Local businesses implement AI with help from University researchers

During a few months, three hand-picked companies have been learning about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be applied in their businesses and what improvements it can provide for them.
“An incredible opportunity! The project helped us to widen our perspective and innovate our business based on accessible data, which has been an entirely new way for us to develop our company", says Victoria Ekman, CEO at CE-produkter.

Map of southern Sweden with a pin on Halmstad.

”We want the companies to see the benefits and opportunities that come with AI, and more importantly how they can use it as a competitive tool.”

Stefan Byttner, Associate Professor at Halmstad University

The purpose of the collaboration project AI.m is to increase the competitiveness of businesses in Halland, by spreading knowledge and competence about AI and service design from Halmstad University researchers and students to companies in the region.

In the AI.m project, University researchers have together with the business incubator HighFive in Halmstad educated company representatives in the field of AI based Service Innovation. For example, how Service Design, User Experience and Interaction Design is affected by the implementation of AI technology. Three companies from Halland were chosen – CE-produkter, Lagafors and Matpriskollen – to improve their knowledge about AI through seminars and workshops, so that they can strengthen their innovation skills and competitiveness.

”This project is a first step towards our goal of having small and medium sized companies in the region increase their AI competence and becoming aware of how data driven decisions can improve their businesses. We want the companies to see the benefits and opportunities that come with AI, and more importantly how they can use it as a competitive tool”, says Stefan Byttner, Associate Professor at the School of Information Technology at Halmstad University, and researcher within the field of AI.

Researching the project

Stefan Byttner and colleague Pontus Wärnestål, Associate Professor at the School of Information Technology at Halmstad University and researcher within the fields of Interaction Design and Service Design, have during several years been researching how different methods of AI can be used in both private and public sectors. They are conducting research on the AI.m project itself and using the results as a base for the innovation model Pontus Wärnestål presented at the conference Interaction19 earlier this year.

”AI.m has proven to be an effective model for putting research conducted at the University into practice. AI and Service Design researchers get together with local companies to explore and design ways for AI to create value for both the companies and their customers”, says Pontus Wärnestål.

“At the same time these experiences make way for new research projects at Halmstad University. An example of this is the development of a design tool which supports the process of working with AI driven Service Design, focusing on people.”

Three people sitting around a table.

Anna Petersson, Business Developer at HighFive and project leader for AI.m, Pontus Wärnestål, Associate Professor at the School of Information Technology at Halmstad University and researcher within the field of Service Design, and Stefan Byttner, Associate Professor at the School of Information Technology at Halmstad University and researcher within the field of AI.

”Another example is the educational programme Data Analytics and Service Innovation based on Artificial Intelligence (MAISTR) that we run. It is a so-called Expert Competence programme funded by the Knowledge Foundation. The programme is directed towards professionals who are looking for further education in AI as well as business and Service Design based on AI. The programme also includes us exploring ‘best practices’ in AI based service design. AI.m has given us a tangible platform for this”, says Stefan Byttner.

Implementing methods of AI in business models

During the course of the project, the companies’ different data resources were looked at to see how AI (mainly machine learning) can be used to analyse and draw conclusions based on accessible data. The next step was to see how these methods can be implemented in the companies’ business models to increase growth or make the business more efficient.

”The participating companies have been provided with inspiration, competence development, business development, a register of possible AI applications based on their current business and accessible data, as well as a prototype of prioritised AI service for testing. Other components we have seen in the project that have turned out to be important to succeed in the long run, is the development of a strategy to establish processes and decisions in their everyday work, receiving assistance from students to process data and support from us to apply for external funds to continue their AI journey. Moving forward, we hope to be able to continue working with this”, says project leader Anna Petersson, Business Developer HighFive.

The goal is a regional AI hub

Plans for the next project, AI.m 2.0, are already in the making. The project is expected to start during the spring of 2020 with a new group of companies.

”Our long-term goal is to establish a regional AI hub that supports companies to strategically work with AI driven Service Design through competence provision from the University, business and strategy development from HighFive and a mutual exchange of experiences between the companies. This is expected to increase competitiveness and growth in the regional business sector, for example through new service innovations”, says Pontus Wärnestål.

Text: Louise Wandel
Translation and photo: Linnéa Andersson
Illustration: Istock

About the AI.m project

The project group consisted of Anna Petersson, Business Developer at HighFive and project leader for AI.m, Pontus Wärnestål, Associate Professor at the School of Information Technology at Halmstad University and researcher within the field of Service Design, Stefan Byttner, Associate Professor at the School of Information Technology at Halmstad University and researcher within the field of AI, and Albin Martinsson, Digital Designer at Digitaliseringsbyrån. The group has worked with the chosen companies as well as having developed and tested the different tools and models.

The project management group consisted of representatives from HighFive, Halmstad University and ALMI Halland. Funding for the project has been divided between all representatives from the management group and Region Halland. The project started in the fall of 2018 and finished in August 2019.

AI.m is coherent with Halmstad University profile area Smart cities and communities. An innovation conference was recently arranged within the profile area and it was largely focused on the importance of putting the people in the centre when developing cities, products and services.

Comments from the participating companies:

“It has been a valuable process just to explain our data access and our store to people outside our business. To look around and see endless opportunities. We now have a long list of possible development areas within AI”, says Magnus Elmblad, CEO at Lagafors.

“The service design occasion and the customer journey were really good! It helped us understand what the final product and experience was going to be like. We have gained a new perspective on what we are actually supposed to be offering”, says Ulf Mazur, CEO at Matpriskollen.

“An incredible opportunity! The project helped us to widen our perspective and innovate our business based on accessible data, which has been an entirely new way for us to develop our company", says Victoria Ekman, CEO at CE-produkter.

“It is unique and positive to combine UX and AI. It has truly given the group a unified perception of what we want with this product”, says Ulf Mazur, CEO at Matpriskollen.

About HighFive

HighFive is a business hub, and initiative from Halmstadskommun, with two incubators (for students and potential growth businesses), and a regional project arena focusing on the unexpected, creative meeting. HighFive wants to drive change, and by gathering the best ideas and courageous people who encourage growth, HighFive is an activator and inspirer that fuels exciting projects. Together with Halmstad University, HighFive creates great development opportunities for companies in Halland.

More information in Swedish: https://h5halmstad.seexternal link, opens in new window

PUBLISHED

2019-10-31

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