28 MAY 2021
Trust in the digital age requires teamwork Researchers on the rugby pitch
The good-guy hackers
Quantum literacy for all
Snow rugby being played in the freezing cold. Go to page 24 and see how Aalto employees Ivan Vujaklija (l.), Christopher Jonkergouw and Eduardo Anaya are researchers by day who, a few days a week, at night turn into wet, mucky men whose only objective is to score a try – working together as a team.
Photo Aki-Pekka Sinikoski
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Building 12 digital trust 24 On the go with
gentle rugby giants
Quantum literacy 38 for all
5 Openings – Kati Hagros and the values of algorithms. 6 Now – Bite-sized news, big issues. Universities launch collaboration to produce 5G experts. Renovation of Aalto University Töölö complete. 10 Oops! – Miri Stryjan and the lost research diaries.
OUR THEME IS trust 12 Theme – Goodies outnumber baddies in the digital world. 17 Column – Annamari Vänskä and intimacy in data-driven culture. 18 Theme – Esa Saarinen and an atmosphere of human trust. 20 Who – Sami Marttinen and the story of Swappie. 24 On the go – Rugby is a sport for gentleman thugs.
30 Wow! – Brave student athletes. 32 On science – Lasse Mitronen and Mikko Hänninen discuss solutions for online commerce. 34 On science – Scientific news in brief. 36 Collaboration – Naisten Linja service design project searching for solutions to online abuse. 37 On science – Repetition is a building block for machine intelligence. 38 On science – Quantum literacy soon a required civic skill. 43 On science – Specialised networks keep data secure. 44 In-house – Virtual tour of campus in Otaniemi. 46 Doctoral theses – Saija Hollmén and humanitarian architecture; Janin Koch and digital tools for creativity; Marko Voutilainen and the mathematical modelling of phenomena. 48 Everyday choices – Kaie Kubjas and secure maths. 50 Collaboration – Student-driven Entremo project creates tool for monitoring patients remotely.
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ON THE JOB
The team assembled. From left: Ilona Ilottu, Janne Koivu, Eeva Sivula, Petri Salmela and Zorro the dog.
Us three co-founders of the firm Dog Design, Ilona Ilottu, Eeva Sivula and Petri Salmela, are all Aalto alumni from almost 30 years back. Memories of the University of Art and Design Helsinki magazine Arttu and other publications came to the fore when we were offered the opportunity to start collaborating with the editors of Aalto University Magazine. After graduating, we all worked at Finland’s most significant
magazine houses. This fostered our appreciation of the printed word and image, honing our desire to produce high-quality and reader-friendly work. The trust our clients place in us today is the result of our long experience. A shared vision and enthusiastic interaction always leads to the creation of something wonderful. Teamwork is an important part of the planning process for us. We honed ours during the early days around the only computer in our office, as one of us worked on the
terminal while the others observed and commented. Listening forms the foundation of trust, and our ability to listen is, alongside creativity, our most important tool. The fourth long-term and invaluable member of our team is graphic designer Janne Koivu. Our faith in him is unshakeable when it comes to putting those all-important finishing touches to our work. Janne is the final hawkeyed gatekeeper after us ‘artists’ and before the printing press.
PUBLISHER Aalto University, Communications EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Communications Director Jaakko Salavuo EDITORS Paula Haikarainen, Riikka Haikarainen, Riikka Hopiavaara LAYOUT/PHOTO EDITOR Dog Design COVER PHOTO Aki-Pekka Sinikoski TRANSLATION Ned Kelly Coogan, Saana Kallioinen CONTRIBUTORS IN THIS ISSUE Antti Aimo-Koivisto, Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne, Terhi Hautamäki, Mika Huisman, Juho Huttunen ,
Minna Hölttä, Katrina Jurva, Jaakko Kahilaniemi, Saana Kallioinen, Kalle Kataila, Veera Konsti, Tero Koski, Anni Kääriä, Tapio Nirkko, Aleksi Poutanen, Marjukka Puolakka, Mikko Raskinen, Helena Raunio, Panu Räty, Pasi Salminen, Aki-Pekka Sinikoski, Heidi Strengell, Tiina Toivola, Noora Typpö, Lauri Veerde, Nita Vera, Annamari Vänskä, Jani Wallenius, Sanni Wessman, Ida-Maria Wikström ADDRESS PO Box 18 000, FI-00076 Aalto TELEPHONE +358 9 470 01 ONLINE aalto.fi/magazine EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org CHANGE OF ADDRESS email@example.com PRINTING COMISSIONED BY Unigrafia Oy, 2021 PRINTING Grano Oy, 2021 PAPER Maxioffset 190 g/m2 (covers) & 100 g/m2 (pages) PRINT RUN 3 000 (English edition) & 30 000 (Finnish edition) SOURCE OF ADDRESSES Aalto University CRM Partnership and alumni data management PRIVACY NOTICES aalto.fi/services/privacy-notices ISSN 2489-6772 print ISSN 2489-6780 online
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I am a cautious, not an early, adopter of digital services. I’ve joined social media groups and started using Airbnb only after sufficiently many of my acquaintances had been users for about a year. I submit only a minimal amount of personal information to these services. My aged mother is still afraid to use her credit card for online retail. My efforts to convince her of the major benefits and minor risks have, so far, been in vain. My teenage son, on the other hand, has no hesitation about adopting digital services, but wonders just how much does Google know about him and why elections still haven’t been moved to the net. Different generations and groups of users have very disparate attitudes towards digital services. On what grounds do we decide who or what to trust online? Interpersonal trust is a heavily researched topic in psychology. It stems from competence, predictability, consistency and goodwill. Trust has traditionally been seen as a fairly slowly forming process, building it takes time. The psychological foundations of trust aren’t changing even as the world goes digital, but the creation of trust is increasingly fast-paced, decentralised and mediated via technology. Absolute trust in institutions is also crumbling – on many matters, people already report that they have more trust in their own social media groups. The contemporary world requires us to make judgements about not only the reliability of individuals and institutions, but also of technology and algorithms. Our lives literally depend on the safety features of transport equipment and the robots that analyse laboratory samples. Hacking and identity theft scare us, yet we demand digital services that are tailored to us. So should we trust technology? Of course, as we can make machines that are fantastically adept, predictable
and consistent. Blockchains cannot be manipulated, unlike groups of people. But can we trust in the benevolence of machines? Questioning the goodwill of machines may sound amusing, but it is a key ethical issue in the research and development of information systems, algorithms and artificial intelligence. Information systems make decisions based on algorithms, and algorithms have values. These values must be made visible just like the values of decisionmaking people and institutions. Aalto University’s values – responsibility, courage and collaboration – steer the building of a sustainable future. Our work is based on researched, reliable information and the community’s internal trust. And Aalto is trusted as well. Right now, that is especially valuable: universities are needed to lead the way in a digitising world. Kati Hagros Chief Digital Officer, Aalto University
Machine goodwill has a funny ring to it, but it is a key ethical issue in the research and development of information systems, algorithms and AI.
Fast and slow trust in the digital age
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Finnish universities join forces to train 5G experts The Ministry of Education and Culture has granted €1.05m in funding to the FITech 5G project, which will provide free-of-charge university courses to at least one thousand students in Finland. All eight member universities of the FITech network as well as the University of Helsinki, along with a number of industry companies, are participating in the project, which is being coordinated by Aalto University with Professor of Networking Technology Heikki Hämmäinen serving as its academic director. The courses on offer will be announced on the FITech website (www.fitech.io) by summer 2021 and the selection is set to expand in the
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autumn. Course topics will include, for example, the internet of things, embedded internet, system vulnerabilities and wireless technologies. Applications for courses are registered through the Studyinfo service, and participation will be free of charge throughout the project period until the end of 2023. Anyone may take part in these courses, students do not need to be registered at Aalto. 5G network technology enables fast and high-capacity mobile connections. The ongoing pandemic has spurred the move to 5G technology by increasing demand for remote work, remote production control tools and other new services requiring fast mobile connections.
best in the world in the field of arts and design. QS World University Rankings 2021
Aalto patent applications reach fresh record
Unique new professorship to focus on ownership
Recent data from the Finnish Patent and Registration Office reveals that Aalto University was, with its 52 applications, the country’s fourth-most active patent applicant in 2020. Only Nokia’s business divisions and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland filed more applications than the University. ‘Patents are applied for especially in the various technological fields as well as in biomaterials, physics, neuroscience, information technology, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and information networks,’ says Janne Laine, Vice President for Innovation at Aalto University. Patent applications from Aalto University have increased fivefold since 2012. Moreover, some Aalto inventions are transferred to companies as part of commercial collaboration, which is not reflected in the number of the University’s patents. One recent innovation is the bolo meter, a nanoscale measuring device. These graphene-based devices are small enough to fit inside bacteria. The quantum technology firm IQM, a commercial spin-off from Aalto University’s and VTT’s shared ecosystem, is utilising these devices in its effort to build Finland’s first true quantum computer.
The School of Business is establishing a chair on ownership. The endowed professorship will be the only one of its kind anywhere in the world. Ownership is an integral part of the market economy and the international mobility of capital further underlines the significance of developing a deep understanding of it. The digitalisation of the economy is also likely to increase the different forms, phenomena and opportunities of ownership. Timo Korkeamäki, Dean of the School of Business, says the new professorship will play an important role in producing research and spreading its findings to support societal decision-making. ‘Surprisingly little research has been produced on how ownership impacts the operations and success of companies as employers, taxpayers and engines of growth. The new professorship will help bridge this gap,’ Korkeamäki says. The new professorship will be full-time and endowments have secured its funding for
20 years. Among others, donations have been received from the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, the Saastamoinen Foundation, the Finnish Foundation for Share Promotion, the Family Business Network, the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, Oras Invest, Ensto Invest and the Foundation for Private Entrepreneurs. The recruitment process has already started and the plan is to have the new chair occupied by no later than January 2022.
The School of Business’ Harvardstyle lecture hall can be divided into two sections.
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Photos: Mikko Raskinen
THE RENOVATION of the former School of Business main building, now known as Aalto University Töölö, has finished and the venue is once again filled with activity. The main user of the building, located on Helsinki’s Runeberginkatu, is Aalto University Executive Education Oy (Aalto EE), a provider of management training and development services. The building contains two interesting new works of public art. In addition, it is also home to the extensive Aalto EE collection, which consists of some 300 art works.
Kristina Riska’s ceramic sculptures Inevitableprogress I & II decorate the lobby. The large, hollow pieces depict the limitations and possibilities of being human. Sakari Kannosto’s piece KiertääCircle is located in the staircase. The design of the spatial art work, made out of brass tubes and recycled glass, was inspired by the seeds of a Norway maple.
THE SATELLITE is a team-spiritbuilding card game developed by four students inspired by the Aalto-1 satellite. It is played with a deck divided into five suits: spades, clubs, hearts, diamonds and stars. These cards can be used to play the usual card games in addition to the student-developed novelty, instructions for which come with each deck. The game was created on the From Idea to Shelf course in collaboration with Aalto University Shop. shop.aalto.fi Anni Kääriä
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FASHION DESIGN STUDENT IDALIINA FRIMAN has won
the Designers’ Nest 2021 competition arranged in Copenhagen. Friman utilises surplus fabric, recycled yarn and a cottonlike substance made out of plastic bottles as materials for her designs.
Her victorious collection Hetta was inspired by her own family history: her Swedish-speaking great-grandfather had to flee to Lapland following the outbreak of the Civil War, and the clothes in her collection contain references to that struggle.
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Research data at the mercy of weather and insects Assistant Professor Miri Stryjan learned how small bumps along the way could affect the big picture.
‘When I was completing my PhD in economics at Stockholm University, I was really interested in development economics. For my final paper, I focused on loans in developing countries and joined a joint research project with a Ugandan-based NGO focused on microfinance. In the research we started in 2012, we evaluated the NGO’s savings programme in a remote area of Uganda in which young women were participating. The organisation had nine small offices, and each had a programme assistant. In all, 1500 people were divided into 100 savings groups. Each group was supposed to elect leaders to oversee the group’s savings and loans as well as to record related data in logbooks. At the time, an ongoing conflict prevented us from travelling to the area in person, so we provided local contacts with instructions. Bit by bit, I received data from the local offices. I decided to look at who had received loans, how much the group saved, who remained in the group. But the data was patchy, and there were many names I couldn’t match with people who had completed the initial survey. In 2015, I visited Uganda to do a follow-up survey and collect administrative data. I had planned to visit all the local offices to take photos of the record books. But when I started talking to the offices, I noticed that they didn’t have any records or data. So, I had to visit each of the 100 small meeting places separately to look at their logbooks. Often, the group’s logbooks were stored in mud huts. The data was patchy as pens weren’t always accessible, and sheets from the books had been torn out and used for other things. Some of the books had been damaged by rain or insects. It was a stressful experience as I realised, once again, I couldn’t use the data. I had the feeling that perhaps nothing in our project had gone according to plan. I felt like the situation was hopeless and that I wouldn’t be able to write my paper on the project and might not finish my PhD on time. When I returned to the project’s local office in the area’s biggest town, I was pleased to find documents that I could use. I found each group’s leader’s name and the reason for the discrepancy in how the project had been managed. With this information, I was able to find a different angle for my research and conduct a follow-up survey to get enough consistent data. The resulting paper was critical for completing my studies.’
Text Saana Kallioinen Portrait Kalle Kataila Illustration Noora Typpö
Finland was named the world’s happiest country for the fourth year running. One of the factors behind our success is trust, which functions like a lubricant in society’s wheels. But how does it occur in our global and networked everyday lives?
12 Theme – Goodies outnumber baddies in the digital world. 17 Column – Annamari Vänskä and intimacy in data-driven culture. 18 Theme – Esa Saarinen and an atmosphere of human trust. 20 Who – Sami Marttinen and the story of Swappie. 24 On the go – Rugby is a sport for gentleman thugs.
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The builders of digital trust A society gone online needs encrypters, white hats and appropriately suspicious citizens. Text Minna Hölttä Illustration Sanni Wessman
ore than 5.3 exabytes of information are transferred via the internet every day. This is an enormous amount: all of the words ever uttered in human history could fit into the same space. The first internet message in history was transmitted over the ARPANET network in 1969. The message was meant to go from University of California UCLA to Stanford University, just over 600 kilometres away. But the phone booth-sized computer switched off before it completed the transmission. The first-ever message was a stump – LO. Programming student Charley Kline didn’t give up, however, and turned the machine back on. UCLA messaged LOG, Stanford replied IN – and the researchers even confirmed over the telephone that these letters had in fact been delivered. Today, more than 300 billion e-mails and 60 billion WhatsApp messages are sent around the world each day. The number of internet users is approaching 5 billion and the average time spent online is some 7 hours a day, most of which happens on mobiles. Our everyday life became digital in just half a century. What or who makes sure that our online lives are secure?
Concealed images and key pairs One such person is Aalto University Assistant Professor Chris Brzuska. He specialises in cryptography or encryption methods. The word krypto is of Greek origin and refers to the hidden or the secret. The Greeks of antiquity would tattoo secret information in image form on the shaved scalps of their slaves and send them out. Once the slave arrived at the destination months later, their head would be shaved again, making the message readable. Modern cryptography is based on maths and computer science. ‘It researches and develops methods that protect systems and their users from adversarial interference. Whenever data is transferred over the internet, it needs to be encrypted to prevent outsiders from hearing or reading it,’ Brzuska says.
‘Like in the physical world, the goodies overwhelmingly outnumber the baddies in the digital sphere.’ The work is done by employing mathematical algorithms and encryption keys that scramble the message into a format, which can be decoded only with the right key. There are two principal approaches to encryption: the symmetric-key method and the asymmetric or public-key method. In the first approach, the same key is used to encrypt and decrypt messages, requiring both sender and recipient to either know the key or find a way to transfer it via a secure channel. Often this cannot be done. This is when the public-key method is used. It is based on a key pair of a public-key and a secret-key such that the secret-key is hard to compute, given only the public-key. The pair’s public key encrypts the message, while the private key decrypts it. The parties only need to convey their public keys to each other to enable encryption. ‘It’s a really cool concept, without which the entire net’s encryption would collapse in an instant. When Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman came up with the idea, few people could have thought that it would have a practical application. Back in the 70s, it was inconceivable that someone would want to share 14 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28
secret information with complete strangers,’ Chris Brzuska says. Users typically don’t need to think about keys and algorithms, as these are handled by software applications and communications systems. Encryption protects instant messages, payment traffic and webpages alike – the letter s at the end of the https component of a web address specifically indicates that the resource is accessed via a secure, encrypted connection. A trade-off is often necessary between security and functionality, making it necessary to choose how much of one you desire at the expense of the other. Brzuska notes that contactless payments provide an apt example of this: the downside of the convenience of this method is that, should a card fall into the wrong hands, it is easy to use it to make unauthorised purchases. People are also affected unequally when protection fails. ‘Striving for equality is a major source of inspiration for me personally. Should a couple of hundred euro vanish from my account, I know what steps to take to get it back – and I won’t starve while waiting for the money. Not everyone is as privileged,’ Brzuska says. Brzuska and his students have been involved in the effort to improve many widely used encryption protocols. A lot can be done but no matter how refined a mathematical model may be, it cannot cover every possible eventuality in the real world, he says. Even the most sophisticated model can contain a hole or two. Digital scouts In January 2021, the United States Department of Defence tweeted about a fresh milestone: the number of vulnerabilities discovered in its information systems had just passed the 25k mark. The US government’s annual data security budget is worth some €15b. Yet the tone of the tweet was celebratory instead of regretful – and for good reason, says HackerOne CEO Mårten Mickos. ‘Once bugs are discovered, they can also be fixed.’ HackerOne is a network of white hat hackers. Besides the Pentagon, its assistance is relied on by the likes of Google, Lufthansa, PayPal and Twitter. The digital world has borrowed the term ‘white hat’ from the heroes of old Western films. A million white hats from around the world are already involved in HackerOne. Mickos describes them warmly as something like the girl scouts and boy scouts of the digital sphere, people with high morals, good hearts and a desire to lend a hand. ‘And they’re of course also incredibly smart and boundlessly curious. Most are men and women in their twenties, and almost all are self-taught. They have honed their problem-solving skills all their lives by doing the very thing their parents nagged them about – playing video games. For companies they are almost like lifeguards.’ Companies reward these hackers for discovering vulnerabilities, with the amount determined based on how serious the issue is. The reward for finding
a critical bug that jeopardises, say, the operation of a factory or power plant putting the economy, health or security at risk can easily be tens of thousands of euro. But it is important to find and patch also the bugs that appear harmless. Mårten Mickos compares the situation to a boat or a log cabin: a small hole won’t immediately sink or collapse it, but can be the start of a leak or provide access for breaking further in. ‘The hack of the credit reporting agency Equifax is a good example. It started from a single small vulnerability. For Equifax, the compensation, repairs and fines associated with this breach eventually cost some €1.5b. And, of course, the personal information of millions of people that got stolen couldn’t be returned for any price.’ Nobody knows the exact number of information security vulnerabilities in existence, but even the more careful estimates put it at hundreds of millions globally. Every 39 seconds, a black hat hacker launches a data security attack in some corner of the world. Among them are professional criminals, actors engaged in political warfare, reckless teenagers and simple thieves. For some robbers, getting away with €50 to feed their family is enough incentive for them to ignore the harm inflicted to a faceless stranger on the other side of the world. But you shouldn’t let these numbers get you down,
Mickos stresses. The digital world is still in the prototype stage and, just like the abovementioned log cabin, it can be shielded, patched up and any bad parts replaced entirely. ‘Like in the physical world, the goodies overwhelmingly outnumber the baddies in the digital sphere. The goodies are skilled, ambitious and prepared to share their knowledge. However, we do need better data security education, openness and collaboration against emergent threats, as the defence only wins when the opponent fails to get through even once.’ And defence cannot be the sole responsibility of the hacker goodies. Healthy distrust The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic quickly became noticeable on Cyber Weather as well. Cyber Weather is a monthly report on key information security incidents compiled by security expert Aino-Maria Väyrynen and her colleagues at the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency’s National Cyber Security Centre. ‘Up-to-date information is the best remedy against data security threats. Along with a dose of healthy distrust,’ she says. Phishing for data and money through email is one of the information security threats most often
‘Criminals will go where the citizens are.’ encountered by the average citizen. With the advent of Covid-19, these messages began to repeat sad stories of job losses, bankruptcy and money troubles that the good recipient could perhaps help with. Phishing is potentially very profitable for criminals because the returns are large relative to the risk and effort. ‘They also do it as their profession and are thus very good at it,’ Väyrynen says before listing some basic guidelines for a safe digital life. Every service must have its own password, which is as difficult to guess as possible. And because it is impossible to remember numerous strong passwords, you should install a password management application. Two-factor authentication enhances security enormously and should be implemented in at least your email and social medial accounts. It can take the form of a password or a text message, as is often the case with payment transactions, or a separate app installed on the user’s phone. It is wise to back up your data, either in the cloud or on your own devices. Keep in mind that the authorities will never ask for 16 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28
your banking passwords, and you should never share them with anybody. And if you have any doubts at all, take a pause. ‘Taking a breather is always a good idea. You should not rush into opening links and files sent by unknown sources. And if someone calls promising to fix your computer, requiring you to just grant them access to install a program, the question you should be asking yourself is: would a global corporation really have personal customer service this good? Many con artists will claim the matter is urgent, so that’s always a warning sign, too,’ Väyrynen points out. Changes in the Cyber Weather are sudden and sharp. Social media, for example, has opened up entirely new opportunities for romantic swindlers who can drain their victims of money from behind fake profiles. If Aino-Maria Väyrynen had to make a forecast, she’d say the next disturbing clouds will be associated with the Internet of Things. The fact is that many devices, such as home appliances, are not designed to be linked with the web. And once they are connected, information security may well not be up to desired standards. A malicious neighbour might turn on your sprinkler, accessible through an open network, letting it flood the lawn around the clock for the duration of your family vacation. A spiteful ex could eavesdrop and peep in if your house contains unprotected microphones or cameras. A thief might crack a sloppily installed, web-visible locking system and break in. Criminals will go where the citizens are, Väyrynen says. ‘This is why citizens need to pay their personal information security attention equal to that which they give to their home security.’
Smart clothes may one day save your life, but privacy is a concern issued a warning – and may eventually get the boot. The HR departments of many companies have also started examining the possibility of utilising wearable tech to monitor the occupational wellbeing of employees. For example, smart rings could gather data on stress and fatigue levels, which could then be used to reduce workloads. The motivation for adopting wearable tech in the workplace is straightforward: efficient and healthy employees are a more valuable resource for the company than unwell and ineffective workers. Wearable tech has a lot of promise: it can make work more efficient, improve the mental and physical wellbeing of employees, and reduce workplace accidents. But as the more dystopian example mentioned in the foregoing demonstrates, the development of wearable tech is not without its challenges. Solving them will call for the input of multidisciplinary research groups. Employee privacy rights are one key challenge. Privacy rights extend to the data these devices gather on heart rate, number of steps or body movements. Researchers and designers need to cooperate with employees in determining what kinds of information it would be reasonable to monitor. To achieve mutual trust, employers and employees must come to an understanding of what applications it is appropriate to utilise and, first and foremost, what types of data on employees can be collected and analysed. This may necessitate legislative changes in some cases. Annamari Vänskä The author is Adjunct Professor of Fashion Research at Aalto University and leads a research project in the Intimacy in Data-Driven Culture (IDA) consortium, which is funded by the Strategic Research Council at the Academy of Finland.
Data has become the gold of our times. There are many different ways to refine and exploit the information gathered from people. In the field of design, one area in which it is utilised is the designing of wearable technology – clothes, accessories and jewellery that contain some kind of measuring or tracking device. The tech transforms a piece of clothing into a hub for accumulating personalised user data and enables linking it with other devices and information networks. A garment like this is a portal, which conveys data to other devices and digital infrastructures. The most common wearable technology applications in fashion and clothing are functional garments and accessories: sports and work clothes as well as rings and bracelets that measure the user’s sleep, stress and activity levels. Many people enthusiastically measure themselves when engaging in recreational pursuits. Tracking and comparing the development of personal performance in sports is a fresh form of social interaction. The same data can be utilised to develop these devices further. Measuring and tracking is an aspect of working life, too. Work clothing with embedded tech that enables the tracking and monitoring of employees at the workplace has appeared alongside access cards. There are many sensible reasons for utilising tracking devices at, for example, work sites. They can safeguard personal safety by monitoring the work environment on behalf of the employee and alert them to danger. Wearable tech can save worker lives. There are no Finnish reports of wearable technology abuses at the workplace. Things are different elsewhere. In the US, for example, the world’s biggest online retailer allegedly monitors the industriousness of its warehouse employees by tracking their every movement through a bracelet. If the system deems the worker to be inefficient, it starts to vibrate. If this happens repeatedly, the employee is
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Text Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne Photo Mikko Raskinen
What trust gives us Philosopher Esa Saarinen says Finland is a society based on trust.
ike walking on thin ice – that’s what it feels like to lack trust. Progress becomes cautious and fearful. Philosopher Esa Saarinen says that when trust fades, the problems and suspicions that exist between people can grow larger. ‘Anxiety sneaks in,’ Saarinen explains. ‘You start to wonder, is the ice strong enough to hold you if it’s already cracked in one spot? And you realise how good you had it when trust was strong.’ The Aalto University professor says it’s hard to be at the forefront of innovation if your mind is jammed full of thoughts of what could go wrong; worries gnaw away at creativity and attention is pulled to tangential matters that don’t progress your actual cause. But just seeing someone else act in a steady manner, in a way that enhances trust, can banish those false concerns, Saarinen believes. ‘What garners my trust is fairness and uncompromising conduct that doesn’t come from a self-centred place. Put in ice hockey terms, I really admire people who don’t go for the impressive slapshot, but rather prefer the minimal, yet enormously effective, wrist shot instead,’ he jokes. Trust also helps us make leaps forward. The fact is, sometimes people just don’t notice when something entirely new is on its way and this makes support from – and trust in – others so valuable. ‘If others show trust in us or what we’re doing, it’s easier to have faith in something that’s still finding its final shape,’ he says.
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Finns see the bigger picture Saarinen considers Finland to be a society of trust. One of the country’s strengths is the tendency to take other people seriously and to shoulder responsibilities together. This has also helped the Nordic country to weather the coronavirus crisis better than many other countries. ‘In Finland, it’s fairly natural to put ourselves in each other’s shoes and look at the bigger picture. While Finns sometimes come across as curt, underneath the surface is the desire to stay authentic, and connect with others in a way that counts. You can see this in our distaste for overpromising as Finns want to act as they say – and build trust. Breaking from the pack to do your own thing isn’t seen as admirable; egoistic action is seen for what it is.’ Saarinen says strong trust can be seen in routine moments, when everyday life just flows. Even when conflicts arise, the members of a community with high levels of trust will re-charge their action for building the common good. ‘If someone acts inconsiderately in Finland, it’s seen as an exception — it must have been a misunderstanding. It means that if someone splashes a little slush on my feet, I won’t charge at them in anger.’
Trust is anticipating the future in the present Developed with Professor Raimo P. Hämäläinen, Saarinen’s systems intelligence theory merges human sensitivity with engineering. The idea is that the structure of a system, for example, an organisation, will steer behaviour. But once an environment changes sharply and gives rise to uncertainty, its structures don’t usually tell you how to act — this is when trust takes on a decisive role. Hidden individual resources that structures conceal can, in such situations, be revealed in quite surprising ways. ‘When people care about the bigger picture they’re a part of, space opens up for everyone to think about more than just themselves. Even if I’m mistreated, I can trust that my interests will nevertheless be considered in some way. I can also make sacrifices in the present moment because I trust that others will do so, too.’ But money or certain structures can’t guarantee good deeds, Saarinen says. ‘Trust is based on anticipating the future in the present. I can take risks because I trust others to know the name of the game and recognise that my actions are for the common good. The Slush event — which has grown in the hands of our students into
‘Trust is based on anticipating the future in the present.’
The final Philosophy and systems theory lecture series was held remotely from the home of Esa Saarinen.
the leading start-up event globally — is an excellent example of how this kind of thinking can produce success. Trust in the power of creativity and in the wisdom of authorities to back emerging out-of-thebox breakthroughs was behind its creation, not money and structures.’ Saarinen lists corruption, egoism and the ideology of self-interest as the conceptual opposites of trust. Things that boost trust are friendliness, benevolence and a willingness to address the bigger picture. ‘Trust for one another is the default for Finns. We treat each other sort of like we’re all distant family, and this forms the foundation of our everyday life.’ Before he retires from his professorship this summer, Saarinen is giving his renowned Finnish-language lecture series, Philosophy and system thinking, for the last time. Arranged since 2001, lecture recordings have been seen more than a million times.
What fascinates Esa Saarinen
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‘Better thinking leads to a better life. Step through the door of ideas: create room for thinking and establish constructive ways to make sense of situations and life itself.’ ‘A lecture can spark creativity: the point is to inspire people’s own way of thinking that comes from within.’ ‘Each one of us has latent, hidden good. It’s important to establish an environment that helps us connect with and bring out this good.’ AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28 \ 19
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Conquering the world with refurbished phones Sami Marttinen bought a phone through an online flea market, but never actually got the device. This incident spurred the creation of used iPhone refurbisher and seller Swappie, which is growing rapidly across Europe. Text Terhi Hautamäki Photos Aleksi Poutanen
In 2016, Aalto University student and entrepreneur Sami Marttinen wanted to buy a used smartphone through an online marketplace. The seller was sort of familiar: Marttinen shared a few Facebook friends with them. The seller seemed trustworthy and even sent photos of the phone in their hands. ‘After we agreed on a deal, they asked if I could pay upfront, so they could buy a new one the same day and avoid being phoneless. I sent the money, but my device never arrived,’ Marttinen recalls. He later found out that this seller was behind many similar cons. Smartphone purchases involve bad experiences for lots of other people, too. For Marttinen, getting conned was no more than a passing annoyance, and the unfortunate event swiftly gave rise to an idea between him and study pal and business partner Jiri Heinonen. Replacing smartphones every couple of years is a waste of resources and a major environmental problem. Lots of people would be happy to buy a used device for a lower price, were it not for a lack of trust. Marttinen and Heinonen decided to crack the unsolved problem of phone reuse in a big way. ‘From the very beginning, we were thinking about establishing a sensible alternative to buying new phones and making refurbished electronics mainstream globally.’ From tiny store to a firm of 500 When getting off the ground some four years ago, Marttinen would sometimes deliver phones to customers by bike. And when the shop needed a partition wall, he built one himself after checking out some online tutorials. Swappie’s transformation has been rapid. In just a few years, the two-man boutique has grown into an international technology company with over
500 employees from 49 countries that generated €98 million in sales in 2020. The firm’s mission is to make refurbished electronics a mainstream choice. Swappie specialises in refurbishing and selling iPhones; it evaluates the condition of used handsets before compensating sellers and then refurbishes them at its facility in Helsinki. Coronavirus measures have impacted the availability of spare parts, but Swappie managed to successfully adjust and has continued its expansion to six new countries in Europe in 2020. The firm is focusing on European growth for now, but global expansion is by no means ruled out in the future. ‘Our biggest rivals are sellers of new phones. Similar smaller local actors do exist, but they typically do not invest in building the technology to make the phones stronger,’ Marttinen says. Expansion involves the opening of an online store in the local language and adapting it to local consumer behaviour. The company’s only brick and mortar stores are in Helsinki’s Ruoholahti and the Iso Omena mall in Espoo. Entrepreneurial since a young age Sami Marttinen has known he’d one day start a business since he was a boy. At 15, he was already working with his dad in a construction business he helped establish, from filing the initial paperwork to labouring at the first site. He was officially just an employee, however. Since his teenage years, he has thought about ways to make the world a better place. He eventually came to the conclusion that the best way to wield influence is through entrepreneurship. He wasn’t yet very aware of environmental issues, however. ‘An awareness of the state of the planet and climate change emerged at university.’
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WHO Trust Solving major consumer problems has always fascinated Marttinen. He also wanted to find someone with a similar passion for getting things done and solving international problems. The School of Business equipped Marttinen with business knowledge as well as entrepreneurial and tech skills. Among other things, he recalls the lectures of Esa Saarinen and Vesa Puttonen as well as Ville Hallavo’s inspiring way of teaching industrial engineering and management as especially helpful. He found the opportunity to network and make contacts particularly beneficial. Marttinen was active in student life, engaged in lots of volunteer activities and took part in numerous events. He met his future business partner Jiri Heinonen at Aalto. ‘We share an interest in entrepreneurship, and talking about it in our free time led to our friends linking us together,’ Marttinen says. They immediately hit the right note. Their first idea was to deliver healthy and convenient snacks to offices and homes. Then the pair met with angel investor Ville Vesterinen at a startup event; he now chairs Swappie’s board. ‘We weren’t actually looking for funding, but happened to get talking with the right person, and one thing led to another.’ After a few weeks, they’d raised enough initial capital to test their first ideas. This is how Viking Shave Club, an online seller of razor blade subscriptions that later expanded to 21 countries, was created. Marttinen and Heinonen are both determined and active personalities. The very next day after Marttinen was stung buying a phone, the two were in the Kamppi mall conducting a survey related to their newest business idea. You can fix almost anything The majority of a phone’s emissions is created during its manufacture, especially in conjunction with the mining of minerals, making the refurbishing and recycling of devices a significant environmental act.
‘We prefer to think about ways with which to make something possible instead of thinking about what’s possible now.’ 22 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28
The general perception is that phones simply aren’t made to last long and that they are difficult to repair. But most faults can be fixed, Marttinen says. ‘Repairs have, in fact, become more difficult, but this is precisely why we have focused on building world-class repair technology. We can fix anything and would theoretically even have the capability to manufacture our own devices.’ Phone refurbishment was typically outsourced when Swappie was getting started. Standards varied: the quality of the work depended on who was handling the job. Marttinen and Heinonen decided that the only way to change the market was for their firm to set up its own factory and develop its’ refurbishment operations to enable strengthening phones even from their original condition, as quality was one of the biggest reasons why consumers did not purchase refurbished devices instead of new ones yet. Even an old, worn phone will function like new if it is professionally refurbished. Worn out parts and the battery are typically replaced. ‘Every phone goes through a 52-point inspection, after which faults are fixed and the phone is inspected again. It is also cleaned, disinfected and packaged before being forwarded to sales.’ Trial and learn Their journey has involved experimentation and, when necessary, plans have been altered. Initially, Swappie aimed to establish stores in Sweden, and Marttinen even moved to live there for a while. But expansion proved to be slower than expected, and Swappie decided to go in another direction. Building trust has been especially important for a seller of refurbished phones, as this business has a poor reputation in many countries. Swappie checks international databases to verify a phone hasn’t been marked as stolen in any part of the world and its refurbished phones come with a 12-month guarantee. Marttinen declines to reveal what percentage of phones returns for maintenance during the warranty period, but says it’s in the single figures. The duo wanted to learn about building trust in maximally difficult conditions, which is why their international project continued in Italy immediately after Sweden, as market research indicated it would be the toughest nut to crack. ‘Italians don’t make many online purchases, they don’t trust webshops or strange payment methods, they have little faith even in their neighbours. Building trust is difficult there. We figured that, should we not be successful in Italy, we’d at least learn much quicker there than elsewhere,’ Marttinen recalls. Italy has since become Swappie’s biggest market area. Marttinen thinks having the courage to experiment and take calculated risks, learning from both successes and failures, is important. ‘We prefer to think about ways with which to make something possible instead of thinking about what’s possible now.’
Sami Marttinen Co-founded used iPhone seller and refurbisher Swappie together with Jiri Heinonen, now serves as CEO. He and Heinonen also founded snack firm Purtava and online razor blade service Viking Shave Club. Majored in marketing at the Aalto University School of Business.
Is also An ice swimmer. ‘I like to start my mornings with a swim or a gym session, and combining these with ice swimming during winter ensures high alertness throughout the day.’ Enthusiastic about trying new things. ‘I tend to seek out my discomfort zone. When I went to the States as an exchange student, I got into four sports: American football, basketball, tennis and rugby – all of which I was very bad at to begin with.’ A roof painter. ‘At 15, I joined my dad in the building industry with no prior experience. For the most part, we focused on painting and washing roofs.’
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ON THE GO Trust
A sport for gentleman thugs Rugby is a tough contact sport that requires players to absorb constant hits while maintaining absolute trust in their teammates in every situation – not unlike research work. Text Riikka Hopiavaara Photos Aki-Pekka Sinikoski
Christopher Jonkergouw describes himself as a tactical and fast back row player who enjoys a physical game. By day, he researches bioproducts and biosystems.
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ON THE GO Trust
duardo Anaya was surprised to run into familiar faces from rugby practice at his workplace. ‘Wow, you work here, too!’ Anaya said to Christopher Jonkergouw. Unbeknownst to each other, they had been toiling away in neighbouring rooms at Otaniemi. Both play for Espoo Rugby Club. A third player, Ivan Vujaklija, likewise turned out to be an Aalto colleague when the men got chatting in training. Anaya is a chemist and Jonkergouw a bioscientist. Postdoctoral researcher Eduardo Anaya is focusing on a cellulosic materials, which self-sterilise with the aid of sunlight, while doctoral researcher Christopher Jonkergouw is studying treatment methods for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Professor Ivan Vujaklija’s research deals with medical technology. He develops technical solutions that aid people who have lost a limb. For example, he has studied how prosthetics can be controlled by electrical signals generated by the muscles and nerves of the user. They are researchers by day, but, in the evenings a few times a week, they turn into wet, muddy men whose only objective is to get the ball across the opponent’s try line and ground it – working together as a team. A position for any body There are thirty players on the pitch, fifteen on each side. Some are big and burly, others more like sprinters. Some are tall, others short. Their knees are muddy, the arms bruised. The corner of someone’s eye is beginning to swell. Their breath is steamy in the Finnish spring. A player stands outside the pitch and raises the ovoid over his head and soon throws it in. The moment the ball leaves his powerful hands, a man pounces from amidst the players. He bends
his knees and, with assistance from two teammates, soars upwards. His head almost reaches three metres. The hands of top professionals can reach above four metres. The ball flies into the hands of the highest jumper, the battle for points continues. Eduardo Anaya started playing rugby when he was twelve. Between the ages 14 and 21, he played in the Spanish national team. He finds rugby fascinating because it suits players of all sizes. ‘Whether you are big or small, there’s always a position for you in rugby,’ Anaya says. A player’s physique helps to determine his position. Smaller players are the backs. They carry and pass the ball, benefiting from being fast and agile. Bulky and strong players, the forwards, are needed for situations that call for contact, such as when eight of the largest team members pack closely together for the scrum, which happens when play is restarted after a technical fault. Two tightly-packed fronts shove into each other while the players try to reach the ball with their feet to kick it to their own side. The ball is in open play only after it passes out of the scrum. The efforts of individual players matter, but the outcome is decided by how well the eight men together manage to control the movement of their group. Technique and trust are instrumental to success. Each player must trust his teammates to do exactly what was set out in the game plan. A social game Ivan Vujaklija started the sport ten years ago, taking the occasional break from playing in between. He has moved often because of his research work: first from his homeland Serbia to Germany, then from there to Austria, and most recently to Finland. When relocating to a new country, he has always sought out and joined a local team. Rugby introduces you to people and the community.
Each player must trust his teammates to do exactly what was set out in the game plan. Team coach Eduardo Anaya is studying a cellulose material that self-sterilises with sunlight as part of an Academy of Finland-funded FinnCERES project.
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Both Vujaklija and Jonkergouw emphasise the sport’s encouraging atmosphere. ‘The players develop a bond that I feel is absent in other team sports,’ Vujaklija says. Rugby is sometimes described as a game suited for gentleman thugs. The referee’s word is law during a match, players must restrain themselves even if they disagree with a ruling and only the team’s captain is allowed to speak with the referee. Chris Jonkergouw has played for four years. The game won him over after he moved from Holland to Wales. The sport is demanding, but fair. After a match, players line up to pay their respects to their opponents. The hundred-kilo prop who just tackled you is suddenly your friend. Many play rugby because of the game’s social nature. ‘After the game, we’ll grab a beer with the rival team.’ 28 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28
Demands focus The team trains twice a week from April to September, for two hours each time. In winter, players maintain their fitness at the outdoor gym. Being fit boosts performance and protects from injury. The risk of injury is nevertheless high. The sport involves physical contact both with your own teammates and the opponents. The physical effort required involves, for example, each player falling down or colliding with another every second minute on average over the course of an 80-minute match. Their hearts race, reaching rates of up to 200 bpm. The many positions and roles in a rugby team call for players with very different physical and technical attributes. The professional duties of these Aalto players require similar versatility. ‘The members of a research group also have their own specialised roles. The aim of our research pro-
Every time Ivan Vujaklija moves to a new country, he seeks out and joins a local team. Rugby is a great way to meet people and get to know the local community.
Only when they act as one unified team can players move the ball towards the opponent’s try line and eventually win the game.
ject is commercialisation, and the group consists of both researchers and experts engaged in the drafting of business plans,’ Jonkergouw says. Yet all belong to the same team. The laws of rugby state that the ball can only be passed backwards. For this to happen, the team must act seamlessly as one, a single player going it alone cannot accomplish much. Only when they act as one unified team can players move the ball towards the opponent’s try line and eventually win the game. Perseverance and willpower Research work demands perseverance and can, at times, be frustrating: you can’t just stroll into the lab and assume that everything will work as expected. Research is a process of trial and error. Perseverance is also required in rugby. ‘You need guts to keep picking yourself up off a wet, cold and muddy pitch. And you can’t give up before you reach the desired result,’ Anaya says. Eduardo Anaya does not play at the moment because he serves as the team’s coach. Anaya believes he can draw a lot of learning from coaching to benefit his academic career, as it involves leading his own research group. ‘The game or, similarly, research is not only about ability or planification. Endurance and commitment to reach objectives is what gives you that last push to success.’ As a researcher, you need to learn to enjoy the small moments. Funding applications are extensive and can have low success rates and not every article you submit to a scientific journal gets published. Researchers need to find joy in successful laboratory experiments, the launch of new projects or getting to guide a student with an interesting project. The same applies in sports. If you only enjoy a sport when you win, you’ll be disappointed half the time. You also need to find energy to train even when you don’t feel like it. ‘A player needs to draw satisfaction from minor successes, such as a well-executed tackle or snatching the ball from your opponent,’ Anaya says.
Mutual trust Professor Ivan Vujaklija has been heading research projects for a few years. As group leader, he needs to trust the team’s other researchers and that they in turn have faith in him. The same feeling can be experienced on the playing field. ‘I’m often the team’s smallest member. Regardless, my current team allocated me responsibility at the very first training session. The game plan defined a role for me in both offence and defence. The other players trusted me to perform my part of the plan, which felt rewarding.’ The clock doesn’t stop in rugby; players have to get up and return to their position quickly after colliding with burly opponents. If they don’t, gaps will develop in defence – and the opponent is sure to take advantage of those openings. ‘You need to be certain that the guy next to you will give it his all, and more,’ Vujaklija says. The presence of trust in rugby is crystallised in the line-out throw, in which the teams compete to take control of the ball by supporting one of their players to jump higher. Being lifted by very tall men requires you to have faith in the strength of their arms, and that they will also help you to a safe landing.
Rugby A team sport originating in England in which players attempt to ground an ovoid ball in the opposing team’s in-goal area. In rugby union, the variant played in Finland, each team fields 15 players. A full-length match consists of two 40-minute halves, in addition to possible extra time according to the referee’s discretion. About 1 000 players in Finland. There are teams for men, women, and youth.
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Fencing, figure-skating, sailing – any sport can be combined with studies
Aalto University is participating in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Sports Academy Urhea, whose goal is to support the flexible coupling of sporting careers with academic studies.
tudent athletes are supported in many different ways. Like all students, they receive guidance in planning and scheduling their studies. ‘In addition, they can talk about examination options and alternate ways of completing course requirements,’ says School of Business Planning Officer Elli Hämäläinen, who is in charge of Aalto’s Urhea team. The demands of athletic careers are also considered if students need to request additional time for completing their studies. Athletes can participate in shared events and individually tailored courses dealing with issues related to wellbeing as well as with possibilities for exploiting personal sports expertise in career planning. ‘Many athletes have only a little work experience because most of their free time has been spent in practice and competing. The course teaches them how they can successfully articulate the competence they have accumulated through sports.’ A sporting career can also be of benefit when applying to Aalto. Since 2019, the School of Business has made allowance for the acceptance of up to 12 students for the Bachelor’s programme under special criteria. Athletic achievements are one of the criteria considered. More than one hundred Aalto students are involved with Urhea, with footballers and track athletes forming the largest groups. Other common sports include ice hockey, sailing, triathlon, crosscountry skiing, synchronised skating and competitive cheerleading. The variety of other sports ranges from golf, beach volley and curling to motorsports, horse riding and ultimate.
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Text Riikka Hopiavaara
Fencer Topias Tauriainen took bronze in the épée at the European Youth Fencing Championships in 2019, the same year he started his computer science studies. ‘Being able to complete a large part of my courses without mandatory attendance enables me to travel overseas for training and tournaments. I don’t compromise at the expense of sports, however. If there’s too much coursework, I’ll take that course at a later date. Once I have more time away from sports, I’ll focus 100% on my studies. I want to reach the global elite in my sport, but I also want to do well in my studies, which is why I prefer a slower pace.’
Effort to promote dual career paths for athletes wins recognition The work of Aalto University, and in particular our Planning Officer Elli Hämäläinen and her team, was recognised with an honorary mention for promoting dual career paths for athletes from the Finnish Olympic Committee’s Sports Academy Programme and the Foundation for the Advancement of Athletes’ Professions in autumn 2020. Urhea, Finnish for brave, is an official, Finnish Olympic Committee-approved elite sports academy that launched in 2003. It operates in close cooperation with the Finnish Olympic Committee’s elite sporting unit and is backed by the Urhea Foundation.
Lehtikuva / Antti Aimo-Koivisto
‘My hope is that I’ll get to combine my management knowledge and elite sports in some way when I eventually move into working life.’
Sailor Oskari Muhonen is the under-23s world champion in the Finn class and a third-year student of industrial engineering and management. ‘As it is an Olympic year, my studies are entirely subordinate to sports. My aim is to secure a place at a qualifying race for the Tokyo Games that’s being arranged in May – and then to win gold at the Olympics. I think elite sports is excellent preparation for challenging work. It has given me self-confidence, taught me to set goals and fostered an ability to manage totalities as well as to tolerate setbacks. It has also provided me with an extensive network of international contacts, which will surely benefit my professional career.’ Tapio Nirkko
Figure skater Juulia Turkkila has won several national championship medals and is in the fifth year of her studies majoring in management. ‘Success in sports requires flexibility in studying. The pace of my studies is necessarily slower. It’s great that my teachers at Aalto understand my situation, allowing me to take courses although attendance can sometimes be challenging and my main focus is, for now, on sports. My hope is that I’ll get to combine my management knowledge and elite sports in some way when I eventually move into working life.’
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Online shops predict what customers want to buy Knowledge management in e-commerce gives benefits to consumers – at least as long as the algorithms that collect the data are used for good. Text Helena Raunio Photos Jaakko Kahilaniemi
E-commerce platforms have brought a veritable Aladdin’s cave of products right into our homes. As a consumer, you no longer need to go to a shop, instead, the shop will come to you. Digital platforms such as these amass a vast amount of data from their customers, which they analyse to enhance the customer experience. Once customers are happy with an online shop, they begin to trust the seller and will likely frequent the shop again. The world’s largest online marketplaces, for example, Amazon or Alibaba, have revolutionised competition and the rules of traditional trade. Information management and artificial intelligence make shopping more and more addictive, but an astute customer can also reap the benefits of online shopping. From multichannel to omnichannel Back in the 1990s, shops managed each of their sales channels separately. The brick-and-mortar shop operated as one entity, with an online shop as another separate entity and telesales as a third. At that time, shops obtained consumer information mainly from receipt data. With the advent of loyalty cards, more detailed customer information began to be gathered. ‘This multichannel approach was followed in the 2010s by an omnichannel one, where the customer decides where they do business. From the consumer’s point of view, the shop forms one entity, in which they may first visit a bricks-and-mortar shop to physically see the product, which they then order online. Transactions are independent of time and place,’ 32 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28
explains Lasse Mitronen, Professor of Practice at the Aalto University School of Business. He has researched global marketplaces and the platform economy in several different projects in collaboration with Mikko Hänninen. Hänninen’s current position is as an assistant professor of commerce at the University of Nottingham in the UK. ‘A traditional supermarket or hypermarket offers 25 000 food-related items and 30 000 other products. Amazon has 650 million products. The difference in product ranges is inconceivably large,’ says Mikko Hänninen. Online shops brought customer information to a new level While traditional commerce consists of a single sale, the revenue generation model of e-commerce consists of selling goods, payment processing, advertising space for the media, and value-added services such as Amazon’s digital content. They are all based in one way or another on the data economy. When expanding its operations, an online shop collects an ever-increasing amount of information from its customers, which they must analyse reliably. On the other hand, the customer’s trust must also be able to be maintained. Each click a consumer makes while surfing the internet is tracked and analysed by a digital robot. Its
learning algorithms then turn data into a marketing tool. The more data available, the more reliable the predictions of consumer behaviour are. ‘Machine learning and automation are used to screen the collected data. Data in itself is not worth anything unless we can use it to make interesting and useful observations,’ says Hänninen. Digital giants like Alibaba, Alphabet, Amazon, and Facebook make the best workable models for predicting consumer behaviour. They have hired the best IT specialists in the world for the job. ‘Even with small test samples, 80% of the data can be used to predict how well the models will work. The models are then duplicated into a huge database to screen customer groups and their behaviour,’ says Mitronen. The companies’ algorithms detect correlations in their data that are useful for marketing automation. ‘The models help create different customer segments and predict whether or not you will become a good customer in the short term or over a five-year period. As a result, the importance of digital marketing has also increased.’ Every click is tracked An online shop such as Amazon collects a mass of data from its customers that identifies each consumer’s movements, clicks, and time spent on each product. This digital big brother knows your dreams and helps them come true – by buying products. Whether a consumer benefits or loses depends on their awareness of such tactics. Your everyday life can be improved when an online shop knows your taste in music or what movies you have watched and on which websites you shop. Thus, artificial intelligence also serves the consumer. But consumers are often concerned about the use and possible manipulation of their data. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has also addressed this concern about how user data is being sold for advertising and to sway public opinion. ‘It can be harmful to a consumer if their information is used for a different purpose than originally authorised. In response to such concerns, the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR’s purpose is to guide organisations’ actions and help prevent the misuse of consumer data. Online consumers are also concerned with credit card security and identity theft,’ Mitronen explains. ‘The excellence of e-commerce is justified by the fact that it removes trade barriers and makes shopping easier. But we should remember that algorithms work well and correctly only as long as their purpose is also for good from an ethical point of view,’ adds Hänninen. One example is your health. Suppose you have osteoarthritis and have searched online for information on this condition. In that case, the algorithm will save that information, and then your email may be flooded with ads for products to help those suffering from knee conditions – some of which you might find useful. The United States deemed it ethically unacceptable that a young woman’s secret pregnancy was revealed to her family by baby product ads created using algorithms.
Algorithms can also lead you down the wrong path entirely. One interesting case occurred in the UK when a person making a homemade bomb ordered materials such as steel wire from Amazon. Thanks to algorithm-generated ads, subsequent customers who also bought steel wire were shown special offers for acid, which is also used in bomb-making. Companies have started to demand strong identification from their customers to improve their position and avoid risks. Various security breaches and crimes have fueled this development. ‘Gradually, companies like Amazon and Alibaba may join the telecommunications business, gaining access to internet and phone usage data. And next, they may look to expand into the healthcare sector.’ Amazon already owns, for example, the PillPack online pharmacy and sells prescription drugs, among other things. ‘Also, Amazon Care, a digital healthcare service, is in its pilot phase. All the technology giants have these experiments underway.’ They are also developing new service packages around pharmacies. ‘We can measure consumer confidence by whether a consumer is willing to provide access to their healthcare information,’ says Mitronen.
‘The customer experience, brand message, and service promise must be the same for the consumer, regardless of the channel and payment method,’ say Lasse Mitronen, Professor of Practice, and Mikko Hänninen, Assistant Professor, who study global marketplaces.
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ON SCIENCE BRIEFLY Compiled by Riikka Hopiavaara
A precision fertiliser for forests
Scientists combined potassium-containing ash from a wood burning plant into compost with a simple mixing process.
Because of its lightness, its heat insulation properties, and its strength, the foam material can also be used for insulation in buildings if it is both resistant to humidity and fire safe.
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Jani Wallenius / Promedia
A new bio-based material could replace substances such as Styrofoam and bubble wrap. Artificial intelligence is being used in the development of the material. For example, a mixture of the compounds lignin, wood fibre, and laponite can produce a foam that resists shock and humidity and can be used to replace plastic. Lignin is a binder of wood fibres and when made into a dried foam, it is hard, water-resistant, and even conducts electricity. The most extraordinary feature of the foam is that it is edible. The method can produce foam from carrot, lingonberry, cranberry, or beetroot powder, and this can in turn be processed into an edible form resembling potato crisps.
Mikko Raskinen / Aalto University
Wood foam challenges plastic
Finnish researchers have developed a new fertilizer, named Putretti, from ash, biowaste and municipal sludge with an estimated climate impact of just one-tenth of similar fertilisers made artificially. Intended initially for forests and woods, the fertiliser provides a way to boost growth while also sinking carbon into vast forested lands. The production of Putretti could begin on a larger scale in two years’ time, and that within five years it could be spread in forests across the Finnish region.
The research group of Matias Palva / Aalto University
A computer game to treat depression
The computer game could help in the treatment of depression alongside therapy and drug treatment.
A research group headed by Aalto University Professor Matias Palva is developing a computer game that could help in the treatment of depression alongside therapy and drug treatment. The game looks and feels like a modern action video game, where the player solves challenges in a fantasy city. Unlike pure entertainment games, however, a complicated network of features lies beneath its surface, which together produce a therapeutic effect.
Molecular machines are the incredibly small and powerful pieces of biology that power our bodies and most of the natural world. Despite being essential to all life on earth and having huge potential for revolutionising nanotechnology, humans are a way off being able to replicate them ourselves, because we lack the ability to control structures that are so small. To develop this level of control, a team of chemists and bioengineers has made synthetic nanostructures that change shape on command. The team of researchers from Aalto University and the Weizmann institute in Israel has been able make a hinge-like structure that opens and closes in a way that’s very simple to control.
Anton Kuzyk / Aalto University
Tiny origami controlled by light
The DNA hinge closes when light shines on it.
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Aiming for a safer web Awareness and rapid access to support help shield against online abuse. The figure is startling: some 40% of people have experienced harassment or bullying online. Furthermore, the risk of abuse is significantly higher for young people, women, minorities and activists with a visible social media presence. Difficult personal relationships can also lead to anyone at all becoming a target for online abuse. Online abuse can take forms like threats, silencing through hate speech, belittling, humiliation with offensive images and technological stalking with the aid of unauthorised tracking programs. Naisten Linja (Women’s Line) offers free-of-charge support services for women who have experienced violence or fear of it, or who simply have concerns about the matter. In August 2020, Naisten Linja’s Turv@verkko project launched services for a new customer group, people who have experienced online abuse. The needs of this group were explored in collaboration with students from Aalto University’s digital service design course. ‘We wanted to gain a better understanding of women who have experienced harassment online, identify new ways to support them and market our services,’ says Turv@verkko’s Project Manager Louna Hakkarainen. The course was tasked with reaching new potential customers who are often not even aware of this support service. The students developed service and marketing ideas for preventing the different stages of online abuse; these included increased pre-abuse awareness, reporting of threats or harassment, and facilitating the finding of support services. Digital self-defence courses at school ‘The digital world is the “real world”,’ says Núria Solsona, one of the two service design course instructors. ‘To design services for digital abuse we first must understand new digital realities and the experiences of violence 36 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28
that happen within this new context.’ Violence is often a taboo, and experiencing it can cause insecurity and shame. Acts of online abuse can be difficult to identify as violence, but their effects are just as harmful and restricting as those of other forms of violence. People who experience digital violence need support especially in understanding that they have been exposed to a violent act, perhaps even a crime. One of the more surprising findings was that many survey participants were unaware of their right to get help and support after being exposed to online abuse. This was particularly evident for the activist user group, who typically just tried to live with it; the feeling was that tolerating inappropriate comments was part of the influencer role. Media platforms often lack the resources to monitor inappropriate behaviour even though it should be prevented from happening at all. The majority of the concepts designed by the students focused on ways to prevent and identify abuse. Among other things, the student teams pro-
posed an awareness-raising social media campaign targeting activists. They also continued developing the idea of digital self-defence courses that would be provided already at school. The perceptive insights made by the students have proved their value. ‘We often discuss the findings of the user survey, and they have steered our activities after the course,’ Louna Hakkarainen says. naistenlinja.fi/en Check out the students’ service ideas: aalto.fi
Text Tiina Toivola Illustration Ida-Maria Wikström
A building block of intelligence The ability to distil images to their most essential components and anticipate new scenes is what could drive computer vision and robotics forward. Text Katrina Jurva Photo Mikko Raskinen Half a century ago, we expected the future to hold sophisticated computers and robot helpers to slash the time we spend on work and household chores. Yet, while we now have nearly unlimited knowledge at our fingertips, the level of automation that some predicted still hasn’t come to be. What happened? It turns out that things are a little more complicated than we expected. ‘It’s taken us a surprisingly long time to come to terms with how complex the world is,’ says Jaakko Lehtinen, an associate professor of computer science at Aalto University and distinguished research scientist at computer graphics firm NVIDIA.
Unsupervised learning Lehtinen’s work focuses on artificial intelligence techniques that create new, realistic images simply by looking at examples. The method has not just helped speed up tasks, which in the past could take a skilled professional days or weeks, to a matter of seconds but eliminated the need for human eyes altogether. ‘Doing this without human supervision is a building block of intelligence,’ Lehtinen explains. ‘Looking at a large collection of images, the algorithm distils the essence of what it sees into a recipe, which it uses to create new images that show the same, hard-topinpoint laws and rules.’ At NVIDIA, the techniques have, for example, been used to create pictures of non-existent faces that look so eerily real, you could swear they were in the last movie you saw. Most recently, they have made their way into the New Portrait tool in Adobe Photoshop, which users around the world can use to easily change the gaze, smile or even age of real faces. Smarts for the real world These are impressive achievements, but it’s easy to overlook the potential of this technology if we concentrate on image creation or manipulation. Lehtinen says that methods that learn to imagine what’s out there will be crucial to computer vision and robotics going forward. ‘To deal with a completely new environment, like your home or office, and all of the real-world scenarios that may occur there, a robot needs a really robust idea of what all kinds of different homes and offices look like. These techniques could finally help them deal with all that complexity.’
The work of Lehtinen and his colleagues has helped power Adobe Photoshop’s new Smart Portrait Tool. Thanks to close collaboration with Adobe, the technique moved from academic publication to the hands of Photoshop users around the world in just a couple of years. Watch our Way Out There episode in YouTube to learn more.
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Quantum literacy for all
Text Panu Räty Photos Mikko Raskinen
What do computers, cell phones and GPS navigation have in common? And what about digital cameras, solar panels and fibre optics? The answer is that the functioning of these devices is based on quantum phenomena.
uantum physics is more than just experiments in multimillion-euro particle accelerators or strange deep-space phenomena. Applications based on quantum physics are already a part of our daily lives. This is, however, only the beginning. Quantum computers, quantum networks and quantum sensors are becoming a reality. They have the potential to massively disrupt humanity’s ability to process information and, over time, our everyday lives as well. Yet quantum physics remains a foreign concept to most laypeople. Sabrina Maniscalco, Professor of Physics at the University of Helsinki, Adjunct Professor of Applied Physics at Aalto University and Vice-director of the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence in Quantum Technology, is working to rectify this issue. In a project led by Maniscalco, researchers built an open web platform called QPlayLearn (qplaylearn. com). This website, created with support from IBM and the research team’s firm Algorthmiq, provides information on the basic concepts of quantum physics for learners starting at the high school level. According to Maniscalco, understanding quantum physics is made more difficult by the language we speak. Human linguistic metaphors derive from a world of clear cause-and-effect relationships to which we are accustomed in everyday life. This is why a fresh approach is necessary. ‘We believe that anyone can understand the key dimensions of quantum physics,’ says Maniscalco.
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Gamifying the quantum Sabrina Maniscalco says that we cannot lean on our everyday experiences when adopting quantum physics. How could we, from our own experience, ever grasp that before particles are measured they can be located in many different places simultaneously? ‘Today, however, there are many multimedia tools on offer: interactive digital tools, animations, videos and, of course, games.’ Maniscalco says this is precisely what makes the QPlayLearn project so special. Its aim is to build a whole new kind of toolkit for conveying complex information. In addition to games, animations and video presentations, the site also offers articles that explain quantum phenomena and related mathematics. Quantum Playground is one of the video games available on QPlayLearn. The colourful game looks at quantum superposition and the behaviour of the wave function. According to Maniscalco, the player experience grows even stronger in the virtual reality (VR) version, where the player is submerged in quantum phenomena taking the form of changing patterns of light and colour.
Quantum Garden is an interactive work of light art that changes colour when touched. The piece is connected to a “black quantum box”, which collects information and processes the touches to assist in the development of quantum logic gates. Quantum gates are important building blocks of quantum computers. The art work was realised by game artist Robin Baumgarten in cooperation with physicists from the Centre of Excellence in Quantum Technology led by Professor Sabrina Maniscalco.
‘We believe that anyone can understand the key dimensions of quantum physics,’ says Maniscalco. ‘That is what experiencing the quantum means. We are creating and developing a new language that transcends metaphors and becomes an experience.’
three minutes to perform a calculation that would have taken the world’s strongest supercomputer at the time, Summit, 10 000 years. In December 2020, China, known for its quantum technology investments, reported that its Jiuzhang quantum computer had performed in only a few minutes a calculation that would have taken a supercomputer 2.5 billion years. Such improvements in performance demonstrate the possibilities that the future of quantum computing can bring. Hakonen says that information security is one of the most obvious applications for quantum computing that will concern us all. The quantum computers of the future can crack the most employed encryption methods of today almost trivially using the so-called Shor algorithm. All information encrypted at present can then be decrypted with ease, Hakonen observes.
Steps towards a true quantum computer Professor Pertti Hakonen shares Maniscalco’s view that it would be wise for the citizenry to keep abreast of advances in quantum technology. Hakonen and his colleagues at Aalto’s Department of Applied Physics are working on, for example, superconducting quantum circuits, quantum computing and quantum thermodynamics. ‘Pretty much all of our research involves the Planck constant, only the degree with which a quantum aspect applies varies,’ says Hakonen. By Planck’s constant, Hakonen refers to a value defined in 1900 by the German physicist Max Planck that expresses the size of the packets, or quanta, in which energy can be measured. Planck’s breakthrough is what launched the development of what we today call quantum theory, which Hakonen’s own work continues to contribute to. Hakonen’s research team recently developed a new thermoelectric method in collaboration with Chinese, Russian and American physicists. This method enables distant metal electrodes to interact through quantum entanglement. Their paper, published in the journal Nature Communications in January 2021, marks one step towards general-purpose quantum computers of the future. Recent research discoveries at Aalto University’s Otaniemi campus also include more efficient ways to read quantum bits, or qubits, on which the massive computing power promised by quantum computers is based. ‘People should know that the computing capacity of computers will grow enormously.’
Fifty Finnish qubits No one can yet say with any certainty when the time of general-purpose quantum computers capable of cracking existing encryption methods will come. Data security solutions that can withstand the number-crunching abilities of quantum computers are already being developed. In Finland, research is being carried out as part of the joint VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Aalto University and University of Helsinki project Post-Quantum Cryptography, for example. This year will also see the completion of the first phase of a quantum computer commissioned by VTT. It is being delivered by IQM Finland, a firm that got started at Aalto University. This domestic quantum computer will represent an important milestone for Finnish quantum technology research. The quantum device will be constructed at Micronova, the micro- and nanotechnology building at Otaniemi, and will at first have a capacity of five qubits, with the goal of increasing this to 50 qubits by the end of 2024. The state-of-the-art scientific refrigerators, or cryostats, used to cool its quantum circuits will be supplied by the world-leading Bluefors company, which started out at the Helsinki University of Technology. ‘Bluefors emerged from our Low Temperature Laboratory some fifteen years ago,’ says Hakonen. He points out that the vast expectations associated with quantum computers are evident both in heavy recruitment of researchers by companies in the field and the availability of early-stage capital investment. ‘How the industry will eventually develop is a more difficult question.’
From theory to practice For years, the idea of general-purpose quantum computers was merely a theory discussed in university laboratories. It is only in recent years that this theory has begun to be put into practice. One of the most significant breakthroughs came in late 2019 with Google’s Sycamore quantum processor. Google said its 53-qubit device took just over
A cryostat is a scientific refrigeration device used to cool the quantum circuits of a quantum computer close to absolute zero. Bluefors, a company that emerged from the Low Temperature Laboratory in Otaniemi, is one of the world’s leading cryostat manufacturers.
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From pharmaceutical research to flight control Refrigerator-sized quantum computers won’t be taking the place of our laptops or mobile phones. Quantum computation requires carefully selected special problems that can be written as an algorithm utilising quantum properties. The effect quantum computers will have on our daily lives will be based on the possibilities of highperformance computing. Suitable challenges for quantum computers include research into new materials or chemical compounds. For example, it is difficult to model drug molecules efficiently with traditional supercomputers. Hakonen says quantum computing is also a good fit for urban traffic flow management or climate change forecasting. Known as a commercial pioneer in the field, the firm D-Wave Systems in Canada is already developing supersimulators that utilise quantum technology for use in, for example, flight control, an application area with complex optimisation problems. Sensory breakthroughs As application areas expand, knowledge of the basics of quantum physics is needed in more and more professions. Aalto University is already offering a bachelor’s programme in quantum technology. According to Hakonen, there are also gaps in the teaching of this rapidly advancing field. For example, courses in quantum algorithms are not yet available. ‘We need programmers who know how to program quantum computers and sensors based on quantum technology.’ Quantum sensors, enhanced by quantum algorithms, are emerging as an important application area for quantum technologies. More accurate measuring devices offer possibilities in seismology, mineral exploration and material industry troubleshooting, for example. One of the most exciting areas of application for quantum sensors is the human body. There are many gaps in our knowledge of the activity of the 86 billion neurons our brains are made of, for instance. At Aalto University, new types of head-adaptive sensors for measuring the magnetic fields of the brain have been studied. At best, the results are almost as accurate as taking measurements inside the skull.
One of the most exciting areas of application for quantum sensors is the human body. 42 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28
Hakonen says that quantum-amplified sensors are, at this early stage, still so expensive that price limits their use. Later, however, application of the sensors may extend to mass products. In the VR realm, for example, exploiting them can open up entirely new dimensions. When quantum-enhanced sensors that measure human brain signals are combined with interpretations produced by machine learning, the potential of quantum technology begins to sound limitless. Hakonen thinks that one day we might control computers and other devices with our thoughts. ‘In the future, these technologies could potentially be used in brain interfaces as well – but that remains the stuff of science fiction for now.’
Elementary particles behave like both waves and particles. A wave function combines the probable properties of a quantum system, such as an individual atom.
Quantum entanglement is a phenomenon in which the quantum states of a pair of particles are related to each other without direct interaction. Measuring one particle of a pair also determines the second particle’s corresponding property. The effect occurs regardless of whether the particles are in the same room or on different parts of the planet.
Quantum superposition refers to the property of a wave function that allows a system to be in several different states simultaneously. When quantum superposition is measured, the measurement collapses the wave function. As a result, only one value related to the superposition state is measured.
Quantum computer A quantum computer’s calculations are not based on bits, as in traditional digital devices, but on quantum bits or qubits. When a qubit changes from 0 to 1, it begins to disappear from the 0 quantum state and appear in the 1 quantum state. This means that it is in both states at the same time. The phenomenon is based on quantum superposition, which enables a solution space from which the enormous computing power of quantum computers is derived.
Specialised networks to provide information security We all know that any information shared on the internet is not necessarily private. However, specialised networks with mobile access would offer better information security. Text Marjukka Puolakka Illustration Noora Typpö
‘The problem with the internet is its basic technology, i.e., a routable IP network, which allows the sending device’s address to be spoofed or even the entire route to be hijacked,’ says Raimo Kantola, Professor of Networking Technology. The level of information security must be raised, especially for networks that handle information critical to safety or society’s functioning or that is otherwise confidential. Kantola offers specialised networks with mobile access as a possible solution. ‘Unlike the internet, mobile networks require reliable device and user identification. They provide a good starting point for information security.’ The servers connected to a specialised network, built as an extension of a mobile network and in parallel to the internet, could not be attacked from possibly hijacked devices on the internet. Access to the servers would only be from devices with reliable authentication. The technology already exists There is a need for this kind of isolation in the health sector and the banking world. All transactions of Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, could be made securely via specialised networks. ‘A specialised network with mobile access could allow a customer to con-
32.967.32.123 54.328.92.148 98.684.34.572 188.8.131.525 13.876.48.342 184.108.40.2067 34.987.68.3
nect with their health and banking information securely.’ Companies have long used virtual private networks (VPN) that connect different offices. With VPN technology, remote workers can also access a company’s closed networks. The specialised network would be a generalisation of the VPN and provided by several operators selling subscriptions to institutions. Developments have brought programmable network routers and switches to the market, so the construction of secure specialised networks is no longer dependent on technology. Still, the networks are not yet in commercial use. ‘Everything ultimately depends on business decisions. For example, the banking and finance sector must be willing to build their own specialised network. And all mobile operators preferably must also be involved.’
Security risks increase with 5G Security risks increase as the Internet of Things (IoT), built on the 5G network, creates new digital services. For example, road traffic control or automated driving is likely to become dependent on them in the future. ‘IoT creates an interface between the physical and digital worlds, for example, to allow the control of industrial processes or means of transport. Which can be problematic as it allows hackers to commit crimes in the physical world using information networks.’ If, for example, a hacker takes control of a car, the consequences could be severe. ‘A new direction is needed to improve the current level of security. Communications critical to safety or society’s functioning should be shifted from the traditional internet to specialised networks.’ AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28 \ 43
Take a virtual campus tour
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If you haven’t been to Otaniemi in a while, our virtual tour is a great way to visit safely and see how the campus has grown and changed in recent years. Text Riikka Hopiavaara Photo Lauri Veerde
Do you want to see where fabrics are woven or woodwork is done? Or what the Nanomicroscopy Centre, which uses microscopes to study different materials, is like? Maybe you want to visit the Aalto Bioproduct Centre, where researchers and students work on bioeconomy innovations? Welcome to our new virtual campus tour that takes you to 44 different destinations: study spaces, laboratories, workshops, outdoor areas, and buildings. Take the tour on a computer, smart device, or with virtual reality (VR) glasses. virtualtour.aalto.fi
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Building a better world with humanitarian architecture When global crises drive people out of their homes, multidisciplinary cooperation can help make something out of very little. The Interplay of Cultures course on humanitarian architecture brought student of architecture Saija Hollmén on a field trip to Senegal, West Africa, in the 1990s. For course work at the Helsinki University of Technology, she designed a women’s centre together with her fellow students Jenni Reuter and Helena Sandman. ‘I’m still on that journey’, says Architect Saija Hollmén. Her doctoral thesis presents five architectural projects planned and implemented in cooperation with poor communities in Africa. One of them is the women’s centre completed in the city of Rufisque in 2001. It is an excellent example of humanitarian architecture that exports non-profit architectural expertise to countries and regions affected by poverty. The thesis is based on the travel journals of Hollmén, Reuter and Sandman. The aim of the study is to develop pedagogical practices for multidisciplinary architectural education to address global humanitarian challenges in different cultural environments. Making something out of very little Understanding the conditions of developing countries is essential in humanitarian architecture. ‘You can’t go to crisis areas to practice. The ability to act during a crisis comes through persistent work.’ This can be achieved when building design is adapted to the local environment and culture. It requires listening to locals and communities, and close cooperation with regional organisations and universities. Everything is based on understanding different cultures and values, and on encountering people as equals. ‘The aim is to embed good and highquality solutions in communities 46 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28
where resources are scarce. This can only be achieved through participation and local ownership. Humanitarian architecture requires multidisciplinary teamwork, in order to make something out of very little.’ The need for new construction is increasing as climate change and other crises drive people on the move and out of their homes. It has been estimated that there will be up to one billion climate refugees in the world by 2050. The solutions and construction projects that are being developed must be both environmentally and culturally sustainable. Recycled materials play a major role in many projects.
Text Marjukka Puolakka Photos Nita Vera ‘For example, the women’s centre in Senegal has air vents made of car rims and glass bricks made of bottles.’ Finishing her thesis is a big personal milestone for Hollmén, preceded by years of work in humanitarian architecture. She does not think twice when asked what she has learnt over the years: ‘It has been a gift to learn that, at the end of the day, people are all very alike.’ Saija Hollmén 4.12.2020: “Now the baobab shines!” – Cultural locality interfacing with interdisciplinary pedagogies in architectural education.
ALL DOCTORAL THESES ONLINE: aaltodoc.aalto.fi; shop.aalto.fi
Developing ideas through human-computer collaboration Finding ideas plays a major role in design practice. Mood boards are used by creative professionals as a method of visual ideation. These visual collages contain images, text and other objects, and are usually created collaboratively in e.g. fashion design, architecture and marketing. Material for mood boards is becoming increasingly digital. However, finding, reflecting and discussing such material is not unequivocal. In her doctoral thesis, M.Sc. Janin Koch developed tools which enable designers to work in creative processes together with artificial intelligence (AI) systems. She created three intelligent design systems for professional ideation. MayAI can adapt to the creative process and make its own decisions. It can help designers to be more explorative, so that they can also enjoy the interactive process. SemanticCollage helps designers identify the semantic meaning of images and reflect on them. It helps in expressing concepts that would otherwise be difficult to articulate. ImageSense is a fully collaborative mood board design system where several designers can work together, containing a variety of intelligent collaborative tools. Professional designers were involved in evaluating each of the three systems. Besides indicating the roles AI can play in creative exploration, the thesis opens new ways to assist designers in the era of digital ideation. Koch was granted the Dissertation Award of the School of Electrical Engineering. Janin Koch 30.10.2020: Collaborative systems for design inspiration.
New methods for modelling time-dependent phenomena Society and business have many time-dependent phenomena for which reliable forecasts are needed. Before any talk of forecasting, reliable models are needed for the phenomena for which forecasts are required. In his dissertation in the field of mathematics, Master of Science (Technology) Marko Voutilainen proposes new methods for modelling and estimation of multidimensional stationary time series, i.e., ones that are unchanging with respect to probabilities. Estimation refers to methods in which a sample is used to derive values for a parameter that is to be studied. Stationary processes have applications in many different fields of science. The results of the work are helpful in modelling and forecasting for example share prices, inflation and earthquakes. The carbon dioxide content of air, which is crucial from the point of view of climate change, can be depicted with the help of stationary processes once the appropriate mathematical transformations are made. As reliable models of phenomena behind climate change are available, it is possible to focus on evaluating its effects and on long-term policymaking. For example, in Finland, it is possible to ask if depression and apathy linked with a greater frequency of winters without snow might lead to other illnesses such as coronary artery disease. As in addition to animal species, climate change also wipes out sports, including our national sport of skiing. In the mathematical modelling of phenomena, a key issue is the estimation of the parameters contained in the model that is used. If that is unsuccessful, the outcome is useless, even if the model itself might suit the context. Marko Voutilainen 18.12.2020: New approaches for modelling and estimation of discrete and continuous time stationary processes. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28 \ 47
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Kaie Kubjas, why does mathematics feel safe? Text Tiina Aulanko-Jokirinne Photo Veera Konsti
For a professor of mathematics, logical thinking is as important as the provability of results. You study the applications of algebra and mathematics in, for example, biology and computer science. How did you end up becoming a mathematician?
During my childhood in Estonia, mathematics teachers played a significant role in shaping my future career. In the sixth grade, my teacher asked me to take part in a maths competition, which I won. I participated in compe titions for a total of seven years and they were a big part of my life, so it was natural for me to go on to study mathematics. As well as mathematics, I also participated in physics, chemistry, and even horse-riding competitions. I loved competing! You have been a researcher all around the world. What is the most interesting thing about your current research?
Problem-solving in general interests me. I wanted to do a PhD to see if I can crack unsolved problems in maths. In research, it is most interesting to be able to combine different fields. For example, I can apply the methods of one field of mathematics to
In general, I trust maths because results are proved using logical reasoning based on axioms, and previous results. Research articles are peer-reviewed, but some studies with mistakes have also been published. It may be that something goes unnoticed. So, you have to be careful if you use someone else’s results in your own research. I like conclusions obtained using logical reasoning. Results with proofs feel safer to me than observations from experiments. I see things the same way in my personal life. another. At best, I can even find surprising connections and patterns. In my latest study, we are looking at the 3D organisation of the human genome. Our methods include algebra, geometry and optimisation. The question we’re trying to answer is ‘does the data we already have about the human genome give us enough information to identify its 3D structure.’ We are trying to use optimisation to develop algorithms to determine the structure. The research project began when I was a researcher at MIT in Boston, and this is one of the first times algebra has been utilised in genome research. In another ongoing research project, we use applied algebra and geometry in neuroscience. The University of Tartu is one of the project partners and I am already acquainted with two researchers from there. One of them is a friend from my student days. It is easier to start cooperating on applied and uncertain projects when you know the other people in advance. You apply mathematics extensively. Do you think maths can be trusted? Logical thinking is important in mathematics and for me personally as well.
You are the Deputy Convenor of the European Women in Mathematics association. The association promotes the networking of female mathematicians. How could we encourage girls and young women to study maths?
We can encourage mathematically gifted young people to participate in various events such as student conferences, courses, and competitions. If they do not have a correct assessment of their own skills, they may not participate in them. After all, mathematics is interesting and multidisciplinary – I believe that popular science lectures in schools and universities can help to bring out fascinating aspects of mathematics, and science in general. And there are many different areas of application. Even if maths lessons at school didn’t seem interesting, lectures can be. Sometimes a student might not be on the same wavelength as one teacher but they can sync with another. It is important to set the same high expectations for everyone. In that way, we don’t discriminate and assume that someone is good or bad at mathematics only based on their gender. AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28 \ 49
A remote device helps medical staff in the fight against time How can we improve the monitoring of vital signs when hospitals are full of Covid-19 patients? An award-winning innovation by an international group of students could be the solution. ‘We noticed that the patient monitoring processes in hospitals are inefficient. They also lack digital solutions and generate unnecessary manual and administrative tasks for the overworked nurses and doctors.’ says Miklós Knebel. Knebel and Péter Dános participated in a project run by EIT Digital Master School in which students designed a new type of medical device for monitoring patient vital signs. The device consists of a 3D-printed wristband that can remotely monitor patients’ vital signs, such as body temperature, oxygen saturation, pulse, and respiratory rate. This device utilises IoT technology to quickly and securely send the patients’ data to a medical software platform. This allows multiple patients to be followed simultaneously, increasing time efficiency for medical staff. The device reports problems in real-time One benefit of the remote monitoring device over traditional manual monitoring of patient vitals is that medical staff can immediately notice changes in a patient’s condition and act accordingly. ‘As an example, the increase in a patient’s temperature is usually the first indicator of an infection, but respiratory and other acute issues can also be immediately noticed with Entremo’s system. Time is often of the essence in health care – so the quicker a change in a patient’s condition is noticed, the fewer complications that will occur,’ says Knébel. 50 / AALTO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE 28
It is especially beneficial for monitoring patients with Covid-19 as it does not require close contact between medical staff and the patient. The device is also helpful in the care of patients with other respiratory diseases. Funding boosts innovation A team of six international students developed the device. This founding team won the EUvsVirus award in April 2020, the goal of which was to develop innovative digital solutions for coronavirus-related challenges. In September 2020, they received a €500 000 investment from EIT Digital and its partners to develop their medical device. EIT Digital is part of EIT, which stands for the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. Thanks to this innovation funding, the startup company Entremo was established. This spring, the device is being tested in nursing homes and hospitals in Hungary. entremo.com
Text Saana Kallioinen Photos Entremo
The EIT Digital Master School offers double degrees, which combine technical competence with innovation and entre preneurship skills, at a network of 17 top technical universities around Europe. Miklós Knébel studied autonomous systems at Aalto University and partner university Technische Universität Berlin. Péter Dános studied visual computing and communication at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and is currently completing his second year at Aalto University remotely.
Read more about the international joint master’s programmes on the aalto.fi website.
What would you like to learn next? Welcome to the path of lifewide learning! A leap into the unforeseen takes courage, but at Aalto University, you are not alone. We will guide you and help you recognise your learning needs to ensure that you always have the skills that set you a step ahead. Do you want to strengthen your existing competencies? At Aalto, you can brush up on your digital skills and learn knowledge management and data analysis. With our help, you can also become better at leading people, learn to know yourself better, and train to be a highly-skilled team player.
Do you need to brush up on your knowledge? Aalto University’s versatile portfolio contains the solutions that you need to bring your expertise up to date. While learning with us, you will grow familiar with modern teaching methods and recognise your existing skills and strengths. In this way, you will retain your competitive edge even in the labour market of the future. Get to know Aalto University’s lifewide learning solutions. Continuous learning is an opportunity – make the most of it! lifewidelearning.aalto.fi
IN THIS ISSUE . trust in the digital world . researchers who play as a team . a philosopher’s faith in the common good