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Shaping Value Creation by Smart Services at Mobiliar Forum Thun Workshop

By Jürg Meierhofer, ZHAW

Data Science, machine learning, artificial intelligence etc. are hot topics and deserve undisputedly a lot of attention. However, we always need to pay attention to whether and how we create value for the diverse actors in the ecosystem. For businesses, this means of course primarily economic value, but by far not only. Data-driven solutions also need to address other value dimensions of individuals, e.g., social or emotional values. This discipline of  “Smart Service Engineering” provides us with a set of tools and applicable procedures to achieve this. In the CAS Smart Service Engineering / Data Product Design, we work with these tools and directly apply them to case studies that are self-chosen by groups of participants.

Data Science, Machine Learning, Künstliche Intelligenz etc. sind hoch aktuelle Themen und verdienen unbestritten viel Aufmerksamkeit. Wir müssen jedoch immer darauf achten, ob und wie wir Wert für die verschiedenen Akteure im Ökosystem schaffen. Für Unternehmen bedeutet das natürlich in erster Linie betriebswirtschaftlichen Wert, aber bei weitem nicht nur. Datengetriebene Lösungen müssen auch andere Wertdimensionen von Individuen adressieren, z. B. soziale oder emotionale Werte. Die Disziplin des “Smart Service Engineerings” stellt uns dafür eine Reihe von Werkzeugen und direkt anwendbaren Methoden zur Verfügung. Im CAS Smart Service Engineering / Data Product Design arbeiten wir mit diesen Methoden und wenden sie direkt auf Fallstudien an, die von Teilnehmendengruppen selbst ausgewählt werden.

After three months of course, we had the wonderful opportunity to take our well-prepared case studies to the very inspiring environment of the castle of Thun, where we were made very welcome by our host Fabrizio Laneve, who is the lively and energetic manager of the Mobiliar Forum Thun. Brilliantly moderated by Ina Goller, the groups successfully further developed the value creation by their smart service concepts – with a strong focus on value creation in the ecosystem, considering all relevant actors. Thanks to these two consecutive days of workshop, accompanied by a nice dinner and an overnight stay in the castle, we not only brought our service concepts significantly further, but also learned a lot about methodology and additionally, very much strengthened our team spirit.

Nach drei Monaten hatten wir die wunderbare Gelegenheit, unsere gut aufbereiteten Fallstudien in die sehr inspirierende Umgebung des Schlosses Thun zu bringen, wo wir von unserem Gastgeber Fabrizio Laneve, dem sehr aktiven und inspirirenden Manager des Mobiliar Forums Thun, sehr herzliche empfangen wurden. Brillant moderiert von Ina Goller entwickelten die Gruppen die Wertschöpfung durch ihre Smart-Service-Konzepte erfolgreich weiter – mit einem starken Fokus auf die Wertschöpfung im Ökosystem unter Berücksichtigung aller relevanten Akteure. Dank dieser zwei aufeinanderfolgenden Workshop-Tage, begleitet von einem schönen Abendessen und einer Übernachtung im Schloss, haben wir nicht nur unsere Servicekonzepte deutlich weiterentwickelt, sondern auch viel über die Methodik gelernt und zusätzlich unseren Teamgeist deutlich gestärkt.


With more than double the attendees compared to last year’s conference, the SDS2022 was a great success with 580 participants. An exciting start, expert talks on topics particularly pertinent in data science, and a buzzing apero made the day turn into evening – since the easing of the pandemic, people are eager to interact more extensively, and we are proud to be a platform to enable this. A special thanks to our presenting partner D ONE and our scientific partner, the Datalab of the Zurich University of Applied Science!

Part one, with the workshops on June 22nd, took place in various location hubs around central Switzerland, mainly in Zurich, with great feedback garnered.

On the next day, part two in Lucerne featured talks on topics such as developing, deploying and operating machine learning-based systems (MLOps), Cybersecurity, AI for Humanity, and Data Ethics and Fairness.

With what kind of consequential topics did speakers engage the participants? Technological innovation can no longer work on greater-than-human efficiency alone. This means that data-driven approaches cannot neglect responsible AI which has been trained on societal factors such as ethics, fairness and privacy. Industries like insurance and security are tackling this delicate topic with data ethics experts.

Speaking of security, with tech becoming smarter, so is the hacking potential and so-called data poisoning, where training data gets infiltrated, tampered with and corrupted, leading to false outcomes or even harmful consequences. Yet most media have remained surprisingly quiet on this topic; so experts and industry leaders – stay vigilant and plan countermeasures from the beginning when deploying models!

We were honored to host our two keynote speakersRoberto Capobianco and Francesca Dominici

Roberto presented Sophy, the AI racing agent from Sony, developed through reinforcement learning. What makes Sophy so noteworthy is its balance of cooperation – following racing rules and etiquette – whilst pushing difficult, winning maneuvers, influenced humans to also use higher risk steering. This paves the way for a new generation of AI in complex physical systems.

Francesca’s talk regarding covid, climate and human health was particularly timely. She masterfully demonstrated the ways in which data can be used to advocate, shape and defend climate policy by presenting evidence of climate risks.

Participants voted for their favorite poster video and presentation in the app. The winners received a certificate at the award ceremony.

The unmissable SDS apero was a welcome and fun chapter in the conference. After three years of mostly zoom meetings, people didn’t want to leave until late! With such a stunning view at lake Lucerne, who could blame them?

Enough from us – here is what some of our attendees said about their experience (opens in a new window):
And that’s just a fraction of the presentations and experiences. Curious for more? Next year’s SDS2023 will be in Zurich on June 23rd, and with an even greater on-site emphasis. For a feel of the event, look out for our flashback video soon.

Thank you to the sponsors that made this event possible, to the speakers that breathed life into the conference, and the attendees who participated actively, intelligently and insightfully.

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to get sneak-peaks, deadlines and sign-up notices. See you in 2023 – Together we move faster!

Showcase Kistler & Digitalization

By Jürg Meierhofer, ZHAW

In the afternoon of June 8, the Expert Group Smart Services gathered at Kistler in Winterthur. After the very friendly welcome by the Kistler team, we got insightful presentations about the digitalization initivatives at Kistler and, specifically, Kistler’s way of digitalizing service with a focus on pilot projects in various fields of advanced services. These presentations were rounded up by a presentation of a turn-key solution by the Kistler Innovation Lab. Many thanks to Marc Schaad, Philipp Schenkel, and Thomas Wuhrmann for their presentations.

The presentations were followed by a tour around the company in break-out groups and an apéro. We had the opportunity to develop many new contacts and inspire ideas that we will follow up on. It was an excellent Expert Group event and we got the feedback of many participants that we should follow up with similar activities.

How can we enable a more sustainable industry?

By Melanie Geiger, data innovation alliance

Report-back on the 5th Conference on Industry Perspectives: 4.0 Synergies and Opportunities for the Circular Economy

When academic brilliance and popular enthusiasm meet, it results in the recent ZHAW conference, “5. Konferenz Perspektiven mit Industrie 4.0 Synergien und Chancen für die Kreislaufwirtschaft”, where an economy that works together with the environment is the future. After all, that, in a nutshell, is what circular economy (CE) is about.

The morning was packed with engaging presentations on an abundance of circularity aspects revolving around:

● Manufacturing and production
● Material and raw materials
● Logistics
● Utilization
● Support and service

The Tool manufacturer FRAISA presented the possibilities of digital individualization in optimizing tool utilization. Using their method, tools can be “restored”, leading to a reduction in energy consumption, as well as in materials and logistics costs. This provides a basis for a sustainable economic system.

After lunch (and plenty of networking), the 80 participants divided up into 8 discussion tables, intensively identifying and analyzing current challenges in Industry and the Circular Economy. Key challenges which lead to resource waste in Logistics were poorly packed or empty return-shipping containers were highlighted. The NTN Innovation Booster Databooster and NTN Innovation Booster Applied Circular Sustainability jointly organized the interactive session.

Kündig, a provider of industrial sanding machines, offers remote fault diagnosis and support to their customers in order to reduce travel time and resource requirements. Another excellent example is REMONDIS Digital Services, which globally offers interested parties such as cities and municipalities an innovative solution: road and environmental data on demand! As a fleet operator of waste collection vehicles, REMONDIS Digital drives along all the streets of a city at regular intervals whereby in doing so, their vehicles collect data on the road environment in an automated, data protection-compliant and demand-oriented manner, down to the very last nook and cranny. They can achieve this by using optical sensors together with artificial intelligence.

With all these innovative ideas for making Industry more sustainable, we had the opportunity to explore new possibilities through networking and intense discussion, finally ending with an enjoyable apéro. Thank you to all the participants!

Wie kann Industrie 4.0 die Nachhaltigkeit fördern?

Erfolgreiche 5. Konferenz Perspektiven mit Industrie 4.0 Synergien und Chancen für die Kreislaufwirtschaft 1. Juni 2022, Winterthur

By Jürg Meierhofer, ZHAW

Die Kreislaufwirtschaft ist der vielversprechende Weg von Industrie, Gesellschaft und Politik, um Ressourcen zu schonen und ein nachhaltiges Wirtschafssystem aufzubauen. Richtig gestaltet, leisten Technologien und Methoden der Industrie 4.0 einen wichtigen Beitrag dafür. Dank ihnen können die Unternehmen Energie-, Material- und Logistikaufwände minimieren. Sie sind Wegbereiter für lückenlose Nachverfolgbarkeit von Materialien und Bauteilen, Zustandsüberwachung und Predictive Maintenance, Remote-Services für weltweit verteilte Anlagen und neue digitale Businessmodelle.

In der Konferenz «Perspektive mit Industrie 4.0» wurden Lösungen von industriellen Unternehmen präsentiert, die pionierhaft und mustergültig sind. Sie dienen damit als Musterbeispiele nachhaltiger Gestaltung von Industrie 4.0 für zahlreiche andere Unternehmen. Der Tag zeigte insgesamt einen eindrucksvollen Stand der Entwicklung auf, von denen unten anekdotisch nur ein paar Stichworte festgehalten sind. Insbesondere wurde deutlich, dass nachhaltige Lösungen basierend auf  Digitalisierung nicht in ferner Zukunft kommen, sondern schon sehr nahe sind und dank diesen Leuchtturm-Beispielen heute schon verfügbar sind.

Begleitet wurden die Referaten von einem Ideation-Workshop, der von den beiden Innosuisse geförderten Innovation Boostern “applied circular sustainability” und “databooster” gestaltet und moderiert wurde. Dabei kam echte Co-Creation unter den Teilnehmenden mit zahlreichen Projektideen, die nach der Konferenz fortgesetzt werden sollen.

Impressionen, Bildgalerie: 

Stichworte zu den Referaten:
Paarigkeit in optimierten Verkehrsströmen (Joe Petitjean, Planzer Synergetics), Nachhaltigkeit dank Services, z.B. virtuelles Training (Michael Braun und Lukas Bruhns, KVD), individualisierte Werkzeugaufbereitung (“Jedes Werkzeug hat einen Identität / einen Personalausweis”) (Thomas Wittig, FRAISA), papierlose Prozesse und optimierte Stoffkreisläufe (Konrad Pfadenhauer, Concircle Schweiz), Wertschöpfung im Produktlebenszyklus durch konsequente Fokussierung auf den Use Case (Alexander Gafner, Cognizant), Begleitung von KMU im Innovationsprozess (Markus Müller, Kanton Zürich), Chancen in der MEM-Branche vor dem Hintergrund anstehender Regulierungen (Chris Roth, Swissmem), Kreislaufprozess für Ersatzteile (Robert Keller, Bizerba), Kundennähe durch Fernzugriff (Raphael Golder, Kündig), Abfall wird digital (Kristin Doppelreiter, REMONDIS), urbane Kreislauflogistik auf der Schiene (Katharina Wachs, SBB Cargo).

Databooster Shaping Workshop:
Design thinking and Digital Strategy workshop for SwissRe’s Specialty unit

By Markus Konz, SwissRe and Jürg Meierhofer, ZHAW

At 31st May SwissRe’s Specialty unit hold an ideation workshop to sharpen its digital strategy for the core business supported by databooster. Data-driven underwriting and automation were the key elements of the lively discussions. The participants represented business and technology units to bring views together and ensure a 360° perspective for the digital strategy. Jürg Meierhofer (ZHAW) and Markus Konz (SwissRe) moderated the workshop and guided the participants through the design thinking framework which enabled the team to stay focused and come up with a very concrete picture of the requirements to transfer into a digital future.

The workshop was a full success and the outcome got turned into concrete action plan for the coming 3 years. It was great to see how a well-orchestrated design thinking workshop with highly motivated and competent experts could deliver tangible results for a deeply informed strategy and roadmap in only half a day.

Synthetic Data Generation on The Hype Train

By Stefan Keller, Reik Leiterer, Nicolas Lenz

When it comes to predictions, we should always be careful. But Synthetic Data Generation is certainly one of the trend topics. Gartner is not the only one to say that this technology will become established in the next few years.

On April 13, 2022, the Expert Group “Spatial Data Analytics” met in Zurich on the topic of “Geospatial Synthetic Data” in-person and virtually. In the modern premises of the Gleisarena, provided by the FFHS, the host, Aldo Lamberti of, presented three top-class talks to the 20 participants. The following is a brief summary.

The Spatial Data Analytics Expert Group is a nice place to share ideas. It’s part of the data innovation alliance which is instrumental in making Switzerland a recognized hub for data-driven value creation.

Left to right: Jakob Dambon, Aldo Lamberti, Josef Boesze

Aldo Lamberti began with a presentation on “How to securely collaborate and compute on synthetic geo data”. Syntheticus envisions a world in which the full potential of data is realized, while at the same time preserving fundamental privacy rights. Synthetic data is the solution. Synthetic data mimics real data while preserving the utility of data and protecting privacy – it is poised to revolutionize the way the world realizes the full potential of data. Public and private entities around the world trust us to unlock and monetize untapped data without violating compliance. They are setting new standards by securely collaborating and processing Syntheticus data across the entire data value chain. Syntheticus provides an SaaS platform for enterprises to generate synthetic data at scale while maintaining privacy.

Jakob Dambon of SwissRe spoke on “Spatial and Spatio-Temporal Statistics, Using Both Frequency and Bayesian Approaches.” He explained that one of the best known regression methods is Ordinary Least Squares (OLS). It is easy to model and interpret. However, when dealing with spatial data, the model assumptions are usually no longer valid. More specifically, observations that are close together are more dependent than observations that are far apart. This is where geostatistical methods come into play. These methods attempted to explain the remaining dependencies using, for example, a Gaussian process. These processes capture the dependence on the observations over distance in their covariance function. Finally, using geostatistical methods, he modeled the covariates as a fixed external trend while allowing the intercept to vary over space.

Josef Boesze of itopia ag spoke about “Developing and Testing without any Risks or Side Effects using iSynth”. itopia – as a boutique IT consulting firm for the financial world – has long suspected that testing based on production data – even when anonymized – leads to risks and undesirable side effects. Moreover, machine learning and Big Data analytics have become the natural enemies of solutions based on anonymized data. In his opinion, it’s time for a change. The alternative is synthetic data. However, until now, generating synthetic data was too costly, the results were not satisfactory, or it was simply not practical. Efficient and risk-free development, testing and training is now possible thanks to consistent synthetic test data. itopia offers an agile and object-oriented approach as well as suitable test data factory tools for projects and DevOps.

After a lively discussion, the participants present went out for pizza together at a nearby casual industrial-style venue. The food and drinks were kindly sponsored by ExoLabs. While networking, the next host was also already determined. This means that we can look forward to more interesting meetings!

Service Lunch Smart Services: Transformation of the service business of Swiss industrial companies

With Boris Ricken, AWK Group

COVID-19 has posed enormous challenges to Swiss industrial companies over the past two years. The service sector has been particularly hard hit, as it relies on personal interactions with customers. At the same time, digital technologies have changed the service business.

In his presentation, Boris Ricken shed light on the implications of these developments for Swiss industrial companies. He showed how longterm trends in service provision have been reinforced, e.g., by local service provision in combination with central products and services. Given this, different fields of action were elaboarated, among others for new digital services and business models.

The presentation was accompanied by lively discussion and input from the participants. The expert group Smart Services is a very active platform for sharing and growing knowledge and expertise in this field.

Contact person: Jürg Meierhofer

Databooster – To support SMEs

HEPIA, HES-SO, OPI, and NTN Innovation Booster Databooster join their forces to support SMEs on their way from a rough idea to a funded research project. On 1st March 2022, a joint event was organized at HEPIA in which 30 interested persons from the industry took part.

After the welcome of OPI (OPI – Office de Promotion des Industries et des Technologies) by Hélène Gache (Directrice at OPI) and HEPIA by Claire Baribaud (Directrice at HEPIA – Haute école du paysage, d’ingénierie et d’architecture de Genève – HEPIA) Nabil Abdennadher (Professor of Computer Science at HEPIA) presented the Databooster objectives and innovation process for the audience. He pointed out that the NTN Innovation Booster will support the preliminary phase of open innovation before it comes to an innovation project.

Two success stories of the last year were presented by SMEs.

First, Andreas Seonbuchner (CEO and partner of CitizenTalk) showcased his journey within the Databooster – starting from first idea discussions with a research group to securing appropriate team partners by a call for participation to the community. An interdisciplinary team with potential customers proceed in shaping further his idea. The vital clarity for implementation options was gained through an Innocheck for a feasibility study (together with an Applied University). Finally, a consortium was founded for an already accepted Innosuisse project.

Thereafter, Sami Jaballah, Co-Founder and CEO of DNEXT Intelligence SA, described his  success with the Databooster: with two matched partners and a solid framework that shaped his idea, he is now preparing the Innosuisse project submission. At one stage, Sami admitted being unsure about his idea. However, thanks to the competence and expertise the Databooster provided, he was able to solidify his relatively vague idea into a structured concept that reached maturation.

After these two presentations, an open discussion on various topics followed, such as the difference between Innovation Booster and Innosuisse Innocheck, confidentiality and IPR, funding model and budget allocation, the definition of innovation, etc. A delicious aperitif concluded the event.
Many thanks to all persons involved in organizing the event. We are looking forward to many Call for Participations from the attendees.

Challenges in Applied Computer Vision

By Philipp Schmid, CSEM, Andrea Dunbar, CSEM and Jakob Olbrich, PwC

Meeting of Expert Group Machine Learning Clinic, February 11 2022

What have expensive mechanical watches, sand, e-waste and cockpits in common? All areas have tough challenges in computer vision. Human eyes are very hard to outperform with cameras and image processing. What people perform with their visual sense every day is just amazing and and creating these capabilities remains a complex challenge for computer vision.

At this first in person meeting this year the expert group focused on various real world vision problems.
The event was hosted by PwC in their inspiring location in Oerlikon. Four speakers set the floor for great discussions followed by a lively sitting Apéro.

Lukas Schaupp, PwC «Detecting e-Waste»
The amount of electronic devices people dispose is growing exponentially. Not just talking about smartphones, laptops and earphones but as well larger household items like dishwashers, toasters and vacuum cleaners. As prices for raw materials are rocketing off automated recycling of e-waste is becoming attractive. Lukas demonstrated strategies to localize and classify different electronic devices in bulk on a conveyor belt.

Andrea Dunbar, CSEM «AI at the Edge – Safety in the next generation Cockpits»
There are multiple reasons and advantages to process at the edge. Andrea demonstrated this impressively in the use-case: next generation cockpits. Pilot drowsiness detection and more important high accuracy eye gaze detection (±1°) with rates of up to 60 frames per second are only possible at the edge. What is today already reality in the flight simulator will soon be introduced in each car for the safety of our roads.

Francesco Cicala, PwC «Automatic image thresholding for semantic segmentation»
The quality of concrete depends heavily on the right mixture of sand and pebbles. In the future a smartphone app should be able to classify the correct mix by assessing the size of the sand and pebbles. Francesco introduced a powerful method to extend Otsu’s thresholding technique into a locally adaptive threshold map for the whole image. This method is robust, fully explainable and there are no labels needed. In a next phase it will be extended with a U-Net algorithm to improve accuracy.

David Honzatko, CSEM «Photometric stereo in defect detection»
Swiss Made symbolizes perfect quality. Especially in the watch industry requirements are demanding. The small parts are highly reflective, complex shaped and defects can appear randomly at any position. The key to an automated defect detection solution is photometric stereo. David presented a dome setup which can project up to 108 illumination directions. To reduce the hardware requirements whilst keeping the performance David presented a new data augmentation technique, which boosts the training of any deep learning architecture processing the images.

A full evening of new insights and tough challenges in the field of computer vision. Thanks to everyone
for the great participation and especially to the host for the amazing location and the local Apéro.

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