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Tech firms respond to Nordic government calls

Nordic firms are working with tech suppliers to help them get back up and running after Covid-19

Nordic techs firms have responded to a call by governments for innovation to support efforts to re-boot their economies, by helping companies re-emerge and resume operations post Covid-19 lockdowns.

Specifically, Nordic governments want tech developed that can enable enterprises to restore normal business activities, by merging improved virus screening with flexible digital solutions that facilitate managers and employees who need to work on-site or remotely from home. 

Nordic companies operating in the artificial intelligence (AI) and digital domains have been quick out of the blocks, offering companies greater choice in running core parts of their operations remotely. Remote working technologies are being eagerly sought by Nordic companies, especially businesses that are experiencing difficulties in persuading employees to return to work in the absence of a Covid-19 vaccine or authorised effective treatments.

As a result, more Nordic companies have turned to AI, telecommuting and smart virtual assistant technology tools to deliver the stopgap they require to navigate their businesses successfully through the continuing pandemic. 

The fear of business failure is very real, said Jyri Häkämies, the director general of EK, Finland’s confederation of Finnish industries. A business survey conducted by the EK among 1,873 Finnish firms revealed that over 20% of employers fear the prospect of bankruptcy in the next 6 to 12 months due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“The survey indicates that we could see even a higher rate of bankruptcies and mass unemployment than was the case during recessions in the 1990s,” said Häkämies.

The Covid-19-linked lockdown disruption caused to business continuity across the Nordic region has created new avenues of opportunity for tech companies with a surge in interest for innovative cost-efficient business support services.

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Identifying its own window of opportunity, Sweden-based Artificial Solutions expanded its AI-driven business support virtual assistant offerings. In April, the company launched Tiva, an AI virtual assistant modelled on its Teneo Intelligent Virtual Assistant chatbox technology, which is targeted at public and private sector organisations.

Tiva is designed to provide an added layer of human resources (HR) support to enterprises working in multiple languages across different time zones. At its most fundamental, Tiva delivers a rapid deployment of automated HR and IT support to employees working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The enhanced automation in Tiva means that HR and IT departments are better able to focus on core duties while using it to handle mundane and repetitive tasks. Such tasks range from dealing with routine employee-related requests regarding available telecommuting resources, basic IT support to help establish hotspots, as well as liaising on leave and bonus payment issues.  

“Tiva is more than just another dumb chatbot tool spouting Covid-19 advice. It fulfils a vital need for enterprises forced to adopt a work from home strategy almost overnight, and with no real infrastructure to support the vast number of queries and issues that employees are encountering,” said Andy Peart, chief marketing and strategy officer at Artificial Solutions.

The rapid take-up of technology by pandemic impacted companies has also accelerated digital transformations in Nordic companies.  

Pressured to respond to economic challenges posed by Covid-19, Nordic companies are rolling-out plans to increase the pace of transformation in services and solutions by implementing tech-led efficiency improvements.

Cost reductions

Dustin, a major Nordic re-seller of IT-products, rolled out a cost-reduction plan in May to consolidate its office assets and lay off employees across the region. The company will close offices at 14 locations in Sweden, Finland, and Denmark and in Norway over the next six months. Telecommuting from home will become a more important.

Reflecting a wave of identical cost culling measures by other Nordic firms, Dustin is looking to generate increased yearly savings of SEK 40m. 

“The increased rate of digitalisation in society, which has been accelerated by Covid-19, increased the pace of implementation of our strategy for services and solutions. Customer behaviours that we had expected would take several years to happen took place in just a few weeks. The pandemic has been a game-changing event,” said Thomas Ekman, CEO of Dustin.

The need to provide a safe working environment for staff and users has resulted in Nordic municipalities using scaled-up smart solutions to revamp public and privately operated recycling centres. The technology group iioote has partnered with waste management company Rambo to develop a smart IoT solution for recycling stations run by Rambo in Bohuslän. Rambo operates a network of waste management centres in the Gotland-based province.

The low-power wide-area network supported IoT solution developed was tested at Rambo’s recycling station in Lönndal. The smart technology is designed to monitor and count cars entering and leaving the facility. More the IoT solution directs vehicles in and out of recycling centres using a system of traffic control lights.

Users of Rambo’s recycling stations can plan “drop-off visits” by taking a virtual tour on the company’s website.  

“It’s important that staff and visitors feel safe and confident using our recycling stations,” said Joakim Jansson, business area manager at Rambo. “The new smart IoT solution will work in combination with the Covid-19 health and safety measures we have implemented. The measures limit the number of concurrent visitors at the recycling station. We envisage the expanded use of IoT solutions to meet our public safety and environmental targets going forward.”

Joint venture

Innovation in the medtech domain has produced a Covid-19 rapid-test joint venture between Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre, the vaccine research organisation MeVac and the University of Helsinki. The collaboration is focused on the development of a rapid 15-minute test for Covid-19. The test is designed to be administered by healthcare professionals to diagnose Covid-19 in the early stage of the disease.

Responding to the potential negative physiological affects of Covid-19 and resulting lockdowns on mental wellbeing, the City of Oulu’s Healthcare Services Unit is testing a mobile application for patients and a cloud-based application for healthcare workers. The app will be used to monitor and support mental health recovery, particularly in users experiencing prolonged or clinical depression.

The core software for the Mielipäiväkirja (Mind Diary) app was developed by Finnish medtech Medified Solution. The app provide users suffering from depression with realistic information about mood swings and their mental health, in addition to providing a digital roadmap to access vital dedicated support services. The app allows healthcare professionals to monitor and remotely interact in real-time with their patients.

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