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Databooster Workshop: Managing Financial Risks of Smart Services

By Markus Konz, Swiss Re, and Jürg Meierhofer, ZHAW

On August 29, 2023, we conducted an idea mining workshop in the field of financial risks of smart services in Zurich. The topic of the workshop was centered around the following two risk types, which emerge from the new characteristics of data-driven services:

  1. If a provider (typically in manufacturing, i.e., providing a machine) goes to output oriented services, it takes over the risk of temporarily being not able to provide the output promised. This may create financial damage to the customer and depending on the contract, the provider must pay a penalty for this or does not get the fee from the customer because there is no output. How can this financial risk for the provider be quantified and what would be possible instruments to mitigate this risk? 
  2. If the provider going to a XaaS (e.g., machine as a service) offering, it lowers the investment hurdle for the customer because there is only OpEx, no CapEx. However, the provider needs a priori financing for the machine, e.g., by a loan. It pays interests for this loan which need to be re-financed by the recurring service fees. Additionally, there is an uncertainty regarding these future cash flows (e.g., due to insolvency).
Ein Bild, das Kleidung, Person, Schuhwerk, Mann enthält.

Automatisch generierte Beschreibung

Applying the service design methodology, the workshop had the goal to shed light on these questions:

  • Desirability: To what extent do machine builders actually have the pain assumed above and need a solution?
  • Feasibility, viability: To what extent do financial service providers have the capacity to deliver services for these needs in an economical way?

Almost twenty attendees from several countries contributed to the rich and multifaceted discussion, which brought up the potential for further going analysis and projects.

Expert Day – Technopark Zurich

By Reik Leiterer and Gundula Heinatz, data innovation alliance

On the 24th of August, the data innovation alliance once again organized an Expert Day – this time at the Technopark Zurich, ideally suited for this purpose with its important role in the innovation ecosystem of Switzerland. Current challenges in the field of data science were addressed and the 50 participants were able to enjoy an exciting program with a keynote speech and parallel, subject-specific workshops.

In addition to several input talks, the workshops also included ideation sessions in which challenges were identified and possible solutions discussed in the context of the databooster program (powered by Innosuisse). As usual, the event was concluded with an aperitif used for a lively exchange between the experts – and all participants agree: Together we move faster.

The Expert Day was kicked off with a keynote by Kyle Alves (Senior Lecturer of Information Systems & Operations Management, University of the West of England), who presented experiences of creating the world’s first digitally traceable sandwich.  The Digital Sandwich project is a national demonstrator of a digitalized food supply chain, focused on sandwich manufacturing – relying on an integrated digital platform that fuses multiple industrial digital technologies (Blockchain, AI, IoT, Finance) into a single technology stack operating within a standard business ERP.

Of course, this is not a trivial process and thus Alves presented the interdisciplinary challenges they faced: in the areas of food production, land use, policy/regulation, food logistics, energy systems, consumer behaviour, and many others.

Directly linked to this topic, a Data Food Challenge was carried out (organized by Shaun West – Expert Group Smart Services) to illustrate the diversity of opportunities associated with the increased adoption of digital technologies in food chains.

The challenge team (see photo) dealt with topics such as the adoption of new supply chain technology by SMEs, what knowledge and skills are needed for sustained performance, or possibilities on how food supply chain performance can simultaneously meet ESG requirements and profitability targets.

As AI continues transforming all application sectors, discussions about its ethical implications and regulatory requirements are gaining a lot of traction. The workshop Machine Learning and Responsible AI took up precisely this current development. Organized by Ricardo Chavarriaga (ZHAW), Philipp Schmid (CSEM), Andrea Dunbar (CSEM) and the Databooster Focus Topic on Responsible AI, the current state of discussions on ethical implications and regulation of AI systems was presented, and the participants learnt about state-of-the-art techniques for explainability and interpretability. Next to enjoying the inspiring impulse talks about “Ethics, Operationalizing Responsible AI and regulatory compliance» and «Advancements in Interpretable AI for Healthcare: Paving the Way Towards More Reliable Computational Models”, the participants got the opportunity to discuss their specific challenges, meet potential partners and identify ideas to follow. Moreover, representatives of the Databooster program were present to help participants in receiving further support for developing innovative approaches and further research to address challenges in responsibly applying AI in real-world cases.

The workshop Hidden opportunities: Geo-spatial applications in the age of OpenData (organized by the databooster Focus Topic Spatial Data Analytics), had the aim to bring together experts from different fields to jointly identify needs and possible new approaches in the field of open data and geospatial applications. Impulse talks by Anne Wegmann about  the opendata organisation,

Florian Scheidegger (IBM Research) and Raphael von Thiessen about the KI Sandbox offered by the Canton of Zurich) and Michele Bolla about the GeoML use case developed by ERNI, showed how complex and diverse the topic of opendata is in Switzerland. In the subsequent Idea session, it became clear that there is still a lot of potential for development, especially in the linking of open data, the standardization and harmonization of meta-information, and the transformation of ideas into profitable business models.

The workshop Build a Cloud IoT System Using a RaspberryPi offered by D-ONE (Heiko Krömer, Stepan Gaponiuk) gave an interactive hands-on experience with the Internet of Things (IoT). Participants were able to set up their own end-to-end cloud IoT-system using RaspberryPi microcontrollers and following a brief theoretical introduction to RaspberryPi, a sensor to controller connection was realized.

The format convinced once again with very good speakers and open-minded participants interested in exchange and cooperation. We are already looking forward to the next event and a lively and active participation.

Databooster Shaping Workshop: Data-Driven Welfare Monitoring for Horses

By Miriam Baumgartner, Agroscope, Stefan Rieder, Identitas and Jürg Meierhofer, ZHAW

On July 3, 2023, we conducted an insightful databooster idea shaping workshop in a domain with traditionally rather low degree of digitalization, but yet a considerable potential to create value for the actors of the ecosystem. Precision livestock farming allows the automatic monitoring of animal health and welfare. Its potential has been proven particularly in the dairy sector. Not so much attention has been paid to the digital monitoring of equine welfare, although the well- being of horses is of great concern to their owners and of public interest.

We created a layout of the business and private ecosystem and evaluated the needs terms of jobs and pains of different actors. At the same time, a strong focus was put on the economic quantification of the pains and their potential mitigation or elimination, which provided some results which were previously not obvious in their qualitative and quantitative dimension and which contribute relevant elements for a business case.

The workshop was substantially complemented by the expert knowledge from «Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Umwelt Nürtingen-Geislingen (HfWU)» and BestTUPferd GmbH (Berlin) and moderated by Jürg Meierhofer from the databooster.

IEEE 10th Swiss Conference on Data Science (SDS) – Workshop Day

Co-creation for solving tomorrow’s challenges today

On June 22nd-23rd, the IEEE 10th Swiss Conference on Data Science (SDS2023) took place in Zurich/Schlieren. The first day was dedicated to interactive workshops and held in the amazing JED event location in Schlieren. With 15 workshops, more than 350 participants and a lot of enthusiastic feedback, we can draw a very positive conclusion. At this point, we would like to thank again all workshop organizers and the spirit of all participants – without your commitment and active participation, the workshop day would not have been possible! In this blog, we would now like to briefly present 4 selected workshop formats which, within the framework of the databooster program of Innosuisse, had a particular focus on co-creation and ideation.

The workshop Responsible AI – Explainability, Transparency and Fairness of data-based applications in practice, was organized by CLAIRE (R. Chavarriaga), the Expert Group Data Ethics (C. Heitz), Eraneos (B. Müller) and the applied universities FHGR (C. Hauser) and ZHAW. The event started with short keynote speeches by Xavier Renard (AXA Group Paris) and Arman Iranfar (CertX), who addressed the challenges around the concepts and levels of fairness, non-discrimination, explainability or transparency as well as the upcoming regulatory frameworks in the frame of the AI Act and the related requirements.

Subsequently, various break-out groups were formed, and challenges and solutions with a focus on practical implementations were developed and discussed. The key challenges identified were: i) What is a structured approach to develop responsible AI?, ii) How to set up a risk assessment which is suited for addressing the risk-based approach required by the EU AI act?, iii) How can data scientist be connected with other stakeholders for making sure that the engineering of AI is fully connected with an integrated risk assessment?, and iv) How to measure the “degree of responsibility” of responsible AI?

For identified challenges for which no solution was found during the workshop, specific innovation support programs were presented offering possibilities to be able to continue the work in depth afterwards.

Under the GEOspatial tag, 2 workshops were held in cooperation with the GEOSummit. GEOSpatial Data Science – The Power of Knowing Where (by D ONE – M. Kliesch, A. Soleymani, P. Thomann) and GEOSpatial Business – Innovation & Business Cases (by Expert Group Spatial Data Analytics – S. Keller, R. Leiterer, Swiss Geoinformation Strategy SGS – C. Najar) and the Swiss Territorial Data Lab STDL – R. Rollier, R. Pott).

In The Power of Knowing Where, the participants discuss existing and brainstorm potential future use cases across various sectors. Using open-source datasets, the participants were able to implement their ideas in the subsequent hands-on session and to investigate and predict natural hazards relating to climate-change in Switzerland – from the exploration, visualization, and manipulation of location-based data towards the use of it in predictive modelling.

In Innovation & Business Cases, the participants got insights into the business potential of geospatial data and value-added service presented by Jonas Weiss (IBM). Furthermore, legal requirements on ESG reporting and risk assessments of large investments were discussed and challenges but also opportunities presented – paving the way to completely new business perspectives and new business models that can be exploited. The STDL presented success stories and use this to lead to an open and interactive discussion round allowing participants to bring their specific questions and case studies to the table for constructive feedback – and to push ideas further with new approaches, new motivation, and new contacts.

P. Hutzli and B. Russinello (la Mobilière) gave in their workshop an Introduction and ROI of Knowledge Graphs, based on three examples in watch industry, energy and insurance. They presented, why Swatch, BKW and Mobiliar have chosen Knowledge Graph technology over classical approaches to combine data and metadata from many different sources into one coherent data network. The complete process was discussed – from the initial pain points and how they built their solutions to the business cases and the positive returns on investment. Inspired by these specific journeys, the participants were motivated to identify similar pain points and use cases in their own organization, to develop a simple road map and to calculate a quick Return on Investment (ROI). Afterwards, the specific business cases were presented for immediate feedback, mutually inspiring everybody to look for new use cases.

The Expert Group Smart Maintenance (Lilach Goren Huber, Manuel Arias Chao – ZHAW) organized the workshop Deep Learning for Predictive Maintenance: Scalable Implementation in Operational Setups. In this workshop, the gap between the state-of-the-art research on the one hand, and industrial implementation, on the other hand was discussed.

One of the underlying theses for this was that the technological and algorithmic development is driven primarily by academia and less by industry which stands in contrast to other applications of DL such as image recognition, speech recognition and gaming, which are driven by industry giants like Google, Meta, or Microsoft. In a co-creation setup, the following challenges were addressed, and solutions discussed based on the use-cases of wind turbines and aircraft engines: i) dealing with the lack of labeled historical faults, ii) effective combination of domain knowledge for fault isolation, iii) upscaling the Fault Detection and Isolation (FDI) algorithms to multi-component systems, and iv) quantifying uncertainty in fault detection problems.

The SDS2023 workshop day convinced with the awesome atmosphere, highly committed workshop organizers and open-minded participants interested in exchange and cooperation! Thanks a lot for this inspiring day!

(SDS Orga-Team, Images © Simone Frischknecht, data innovation alliance)

Unlocking the Business Potential of Large Language Models: Real-world Applications and Obstacles

by Jochen Wulf and Jürg Meierhofer – (Data-Driven Service Engineering Group at ZHAW)

At this year’s IEEE Swiss Conference on Data Science there was a very informative workshop on Generative AI in Practice. The presentations and discussions in this workshop made clear that the generative AI technologies, and Large Language Models (LLMs) in particular, are very versatile and powerful. It also became apparent, however, that the business potential of LLMs largely remains unclear.

Figure 1: DALL-E Visualization of a Talking Machine

OpenAI’s AI chatbot ChatGPT has already gained over 100 million users within the first two months of its release. This makes this internet service the fastest growing of its kind. In comparison, the runner-up, Tiktok, took a full nine months to reach a similar number of users. The potential of the underlying technology, LLMs, is undisputedly recognized by business leaders. According to a study by Gartner among business executives1, 45% of respondents have already intensified their investment in artificial intelligence (AI) as a result of the success of ChatGPT.


LLMs are extremely large-scale artificial neural networks that are trained with terabytes of textual content to complete texts. LLMs can therefore generate new content and thus belong to the class of generative AI solutions. In contrast, discriminatory AI models can only establish assignments or classifications between different inputs and predefined outputs.

LLMs can be used for a variety of purposes, such as text summaries, sentiment analysis, or named entity recognition. Although there are already initial indications of the productivity gains that can be achieved through the use of LLMs, the role of this technology for the business models of industrial companies is still largely unclear.

The Impact of LLMs on Business Models

In the following, we present the findings derived from own prototypes and a comprehensive analysis of more than 50 real-world use cases pertaining to the application of LLMs within various companies. A distinction can be made between four mechanisms of how business models are changed with LLMs:

  • new customer benefits
  • new sales and communication channels
  • increased business process automation
  • improved use of information resources

New Customer Benefits

LLMs play a crucial role in operating personal assistance systems. Instacart, a grocery delivery service, utilizes LLMs to address nutrition queries and offer personalized product recommendations.

Furthermore, LLMs serve as personal coaches, particularly valuable in the realm of learning. Khan Academy, an educational platform, employs LLMs to detect errors in programming tasks and generate helpful solution hints.

LLMs also possess the capability to independently generate content that is relevant to customers., an online service, exemplifies this by creating blog posts, social media content, and website material based on bullet-style keywords and predefined language styles.

Additionally, LLMs facilitate voice-based interactions with machines. Mercedes, for instance, integrates LLMs into the infotainment systems of their premium vehicles to provide comprehensive answers to complex customer questions while driving.

New Sales and Communication Channels

LLM-based chatbots offer significant advantages in automating sales and customer service processes. In Switzerland, the insurer Helvetia has successfully implemented an LLM-based chatbot to handle inquiries regarding their product range.

Another notable example is Solana, a blockchain operator, leveraging ChatGPT in their customer service operations. By utilizing LLM-based chatbots, Solana effectively assists customers in resolving intricate service-related challenges, ensuring a seamless user experience.

Increased Business Process Automation

LLMs offer remarkable potential in enhancing automation within information-intensive business processes. The Radisson hotel chain has effectively employed LLMs to automate the handling of customer inquiries and cancellations, enabling swift and accurate responses. Additionally, LLMs generate helpful suggestions for emails and review responses, streamlining communication and enhancing customer satisfaction.

Another notable application is observed in Swiss Migros Bank, where LLMs play a pivotal role in partially automating mortgage application processing. By intelligently recognizing case-specific requirements and evaluating text-based customer documents, LLMs assist in expediting and improving the efficiency of the application review process.

Improved Use of Information Ressources

The fourth mechanism focuses on the enhanced exploitation of information resources. Morgan Stanley, a securities trading company, exemplifies this by leveraging LLMs to facilitate employee access to and evaluation of internal documents. Through the application of LLMs, Morgan Stanley streamlines the process of retrieving and analyzing crucial information, ensuring efficiency and informed decision-making within the organization.

Likewise, Zurich Insurance capitalizes on LLMs to automate contract evaluation and ascertain the validity of insurance claims. This strategic employment of LLMs empowers Zurich Insurance to effectively and efficiently assess the presence of a claim, ultimately leading to enhanced operational processes.

Figure 2: Four Mechanisms in Osterwalder´s Business Model Canvas

Current Challenges in the Commercial Application of LLMs

When evaluating the strategic importance and necessity for action concerning the commercial application of LLMs, companies are faced with three fundamental questions.

What are technical risks associated with the use of LLMs?

One significant challenge arises from the risk of LLMs generating false or inaccurate statements, commonly known as hallucinations. However, advancements in prompt engineering, which involve carefully formulating textual instructions, have already proven effective in mitigating this risk to a considerable extent. Additionally, the development of fact-checking methods is underway to ensure that the output generated by LLMs is rooted in accurate and verified information.

Another crucial technical concern revolves around the security of sensitive data shared during the prompting process. The potential exists for malicious actors to employ targeted prompts, referred to as Training Data Extraction Attacks, to extract training data from LLMs. Consequently, it is imperative to eliminate the possibility of shared data being utilized to train publicly accessible LLMs. Alternatively, dedicated LLMs can be utilized to safeguard the confidentiality of shared data.

What legal framework conditions need to be taken into account?

When utilizing LLMs, it is essential to adhere to relevant data protection regulations, particularly if personal data is being processed. This entails fulfilling information obligations and respecting individuals’ rights to information, similar to other AI applications.

Additionally, companies need to consider the evolving legal landscape, such as the European Union’s AI Act. The current draft of the AI Act specifies certain requirements for LLMs, including the prevention of generating illegal or discriminatory content and the disclosure of copyrighted content used during training. However, a comparison of different LLMs reveals that most models do not fully comply with these requirements, particularly regarding copyright compliance. Therefore, it is crucial for companies to carefully assess and ensure compliance relevant legal obligations when making long-term technology decisions involving LLMs.

In which areas should companies invest in LLMs?

Providers of standard software and Internet services are already investing heavily in LLMs. This includes areas such as sales management, customer service, marketing and knowledge management. Non-software companies will likely source such software rather than build it themselves.

More interesting for non-software companies are application areas in which LLMs have a direct impact on their value propositions or business-critical business processes. For example, robotics manufacturer Boston Dynamics uses LLMs to enable voice-based interaction between users and machines. Ivaldi, a distributed production specialist, uses LLMs to help maintenance teams troubleshoot. Rolls-Royce uses artificial intelligence to harness unstructured data and optimize supply chain management.

These illustrations highlight the substantial innovation potential of LLMs, extending beyond software companies to various other industries. Particularly noteworthy is the possibility for non-software companies to harness this potential by reimagining user interactions or unlocking significant optimization opportunities.

Konferenz Perspektiven mit Industrie 4.0: Digitale Ökosysteme – 31. Mai 2023, Winterthur

By Jürg Meierhofer, ZHAW

Warum brauchen wir eigentlich digitale Business Ökosysteme?

Mit diesen Hypothesen sind wir in den Tag gestartet:

Kundenseitig: Kunden benötigen nicht mehr einfach Produkte für “Punktlösungen”, sondern Begleitung entlang der Customer Journey, mit über die Zeit wechselnden Bedürfnissen, die im Netzwerk eines Business Ökosystems abgedeckt werden können.

Anbieterseitig: Diesen vielfältigen Bedürfnissen können einzelne Unternehmen oft nicht gerecht werden, da sie nicht über die vielfältigen Ressourcen verfügen, sondern spezialisiert sind. Im Verbund mit anderen Unternehmen lässt sich aber die Vielfältigkeit erreichen.

Digital: die Kundeninteraktion sowie die Organisation der Ökosysteme lassen sich über digitale Plattformen und Schnittstellen effizient und mit Skaleneffekten implementieren.

Die gehaltvollen und lebhaften Referate sowie der interaktive Workshop haben diese Hypothesen  über den Tag hinweg wiederholt aus verschiedenen Blickwinkeln beleuchtet und interpretiert. So ergab sich bis zur Abrundung des Tages vor dem Abschluss-Apéro ein umfassender Eindruck der Leistungsfähigkeit von Business Ökosystemen, wovon hier nur ganz rudimentär und ohne Anspruch auf Vollständigkeit ein Eindruck wiedergegeben werden soll:

  • Ökosysteme bieten einen Mehrwert für alle Beteiligten und unterstützen die Ökologie.
  • Sie festigen die Kundenbindung und bieten direkte und indirekte Netzwerkeffekte.
  • Digitale Partner-Integration ermöglicht Kreislaufwirtschaft (Stichwort “voll-beladene Laster”).
  • Ein Produkt mit einer DNA versehen für die Rückverfolgbarkeit und die Kunden für den Wert davon sensibilisieren.
  • Ein Ökosystem für die “smarte” Gestaltung einer geographischen Region (vs. ein transaktionales Ökosystem).
  • Mit einem Ökosystem den KMU Kunden alles rund um ihre Administration abnehmen und sich dabei nicht selber ins Zentrum setzen (Anmerkung der Redaktion: “Ecosystem vs. Egosystem”!).
  • Ein vorerst digital aufgebautes Ökosystem zur Vernetzung von Robotern mit dem Potenzial, später menschliche Aktivitäten (z.B. Servicepersonal) zu integrieren.
  • Durch Transparenz im Ökosystem Kosten sparen und dieses resilienter machen gegen externe Schwankungen.

Der Workshop hat den Konferenz-Teilnehmenden die Möglichkeit geboten, ihre eigenen Challenges einzubringen und diese aus den Perspektiven Ressourcen, Geschäftsmodellen und Datennutzung zu beleuchten. Daraus sind zahlreiche potenzielle Projektideen entstanden, die nun auf eine Weiterverfolgung warten, z.B. im Databooster Innovationsprozess (

Auf der Seite des Veranstalters finden Sie zahlreiche Bilder und Impressionen!

Herzlichen Dank an alle Referierenden (Reihenfolge gemäss Programm): Andrin Egli – Swisscom, Amrit Khanna – Concircle, Oliver Walter & Filipa Pereira – Rieter / Haelixa, Pascal Gurtner – Smarter Thurgau, Natalie Jäggi & Linus Schenk – Die Mobiliar, Gundula Heinatz Bürki – databooster & data innovation alliance, Marc Wegmüller – Wegmüller AG, Remo Höppli – Earlybyte & Kemaro, Rainer Deutschmann – Migros.

6th Conference Perspectives with Industry 4.0: Digital EcosystemsMay 31, 2023, Winterthur

By Jürg Meierhofer, ZHAW

Why do we actually need digital business ecosystems?

We started the day with these hypotheses:

On the customer side: customers no longer simply need products for “point solutions,” but rather assistance along the customer journey, with needs that change over time, which can be covered in the network of a business ecosystem.

On the supplier side: Individual companies often cannot meet these diverse needs because they do not have the diverse resources but are specialized. However, in association with other companies, variety can be achieved.

Digital: customer interaction as well as ecosystem organization can be implemented efficiently and with economies of scale via digital platforms and interfaces.

The substantial and lively presentations as well as the interactive workshop throughout the day repeatedly illuminated and interpreted these hypotheses from different angles. Thus, by the rounding off of the day before the closing aperitif, a comprehensive impression of the performance of business ecosystems emerged, of which only a very rudimentary and non-exhaustive impression will be given here:

  • Ecosystems offer added value for all actors involved and support ecology.
  • They strengthen customer loyalty and offer direct and indirect network effects.
  • Digital partner integration enables circular economy (keyword “fully loaded trucks”).
  • Adding a DNA to a product for traceability and making customers aware of the value of it.
  • An ecosystem for “smart” design of a geographic region (vs. a transactional ecosystem).
  • Using an ecosystem to relieve SME customers of everything around their administration, while not putting themselves at the center of it (editor’s note: “ecosystem vs. egosystem”!).
  • An ecosystem built digitally for the time being to connect robots with the potential to integrate human activities (e.g. service personnel) later on.
  • Saving costs through transparency in the ecosystem and making it more resilient to external fluctuations.

The workshop gave the participants the opportunity to bring in their own challenges and to address them from the perspectives of resources, business models and data use. Numerous potential project ideas emerged from this, which are now waiting to be followed up, e.g. in the databooster innovation process.(

On the organizer’s website you can find many impressions and images!

Many thanks to all speakers (order according to the program): Andrin Egli – Swisscom, Amrit Khanna – Concircle, Oliver Walter & Filipa Pereira – Rieter / Haelixa, Pascal Gurtner – Smarter Thurgau, Natalie Jäggi & Linus Schenk – Die Mobiliar, Gundula Heinatz Bürki – databooster & data innovation alliance, Marc Wegmüller – Wegmüller AG, Remo Höppli – Earlybyte & Kemaro, Rainer Deutschmann – Migros.

Digital ecosystems for sustainable mutual value creation – a great potential

By Jürg Meierhofer, ZHAW

With the CAS Smart Service Engineering of ZHAW School of Engineering we had the chance to spend two days this week at the Mobiliar Forum Thun (many thanks Fabrizio Laneve) . Moderated by Ina Goller in very focused and agile way, we further developed and refined the mutual value creation in the ecosystems of our service innovation cases.

It turned out that ecosystem design is a) extremely important for value creation, b) not trivial, c) creates new resources by successfully integrating existing resources. Our ambition was to quantify the value stream in the ecosystems. It turned out that while even the quantification of economic value is very demanding, but often possible, the quantification of social and emotional value streams is a widely open field which requires further research. We are looking forward to this challengin yet extremely rewarding work.

CAS Smart Service Engineering:

Mobiliar Forum Thun:

The practical conference on digital ecosystems in Winterthur just before this workshop (  was the ideal kick off to this workshop, in which we all became co-creative ecosystem designers ourselves.

Expert Group Meeting – Natural Language Processing in Action

By Manuela Hürlimann, ZHAW and Thomas Zaugg, Roche

On May 10th, 2023, the “Natural Language Processing in Action” Expert Group of the data innovation alliance and SwissNLP organised a meeting in Zurich with three exciting presentations on speech processing.

Oscar Koller, a principal applied scientist at Microsoft, presented on the use of end-to-end neural systems for automatic speech recognition in Swiss German. He discussed how the current industry paradigm of hybrid ASR is being replaced with end-to-end models, such as those that have been winning recent benchmarks. Oscar shared the results of his team’s comparison of different neural network architectures, and highlighted the advantages of using transducers for improved real-time performance in their work.

Claudio Paonessa, a researcher at FHNW, discussed how recent advances in speech-to-text, text-to-speech, and translation for Swiss German can be combined with a large language model to create a voice-based conversational assistant. He shared a demo of the model in action, showcasing its ability to give apt replies. However, he also acknowledged that processing time still needs to be reduced to give a real-time feeling, and suggested reducing model size as one possible solution.

Dr. Edith Birrer, a senior researcher at iHomeLab, HSLU, presented results from her team’s work on using speech processing in the context of home care. Together with international project partners, they ran interviews and workshops to identify potential use cases for home care workers. While they had originally planned to focus on care documentation, their results showed that most care workers found supporting services – such as a to-do list that can be ticked off verbally – to be more useful. They implemented three use cases and tested them in a lab with carers, showing a high level of enthusiasm among users, but emphasizing the need to address data privacy concerns before such technologies can become widely used.

After the presentations, attendees enjoyed an apéro and continued discussing the topics at hand.

10th Industrieforum 2025

By Patricia Deflorin and Reik Leiterer, databooster, Photos by Industrie 2025

Mastering current challenges with foresight

On the 9th of May, the 10th edition of the “Industrieforum 2025” by Industrie 2025 focused on challenges and solutions related to digital transformation and innovation in the industry sector. Adam Gontarz, President of Industrie 2025, opened the event (btw fantastically moderated) with a look back at 10 years of the Industrieforum and why the topics of that time are still highly relevant today.

One of the program highlights was already reached with the keynote by Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, several years head of science at NASA. In a convincing manner, he got to the heart of the drivers of innovation without forgetting to discuss the related challenges from different perspectives. With his personal lessons learned and a 500-year-old quote by H. Cortez (1519), which is remarkable in its actuality regarding disruptive innovation, he gives an extremely inspiring start to the day:

“To lead change, be willing to burn your ships in the harbour.”

From our perspective as a network for data innovation and data-driven value creation, the subsequent presentations offered an exciting insight into the increasing importance of data and the associated fields of application in industry/manufacturing. Johann Hoffman from MR Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen, for example, highlighted the need for data governance, without which Industry 4.0 cannot be successfully implemented. From cybersecurity and digital, economically sustainable services in mechanical engineering to the concept of meta factory and the use of AI – the data reference was strongly present in almost all presentations. That’s why the databooster program exists – to encourage the development of innovative ideas in this area!

On the exhibitor side, there were exciting players in the data field to discover. CLUE Security Service AG, for example, presented operational approaches for early detection of IT threats and the protection against attacks – both for critical local infrastructure and for web-based infrastructure. OCTOTRONIC GmbH offers comprehensive solutions in the frame of an Analytics Landscape for process monitoring, data management and planning optimization. And supports the manufacturing industry by adding remote monitoring and predictive maintenance capabilities to existing products and equipment based on their low-code IoT platform with visualization and data processing capabilities.

The event convinced with the awesome atmosphere, the very good speakers, open-minded participants interested in exchange and cooperation and a perfect organization. Therefore: we are looking forward to the 11th edition!

Inspiration and Innovation at the Databooster Project Day

May 3, 2023 – By Gundula Heinatz Bürki and Reik Leiterer, data innovation alliance. Photos Markus Burren, Oracle

How can the databooster, the innovation program of data innovation alliance powered by Innosuisse, help to smooth the path for the first steps of innovative ideas – and most importantly, lead to the right direction in the process?

10 innovation teams presented their Databooster-funded ideas on the 3rd of May, directly opposite the Zurich airport at the beautiful Oracle venue. At this point – many thanks to Oracle, our host on this day. After the amiable welcome by the Oracle team, the participants got insightful presentations about the process and the first outcomes of the individual innovation journeys as well as the future path and direction now being taken.

The first block of presentations covered the potential of customized holistic energy solutions (Endaprime), challenges around the complexity of manufacturing process data (CSEM), and the development of tools for the automated detection of fake news (ZHAW). Following a Q&A session, the participants particularly appreciated the exchange of experiences on the problems encountered and the related solutions, as well as the open communication about wrong directions and obstacles that still exist.

This lived and shared culture of failure is very much in line with our understanding of innovation. The block was concluded with a presentation by Andreas Steiner and Patrick Jung from TEK, an organization that facilitates the transfer of knowledge from universities to SMEs in the industrial sector and supports the rapid and economically sustainable implementation of innovation projects.

After a short interactive sequence on the concept of future thinking and foresight, another block of presentations followed. These included a presentation on intelligent energy systems in the field of e-mobility (eneXan), a framework for standardized and automated ESG reporting (Ascentys), and the ethical and social requirements for the use of AI in law enforcement (Eraneos).

The lively discussions during the networking coffee break about the presented projects and ideas had to be interrupted at some point, however, as the last block of presentations also provided exciting insights into the work of the innovation teams.

Starting with a radical approach for achieving the optimum in terms of collaboration and operational efficiency from a company’s workforce (Peerdom), through automated risk analysis in data projects (Xurce) and the support of companies in the digitization process via an independent and open consulting network composed by agile and specialized consulting cells (Swiss Digital Network), to support decision tools for health care providers (Rewoso).

During the subsequent aperitif, new contacts were made and the next steps and possible collaborations were discussed. The variety of project ideas and their high degree of innovation, the noticeable motivation and enthusiasm of the various innovation teams, and the number of already successfully implemented solutions have shown that we have taken the right path with the databooster approach of sharpening the ideas and providing financial support for the first steps of innovation. Maybe next time you are one of the presenting teams? – If you are interested, please contact us or visit our website!