Bits of Bittium in EIT Digital’s Fit to Perform innovation initiative
Fit to Perform is an innovation initiative in EIT Digital’s Action Line ‘Digital Wellbeing’. Its objective is to make professional driving safer, healthier and more efficient. Representative partners from the automotive value chain work together in Fit to Perform; from telematics providers to vehicle manufacturers, fleet owners, insurers and also the Finnish company Bittium. The partners in this project come from UK, Belgium, Finland and the Netherlands. The Fit to Perform initiative is being coordinated via the Co-location Centres Eindhoven and London
Fit to Perform develops ICT solutions for risk-prone professionals and individuals based on cardio-respiratory and motion sensing to make professional driving a healthier and safer occupation. Although Fit to Perform is a Pan-European open innovation collaboration, EIT Digital encourages the partners to work as physically close together as possible. Why? To get the most out of the collaboration and accelerate the results so that this digital innovation can get to market fast. Find out why the Finnish company Bittium (www.bittium.com) decided to move two of its design engineers to Eindhoven and benefit from getting up close and physical!
Bittium, formerly known as Elektrobit Corporation, specialises in the development of reliable, secure communications and connectivity solutions, providing innovative products and customised solutions for mobile devices and portable computers. Teemu Harjula, programme manager for connectivity solutions, and Johanna Toivanen, specialist in software, IoT and wearables, have been detached to work in Eindhoven on a project to develop an RTOS (real-time operating system) solution to monitor the health of truck drivers and, therefore, contributing to improved road safety. The two Finnish partners are a couple – in so many respects. Live together, work together, have even built two houses together and have a son (at home in Finland doing his national service) and two daughters (who came along with them to Eindhoven). They find the climate great in Eindhoven, including the temperature – it was -30°C in Tampere (Finland) when they left, towards the end of January. The ‘warmth’ also extends to the feeling both have at the EIT Digital office at the High Tech Campus. “The atmosphere here at EIT Digital is very international and warm. People are very open and willing to participate.”
The two complement each other very well; he focuses more on the project management side while she takes the technical lead but, as Teemu points out, “Being both design engineers, we speak the same language.” The benefits of being ‘on site’ for a short period are significant, especially with their partners just across the road or around the corner. “Without coming here at this very early stage of the project, it would have been much more difficult to reach the point we are at now. Every week we get together on a regular basis to discuss various aspects of the project with our partners, to check on progress, what needs to be done next, and so on. We also get good feedback about the product and the features it should contain, the look and feel of it. What also helped is that we have got a lot of information about the use cases from others, something we didn’t know beforehand,” says Teemu. Johanna adds that “it’s a really dynamic process. And, of course, with people so close by it’s very easy to get together to discuss specific issues.”
So, in concrete terms what is it that they are hoping to achieve while they are here? Johanna: “We are developing a wearable device, a kind of wrist-watch that truck drivers wear to measure health parameters like heart rate, skin conductance and so on. This is coupled to a computer that analyses and interprets the data to establish the state of the driver’s condition, such as stress levels. The prototype is being tested on the road and everything is starting to come together.” They have to consider questions such as battery consumption and how long the user is prepared to wear the device. “These things impact battery size and product design,” says Teemu, “such as how many buttons, size of the screen, what the driver can or wants to do with the device. We want to have all the functionalities of the device and the system in place so that the hardware can be built and verified, ready for user trials in the real environment. There are no big issues anymore. Our target is to deliver the device in June.”
“It’s really great to have Johanna and Teemu over here at the Eindhoven Co-location Centre for a long period of time,” says Jean Gelissen, EIT Digital’s Health and Wellbeing Action Line Leader, “and see the huge benefit of working together as one team at this location on the development of the dedicated wrist-watch where all the pieces have to fit together: sensor technology, electronics, radio, power, display and last, but not least, design. This could never have been realised so quickly if all parties involved had been working from their own premises.”