While Nokia has been developing their 5G technology for commercial purposes, they knew its myriad possibilities posed an interesting challenge: How to identify and realize the most fruitful first use for this powerful technology? Nordkapp enabled Nokia to proactively explore future possibilities and act on them by forming cross-industry partnerships with Telia, Vaisala and SYKE.
Together they harnessed drones to transfer real-time visuals over 5G for computer vision analysis of blue algae buildup in the Baltic Sea. Thanks to Nordkapp’s foresight work and partner facilitation, Nokia was able to transform an initial idea into an advanced proof of concept.
Order out of chaos
Technology always needs a context – to be successful, any new technology has to find its place in the world around it. Nokia’s 5G Trial Lead, Petri Ervasti saw this as a central question for 5G: ’Besides developing 5G tech, we needed to identify the most viable first real-world applications for the lightning speed of 5G networks – to this end, we used Nordkapp’s specialist knowledge.
’5G has almost unlimited potential uses, but paradoxically, a vast set of possibilities can also be a limitation. To narrow down the options, we looked beyond the here and now, drawing on foresight and cross-disciplinary research. This case is a good example of how evidence-based exploration of future possibilities can directly inform business decisions,’ describes Virpi Vaittinen, Head of Strategy at Nordkapp.
By charting out a huge set of use cases and contrasting them with signals of possible future situations, we created an opportunity landscape. It served as a collaborative tool for identifying and narrowing down the set of possibilities for first commercial applications of 5G. ’In addition to exploring opportunities, we aligned our future projections with our client’s business needs. This enabled Nokia to use our future insights to guide practical choices,’ says Vaittinen.
Identified use cases ranged from agriculture to retail, but a very promising area soon stood out: Saving the Baltic Sea.
Setting sail: Facilitating partnerships
As we set out to research possible marine 5G solutions, we soon discovered The Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) had a need for new ways to carry out marine research, like spotting blue-green algae. Blue-green algae is hazardous to the environment and dangerous to humans, which makes identifying algae buildup important. The main analysis method is visually identifying algae deposits in the sea using data collected from satellites, cruise ships and airplanes, which is time-consuming. Automated methods for evaluating algae buildup would help focus researchers’ efforts on more advanced tasks.
When researching possible cooperations, a forward-thinking partner possibility emerged – Vaisala. With Nordkapp facilitating the collaboration between Nokia and Vaisala, real-time computer vision analysis of The Baltic Sea was soon a reality. The team became complete when Telia joined in to provide the network capacity needed for lightning-speed 5G transfers.
Understanding the ‘why’ with opportunity mapping
When starting Eagle Eyes, Nokia had the ’how’ – the technology. The ’why’ – the application – came in collaboration with Nordkapp. foresight, opportunity mapping and facilitation of cross-industry collaboration enabled Nokia with Vaisala, SYKE and Telia to reach a real-world use case with 5G in just a few months. Eagle Eyes -proof-of-concept showcasing the cutting-edge solutions of the companies while solving a pressing issue in Baltic Sea research.
SYKE found that under good conditions, computer vision detected blue-green algae with over 90 percent accuracy. This allows researchers to forget time-consuming visual inspections of sea imagery and build a better understanding of the health of the Baltic Sea environment.
From future visions to business decisions
The future holds a lot of promise for 5G: The Eagle Eyes concept can be adapted to different contexts, while Nordkapp’s opportunity mapping for 5G offers many more leads for proactively realizing future concepts. In addition to blue-green algae research, real-time computer vision pioneered by Eagle Eyes is a good fit for many other marine applications, like tracking the spread of plastic waste or identifying oil spills. After this first proof of concept, future applications can benefit from all the knowledge accumulated during the project.
What did we do?
Foresight and opportunity mapping
An evidence-based approach to mapping out potential futures and making them visible and actionable. By contrasting future opportunities with business goals and ambitions, companies are able to proactively develop their strategy, product categories or single products in an informed, results-driven way.
By creating a matrix of possible paths for a technology, product or service, we can collaboratively seek out most viable modes of action. Enabling and facilitating cross-sector cooperations allows us to nimbly turn these opportunities into practical projects.
Virpi Vaittinen, foresight & project lead
Ilkka Haavisto, ecosystem design, partners
Panu Rekola, art direction & video production
Sami Niemelä, design
Mika Lindstedt, design
Björn Fagerholm, drone footage
Jani Saajanaho @ janiverse.com, editing, animation, post production & music.