Tag Archive | current topics

MyData 2017 – Health Profile Hackathon

Juha-Pekka Ahvenainen, Markus Alavaikko, Markus Torkkeli

The National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) is a state agency that promotes the wellbeing and health of the population, prevents diseases and social problems, and develops social and health services. It also is the statutory statistical authority in health and welfare in Finland maintaining a knowledge base within its field of operation.

We among roughly 25-30 others participated in MyData 2017: Health Profile Hackathon on September 4th 2017 organized by THL. We enrolled in hackathon through Facebook. It was THL’s first attempt arranging a public hackathon in trying to get new ideas on how to reach out to people more efficiently.


According to Wikipedia a hackathon is usually a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and others, often including subject-matter-experts, collaborate intensively on software projects. Participants usually form groups gathering around a subject that has being set beforehand so that each group consists of a heterogeneous mass. Service designers may act as facilitators to the groups enabling their fertile work flow. A form of service design process is followed to keep things holistic and a set of methods are used to get on and beyond.

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Playfull innovation

Play has evolved as an advantageous and necessary aspect of behaviour. Why is it then that we so often leave it on other side of the office door? (Michlewski & Buchanan, 2016)


The power of Design Thinking

Design Thinking is as a creative way of thinking which leads to transformation and evolution of new forms of living and to new ways of managing business. Designers not only develop innovative solutions by working in teams with colleagues and partners, but also in collaboration with the final users.

Its visual tools (drawing, sketching, mapping, prototyping, brainstorm, etc) help professionals to identify, visualize, solve problems and preview problems in innovative ways. Enable designer inquire about a future situation or solution to a problem and transform unrealized ideas into something to build on and to discuss with colleagues, final customers and other stakeholders.

Design Thinking characteristics are analytical and emphatic, rational and emotional, methodical and intuitive, oriented by plans and constraints, but spontaneous.


Several process models have been presented. The criteria used to choose the more appropriate model include the characteristics of the task, its context, the number and composition of the team and its dynamic and the available time for the innovation process.

Some examples are: IDEO’s 3 I and HCD Models; Model of the Hasso-Plattner Institute; 4 D or Double Diamond Model of the British Council; Service Design Thinking (SDT) Model; Evolution 6² Model.

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Robot Ethics, Emphatic AI and The Importance of Multiple Perspectives

In her keynote speech in Interaction16 conference Mrs. Kate Darling from MIT Media Lab opened up a topic of social robotics. She started by reviewing common concerns that humans currently have – that robots will take over the world and eliminate human race. This concern was quickly dismissed by showing the state-of-the-art robots autonomously playing football. They cutely and clumsily stumble and fall even before reaching the ball to kick. That much about taking over the world, for now.


Humans empathize easily with cute, physical robots

Social robotics has its background in fundamental human property of being able to empathize with nearly anything. Physical objects are easier to empathize with than virtual ones. If the extra effort is made to make robot move, be cute and give it big eyes, there is no way human can resist it. This is why people behave like robots would be alive, even though they know this is not true. This is also what makes it possible to use social robotics to provide obviously value adding services like cheering up sick children, helping autistic children, being company to elderly people and easing consequences of demention.


Empathizing with a robot.

However, Mrs. Darling raised several ethical concerns and inconsistencies with the above use cases. Is it ethical to leave elderly in company of social robots and can that ever replace human to human interaction? And how it is different from leaving them in a company of a living animal? Will the people feel uncomfortable sharing personal data or undressing in front of a robot and will they feel like not having privacy anymore? And how is that different from satellites that can already take high definition pictures of nearly anything on earth? Is it really just the matter of design, i.e. making it hidden from people? Is it ethical to let people empathize with a robot and thereby leave room for emotional manipulation of human behavior?

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Participation, Narrow AI and Machines That Design

The opening keynote speech of Mr. Marko Ahtisaari in Interaction16 conference started with a piece of music. And not just about any piece but recently recomposed Vivaldi’s Spring part of the Four Seasons. How appropriate for any beginning, and especially at the time spring still needs some encouragement to show its face to the streets of Helsinki. It is not by chance that music is chosen to open the event. Mr. Ahtisaari is the CEO and cofounder of the Sync project whose aim is to untap the potential of music as a precision medicine. Yes, you read it right! Music as a highly personalized alternative to pills! A research has shown that music has powerful effect on our brain and can even unlock the people out of the motoric inability caused by Parkinson’s disease. The project is building a platform which will map music characteristics on their biometric effects. The machine learning will then be used on this set to create and deliver personalized music therapy for sleep, pain and movement disorders, to name a few.


The Sync project

In addition to the above wonderful value proposition, Mr. Ahtisaari touched on several other topics and issued several calls for action. What resonated the most is call to shift our attention from User Centricity and Objects to Participation and Systems. We need to finally realize that we coexist on this world and any action we (do not) take impacts environment around us. As Mr. Ahtisaari pointed out, we are heading to the age of Entanglement, where we highly interact with each other. Being only user-centric and optimizing experiences for the (possibly selfish) needs and wants of a single persona might not be enough anymore. This only reinforces the importance of being actively present, connected and constantly learning. In other words, being now-ists and using effectual thinking at least as much as being futurists. Fellow service dominant logic enthusiasts, doesn’t this sound familiar?


Call for action: Participation over user-centricity

Learning to live and co-create with intelligent machines is another must. As Mr. Ahtisaari puts it, we are destined to live in the world where machines will have power to surpass us and shape the world for themselves in a previously unimagined ways. This will mark the end of the era of Enlightenment.

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IoT service kit in action

Few days ago I had a great privilege to participate in the workshop sponsored by Futurice, the powerhouse of digital services. The workshop named “Creating tomorrow’s services, together” was organized as part of IxDA’s Interaction Week and Interaction16 conference, which is taking place 1.-4.March in Helsinki.

It takes a framework and toolkit …

The workshop hosts Ricardo Brito, Paul Houghton and Jane Vita kindly gave us an introduction of service design process in Futurice. The process is based around three fundamental pillars, namely Business, Technology and Service Design. The key ingredient of their success is Lean Service Creation, which has its roots in lean startup, lean agile development and service design. The process enables teams of T-shaped individuals to look at the service in a holistic way and thereby maximize chances of service success. At the same time it makes it possible to “succeed faster by failing early” and pivoting if needed.


The three pilars of a successful IoT service design

While it only sounds logical, our hosts assured us that getting people of different background to talk to each other in a meaningful way can be a nightmare. Futurice’s IoT service toolkit is an attempt to attack this problem. Its purpose is threefold. First, it establishes a common language for people with different backgrounds. Second, it guides participants’ thinking and gets them used to the fact that nearly everything around us might be connected to the Internet. Last but not least, it enables team to work together and co-create.

… And getting hands dirty …

We were given a ready set of trend cards, well known tool of Futures Thinkers. Each selected the ones that resonated strongest with one’s own interests and the teams emerged around those. Our team focused on the smart cities and the future of mobility within them. We started divergence phase by ideating the most pressing mobility problems of the smart cities. After a while we converged and decided to focus on the problem of people with limited mobility. We identified two personas, “native digital” and the “old school”.


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IoT service kit in action

IoT service kit came into play to help us diverge again. With it’s ready set of cards and 3D printed models it quickly enriched our conventional thinking with urban connected furniture, wi-fi stations, beacons, drones, self-driving cars, assistive robots, kinetic suits, horizontal elevators and all kinds of connected sensors. After quick post-it brainstorming and clustering we converged again and decided on the core enablers of our service offering, i.e. autonomous cars and assistive robots. We moved on to create storyboards and journey maps for the key use cases. We did another quick round of divergence around the business model and relatively quickly agreed on the mixture of the private-public funding and related value network.

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The Network As a (Service) Design Material

The afternoon of Interaction16 workshop day offered the event named “The network as a design material: distributed systems UX for the internet of things”, which I had a pleasure of attending. According to the workshop hosts, Claire Rowland and Helen Le Voi, it is predicted that 33 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, three times as many as in 2014. The range of services that will be built on top of this enormous mass of devices will range from smart homes, over wellbeing assistants to emergency services and beyond. Some of these will be extremely critical and will be saving lives. Others will be less critical and simply making lives more convenient. One thing is common for all of them: they will require network connectivity to bring all the devices together into a seamless experience.

Can we assume that the network connectivity will always work as expected? Certainly not. Network connections in most cases involve a heterogeneous mix of complex protocols and technologies.


A roleplay illustrating technological complexity of communicating over network

Outages, glitches and delays are part of network’s everyday. When they happen the digital service user might be experiencing unresponsive connected physical objects that were otherwise responding immediately in an unconnected world. This might be difficult for a user to accept, once it was taken for granted. Take an example of a light bulb, which is turned on and off by a physical switch in an unconnected scenario. In IoT world, that same light bulb might become unresponsive to the switch implemented as a mobile application. Reliability and latency of the network connection and limited power of the connected devices will translate into unreliable user perception of the real environment being sensed and controlled through these devices. The dimensions that should be understood and explored in the IoT case range from most visible like are UI/visual design, interaction design, industrial design, over medium-visible interusability and conceptual modelling to least visible like service design, platform design, and productization.

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From designing with an impact to investing with an impact

Public sector austerity measures are very much a reality all over Europe. This means that many of the projects that have the potential to positively impact wider populations’ well-being are short of investment. Alternative models are needed, as pointed out in a recent article, where stronger cooperation between public and private investors is made possible. Impact investing is one possible way to untap this potential, and it is gaining significant ground all over the world.

Why now, why here?

In Finland, this model has emerged in form of Impact Accelerator Programmes, a joint effort of Sitra (Finnish Innovation Fund) and FiBAN (Finnish Business Angels Network).


A danger of looking for purely financial returns (Mompi 2016)

The aim of the programmes is to support companies and organizations that solve the well-being challenges of the Finnish society. The  first three-months programme started in October 2015. It aimed at improving the ability of participant companies to develop effective services, as well as sustainable and investment-ready business model. The first programme culminated in the first ever Impact Investment Pitch in Finland, held on 23.February in Startup Sauna, where participant companies had a chance to pitch their business ideas to the investors.

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