel, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Metso, Nokia Solutions and Networks, PacketVideo, Qentinel, Reaktor, Tampere University of Technology, Tieto, Tribeflame, Visma, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä, University of Oulu, Vaadin, VividWorks, Vincit and VTT.
Managed by DIGILE, the four-year programme is funded by Tekes and participating companies.
More information about the Need for Speed (N4S) Programme is available at http://www.n4s.fi/