Euroconsumers International Forum

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Euroconsumers: the digital era requires you to change your mindset

On November 12, 2019, the first Euroconsumer International Forum took place at the Claridge in Brussels to bridge the gap between consumers and businesses. The digital era has many opportunities for consumers as well as businesses — for example, easier and faster access to products and services. Besides, there are also challenges, such as data privacy and data security. Effectively handling digital opportunities and mitigating risks requires a change in mindset by consumers and businesses.

Luisa Crisigiovanni is the Secretary-General of Altroconsumo and a Fundraising Manager at Euroconsumers. She explains: “Euroconsumers is a network of five national consumer organizations that cooperate to empower consumers in their daily lives. We are a critical market player giving voice to more than 1.5 million people by promoting consumer information, defense of their rights, and personalized services in Belgium (Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats), Italy (Altroconsumo), Portugal (DECOProteste), Spain (OCU – Organisation of Consumers and Users), and Brazil (Proteste). We aim to build relationships with institutions, media, and companies to empower individual consumers and to develop fairer and more efficient markets.”

Three key takeaways

At the Euroconsumers International Forum, there were many panel discussions on how to bridge the gap between consumers and businesses in the digital era. For example: how can market players and consumer organizations work together; the benefits of technologies such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, machine learning and blockchain versus data privacy issues; and mobility trends in a digital age. Luisa: “I want the audience to take away three talking points from the Forum”:

Takeaway 1: Accelerate the pace to create guiding principles and a legal framework
Rapid technological changes have led to many new disruptive companies who often have incorporated a culture based on the premise: move fast, break things, and say sorry later. Besides, regulators and policymakers are lagging in understanding the fast-changing environment and being able to create guiding principles and a legal framework that creates a win-win-win situation for consumers, businesses, and governments. A solution for this is to establish stronger relationships between private- and public organizations.

Euroconsumers focuses on building relationships with institutions, media, and companies to empower individual consumers and to develop fairer and more efficient markets. – Luisa Crisigiovanni 

Takeaway 2: Establishing stronger relationships between public- and private organizations
Consumer insights are essential for consumer organizations as well as for companies like Amazon and Google. “We need to use this common interest to build strong partnerships to serve consumers better. How do we achieve that? By having a continuous dialogue between public- and private organizations to build trust and to make change happen through, e.g., sharing knowledge, best practices, and launching events and campaigns together.

It can start, for example, with being transparent to consumers about data privacy and data security. The ultimate goal is that businesses and consumers are aware and act according to a standard set of digital rights,” says Luisa.

Takeaway 3: Building consumer communities
In the online world, consumers rely much more on information and advice from their peers for buying products and services. They are connected via social media platforms such as Facebook and are not necessarily aware of or take advice from national or European consumer organizations. So, it is up to these organizations to create communities and platforms where consumers can share their experiences and exchange information to increase their awareness and to stimulate advocacy.

Changing the mindset of consumers, businesses, and governments to adapt to the opportunities and challenges of the digital age is a step-by-step process. Luisa: “Euroconsumers is a crucial market player that supports this digital transformation process.”

Do you want to contribute to the empowerment of individual consumers and the development of fairer and more efficient marketsContact Luisa Crisigiovanni – Secretary-General of Altroconsumo and Fundraising Manager at Euroconsumers.

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The power of an IoT platform

Companies are developing more products and services that are ready to connect to the internet as data has become a valuable resource for creating business value. An Internet of Things (IoT) platform enables you to collect, analyze, and monitor data in real-time. However, business leaders often want to understand better how to connect their product or service to the internet, retrieve the data, and use it to create business value.

Thomas Dalberto, Account Manager Benelux at Altair, supports companies to innovate better through engineering simulation: “We develop engineer software to do digital prototyping, manufacturing process simulation as well as IoT platform and Data intelligence solution. Our approach is called ‘simulation-driven design,’ which means that we digitally simulate how your product or service reacts based on its design. Through mathematical- and physical equations, we test how it will thrive in the real world. In short, Altair provides the knowledge and technology needed to implement your digital twin strategy.

Data and IoT: wind turbines and beer breweries

How can you leverage your data with an IoT platform? Thomas demonstrates this via two business examples: wind turbines and beer breweries.

Wind turbines 
If you want to develop wind turbines, you create a prototype and test the structural components, electric motor, aerodynamics, and so on. The next step is to start using the prototype and collect, through sensors, relevant data such as wind speeds, rotating speeds, and maximum vibration. Thomas: “The IoT platform not only collects data via sensors but can also analyze and monitor it. Besides, it is an opportunity to innovate faster and reduce the cost of prototyping. For example, your IoT data shows that your wind turbine blades are turning too fast, which increases the maintenance cost of the motor. Due to this data insight, you can adjust the design of your wind turbine to avoid high maintenance costs and even failure of the engine. Last but not least, the data also makes it possible to create a model that predicts the maintenance of your wind turbine to avoid downtime.”

Beer breweries
Do beer breweries need data? Thomas explained during the DataBeers Brussels Meetup why beer breweries need data and how an IoT platform helps you to leverage data by:

  1. Creating new products
  2. Improving marketing efforts
  3. Protecting assets and fraud detection

Thomas Dalberto presenting the beer breweries case at the DataBeers Brussels Meetup


1. Creating new products

A Spanish brewery wants to extend its beer offerings. They decide to take a data-driven approach. Thomas explains: “First, they collect and analyze data about the ingredients of their popular beers with the support of our IoT platform. Based on the results, they create four new beers out of barley, yeast, hop, and water. Then, they test the new beers at their customers and monitor in real-time the consumption. How does this work? They use a flowmeter, an IoT device placed between the beer keg and the tap. Each time the tap opens, the beer passes through the internal blades of the flowmeter and sends electronic pulses to the connected wire. The data goes to the IoT platform, and after analysis, a dashboard visualizes it. It allows the brewery to identify the most successful beer and to start commercializing it. The good news is that the new beer is already available at the supermarkets in Spain.”

2. Improving marketing efforts
Before using the IoT platform, it took the marketing department of the Spanish brewery two to three months to collect enough data to create a meaningful sales report. “By implementing the flowmeter and the IoT platform, they now monitor in real-time the beer consumption. It also enables them to get information about, for instance, the average amount of beer served per day, the most popular beer, and the best period for a marketing campaign. These data analytics help to monitor and improve the beer marketing efforts, Thomas says.” It is even possible to use the data for creating a predictive marketing model to determine which strategies and actions have the highest probability of succeeding.

3. Protecting assets
5 and 1 million! Already in 2014, Baker reported this is, respectively, the amount stolen by thieves, not in euros cash but stolen kegs. Therefore, asset protection is a necessary legal action for breweries. The IoT technology assists them in tracking the position of each beer barrel via sensors connected to the internet: from brewery to customers, and vice versa. Though the IoT data supports breweries to manage their assets, it is also possible to create a data model for predictive logistics to lower the cost per order. A good example is to predict when to organize the delivery of full kegs and pick-up of empty kegs.

In summary, an IoT platform enables you to collect, analyze, monitor, and visualize data. It is an opportunity to efficiently and effectively create business value with data. Besides, it is easy to change your strategy based on the data you receive from the IoT platform and to develop models for predictive purposes.

Do you want to leverage your data and create business value with the power of IoT and data intelligence? Contact: Thomas Dalberto, Account Manager Benelux at Altair

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AWS Dev Day Belgium 2019

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AWS Dev Day Belgium – November 13 in Mechelen

Enterprises are looking for efficiency and the desire to gain and keep a competitive advantage through faster innovation using Artificial Intelligence technology. Yet, there aren’t enough IT professionals with the necessary expertise in the cloud. 

One of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) mission is to make machine learning accessible to all developers by removing the barriers to build these systems. It is now possible to integrate machine learning services directly into your mobile- and web-application by calling application programming interfaces (APIs) for AI services like Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Lex, and Amazon Polly. All are intended to put the power of computer vision, conversational agents, and text to speech into the hands of all developers. That increases the accessibility: now, how can you ensure that machine learning accelerates your time to market?

Patrick Sard, Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services (AWS), has many years of experience with cloud and cloud services. “The cloud makes it easier to quickly build, deploy, and scale your machine learning (ML) models. Additionally, our AI services help you incorporate image recognition, video recognition, natural language processing, and speech to text in your app without requiring deep knowledge of AI or ML. AWS has the broadest range of AI services and has released more than 200 machine learning features and capabilities in 2018 alone. In fact, 85% of TensorFlow projects in the cloud run on AWS,” he says.

Building your Machine Learning capability

The AWS machine learning stack consists of three layers: top, middle, and bottom.

• The top layer has ready-to-use AI-services based on pre-built data models. Ideal if you miss deep ML expertise. There are six categories of services: vision, speech, language, chatbots, forecasting, and recommendations. Each of these categories has one or more services (see figure 1). You bring along your data and effortlessly fuse these services into your application. In other words, you consume the AI services immediately without having to think: how do I build a model first?

 The middle layer of services, Amazon SageMaker, focuses on data scientists and developers with prior knowledge in ML. You conveniently build, train, and deploy better machine learning models at scale. How? By using pre-installed optimized algorithms (or bringing your algorithm if you prefer), one-click training, and automatic model tuning to achieve the most accurate predictions. Last but not least, one-click deployment ensures that deploying your model becomes a straightforward task.

 The bottom layer of the stack handles the complete infrastructure such as servers, compute power, and storage. It is also the layer where you manage the installation and deployment of machine learning frameworks. Patrick: “This is for engineers who want to set up the infrastructure and machine learning framework themselves.” 

Figure 1: The three layers of the AWS machine learning stack

Customer Cases

To better understand the advantages of machine learning for your business, Patrick shares three examples of customers who are already using it in their applications.

1. Healthcare
SkinVision, a Dutch company, built a mobile app to self-assess your skin health. One out of five Belgians is having skin cancer at some point in their life. Therefore, it is crucial to monitor your skin. However, that is easier said than done. The SkinVision self-assess app allows you to take pictures of your skin, and the AWS machine learning-based algorithms assess those in thirty seconds. After that, staff dermatologists examine the image to control accuracy.

Patrick explains: “Although the app does not make an immediate diagnostic, it indicates if your skin cancer probability is high, medium, or low. That helps you to determine if you have to schedule an appointment with the dermatologist. Besides, the data collected by the app provides dermatologists better insights into skin cancer. The app even has the option that a dermatologist contacts you if your skin cancer probability is high or medium. SkinVision has already analyzed more than a million different images and uses this to improve the accuracy of its data model. The Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom recognizes the SkinVision app as a means to self-assess the probability of skin cancer.”

2. Transport
Convoy, a company in the United States, realized that 40% of the trucks on the road are empty (by the way, the same proportion also applies to Europe). “To improve the truck’s efficiency, they came up with the idea to create a platform that better matches shippers and drivers. So, they created a mobile app, a digital online marketplace that uses AWS AI services to analyze shipping jobs along with trucker availability. That gives them the information to recommend matches that are timely and cost-efficient. As Convoy works with many shippers and drivers, its AI can take advantage of more data from the entire freight network for demand forecasting,” says Patrick.

3. Finance
Davinci, a financial organization, based in the Netherlands, has a software as a service for loan and mortgages. They provide this software to financial institutions in the Netherlands. The customers of these institutions use it for the online processing of their loans and mortgages requests. Patrick: “If you apply for a mortgage, you have to upload official documents like your identity card and salary fiche to support your application. Davinci infers the data on these documents with the AWS machine learning services. The algorithm learns how to spot the right information in the right place and optimizes the data model accuracy. That helps to reduce the repetitive manual tasks performed by the financial professionals, although they are still in charge of the final decision to approve a loan or mortgage”.

Do you want to accelerate your time to market by putting machine learning in the hands of every developer? Register for the AWS Dev Day Belgium on November 13 in Mechelen.

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Business Essentials – Learn to Speak Business

Business Essentials: Learn to Speak Business Program

Are you looking for an excellent opportunity to increase your business footprint and to help build the confidence and insight we all need to achieve business results and to communicate effectively with, for example, colleagues, customers, and business partners? Join and benefit as a sponsor of the ‘Learn to speak business’ program organized by Vlerick Business School, Trends, and Trends-Tendances. 

Learn to speak business

The ‘Learn to speak business’ program aims to facilitate everyone in an organization to become familiar with all business essentials, and to gain the knowledge and self-confidence to speak out and realize projects. How do you learn the essentials of business language? By developing knowledge and skills in the following five management modules: strategy, finance, marketing, operations, and people skills.

The first edition of the ten-week online ‘Learn to speak business’ program starts on November 21, 2019, with a kick-off event and ends on March 3, 2020, with a graduation event. During these two networking events, students, professors, and sponsors connect to build lasting professional relationships. Furthermore, every two weeks, a new module becomes available online. The use of different learning formats helps students to get the most from the program – including readings, short videos, quizzes, a business simulation, and opportunities to get feedback from peers.

Building blocks of the ten-week online ‘Learn to speak business’ programThe ten-week 'Business essentials' online program is made up of different building blocks.

Five management modules

The ‘Learn to speak business’ program consists of five management modules:

1. Strategy
2. Finance
3. Marketing
4. Operations
5. People skills

Module 1: Strategy 
Carine Peeters, Professor of Strategy, explains that a strategy is not so much a plan but rather a continuous conversation about choices, focus and differentiation. What is a good strategy? It starts with the realization that strategy is not only a topic for top management. The ability to think and act strategically is a crucial skill at all levels of the organization.

The aim of the strategy module is to teach you the language of strategy. You develop an understanding of the basic concepts, learn to ask the right strategic questions, and become comfortable discussing strategy. That results in a better insight into the own organizational strategy and a clear view of what constitutes a winning strategy. Finally, you will learn how to contribute to a successful strategy and identify actions for improvement.

Module 2: Finance
Wouter De Maeseneire, Professor of Corporate Finance, emphasizes that it is necessary to develop a helicopter view of finance. Why? Because every employee contributes to an organization’s financial results. What is the cash flow? What is a profit and loss statement? Insight into your contribution to the financial results enables you to determine what you can change and what you cannot influence.

The aim of the finance module is to make you comfortable with the basic financial concepts and to give you economic insight into the results of an organization. It helps you to take responsibility for your contribution, and to define actions for improvements of the financial results.

Module 3: Marketing
Fred Lemke, Professor of Marketing and Sustainability, illustrates that strategic marketing knowledge and skills are a must in a strong, dynamic, and competitive market. That means it is essential to define your marketing strategy and activities from a customer’s point of view.

The aim of the marketing module is to provide you with the tools you need to identify relevant strategic market players and their interests.

Presenting the ‘Learn to speak business’ program

Module 4: Operations
Ann Vereecke, Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management, demonstrates that operations management is of strategic importance to an organization. As a general principle, it is critical that the operations unit actively cooperates with the other organizational units and vice versa.

The aim of the operations module is to gain insight into the operations terminology and to understand the importance of cooperation between operations and other internal and external organization areas.

Module 5: People skills
Katleen De Stobbeleir, Professor of Leadership, advocates that the traditional leadership style based on command and control has to shift to a connected style of leadership that focuses on coaching. The three fundamental elements of coaching are goals, feedback, and support.

The aim of the people skills module is to gain a better insight into your coaching and communication style.

Sponsorship options

The ‘Learn to speak business’ program offers companies a gold and silver sponsorship. Besides, it is also possible to create a customized sponsorship package.

Feel free to request more info about this great opportunity to boost your business footprint: Contact Desiree

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Applying the innovative power from China to Belgian companies

The Belgian business community is becoming increasingly aware that China is at the forefront of innovation. Pascal Coppens, author, keynote speaker, sinologist, and technology entrepreneur, wrote the book: China’s New Normal. He describes how China sets the standard for innovation. The book’s common theme is China’s leading position in the development and implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). What can Belgian companies learn from China’s innovative power?

Realizing ambition
Pascal has worked and lived in China and Silicon Valley for more than twenty years. Since 2016, he is back in Belgium. “Belgian start-ups, small-, medium-, and large businesses show much goodwill in the area of digitalization and innovation. However, compared to the extent China is changing the world with AI, Belgian companies are lagging,” he says. To help these companies progress, they have to take into account two critical factors:

1. A positive wake-up call
Pascal: “If we compare China’s ambition with that of Belgium, it is evident that China has a stronger will to make a difference on a global level.”

“In Belgium, businesses often focus on discussing the challenges posed by innovations, and in China on discussing solutions. The latter requires courage and a strong will to realize ambitions. That’s where China stands out, and Belgian companies must have a positive wake-up call.”

2. Focus and ecosystem
In China, companies always establish themselves in geographical areas with specific expertise and ecosystem. “If you go to Alibaba in Hangzhou, you will notice that most people in this city are working in e-commerce. In Belgium, we need to do the same: decide what our expertise is, and how to profile ourselves with it in the world,” says Pascal.

The focus on developing solutions, sharing knowledge and experience, is an essential part of the Chinese culture. Companies in China recognize that being part of an ecosystem is an investment in the future. A large company often creates a new department when they decide to work with a start-up. In other words, Chinese companies are part of an ecosystem and use it to profile themselves in the market. That is what companies in Belgium have to apply more. 

 

“By demonstrating the Chinese business world to entrepreneurs, I want to inspire and challenge them to take a critical look at their thinking about innovation.”

 

Applying China’s innovative power
Pascal’s drive encouraging business leaders to implement China’s innovation approach in their organization is one of the reasons for his book ‘China’s New Normal.’ Entrepreneurs often ask him: how are we going to do that? He answers this question by giving lectures, workshops, and organizing innovation tours to China. “We have to be open to using China’s innovative power, that is my opinion. I find it strange that companies go to Silicon Valley for funding, but not to China. So, during the China innovation tour, we visit companies like Tencent, and also a selection of start-ups, scale-ups, and unicorns mentioned in my book.”

“By demonstrating the Chinese business world to entrepreneurs, I want to inspire and challenge them to take a critical look at their thinking about innovation. I often notice that they have better insight and more confidence when we come back from a China Innovation tour. It helps them to implement business changes, based on the innovative power they experienced in China.”

Do you want to grow business by creating content about your innovative technology solution? Contact Desiree

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European Data Privacy: Citizens own their Data

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On October 1, 2019, the Digital Twin Belgium community kicked off at DigitYser in Brussels. Collecting, processing, and storing personal data has become standard practice in the digital era. We are leaving an ever-increasing digital footprint. The consequence is that managing your data privacy is creating multiple challenges. Many organizations have an interest in your data with the intent to better serve you as their customer or citizen. However, besides advantages, there are also disadvantages like data- and identity theft, unauthorized data selling, and data leaks. That raises the question, who owns and controls your data?

Christophe Cop, Manager, and data scientist at PricewaterhouseCoopers Technology Consulting is passionate about web decentralization. “I am a firm believer in creating a European data privacy business model where citizens control their data. In the United States, corporate organizations own and manage your data and in China its the government,” he says. To get insight into the solution and technology that helps you manage, store, and commercialize your data, Christophe created the Digital Twin Belgium Meetup.

GDPR
On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect. It regulates the protection of natural persons concerning the processing of personal data and rules relating to the free movement of personal data. In other words, the GDPR protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals and in particular, their right to the protection of personal data. 

The GDPR triggered Christophe to think about data privacy: “Suppose you regain control of your data. How do you create your digital twin, a virtual identity that contains personal data, including criteria for commercialization? What kind of applications do you need to manage your data? What are the criteria for third parties to get access to your data?” 

Data Privacy business model
Reclaiming data control requires that you start to manage personal data. How can you do this efficiently and effectively? Besides managing it yourself, a virtual identity company might be the solution. Such a company, for example, a data broker start-up, manages and invests your data just as a money broker.

The advantage of working with a virtual identity company is, e.g., that supermarkets interested in personal data can check with the company who is willing to sell their data to them. They get authorized access to the available data and in return pay for it, provide discounts or extra services. Besides, they can receive enriched data if you decide, for instance, to share data about your overall buying behavior at supermarkets. That provides them with extra valuable info to improve your personal customer experience. Overall, it requires supermarkets to add value and act trustworthy as otherwise, they risk that you revoke their data access. 

A point of attention is the jurisdiction to hand-over your data, or part of it, to a virtual identity company. What data are they able to see? How do they get access to your data? How do they know which data you want to sell to third parties, and how do they give third parties access to it?

The Digital Twin Belgium Meetup aims to realize a sound European data privacy business model that provides citizens control over their data.”

Technological data privacy aspects
Data privacy-wise it is crucial to separate data from applications. Additionally, you need a technology that enables you to structure your data in a standardized way so that it is transferable.

Solid, an MIT project led by Prof. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, proposes a set of conventions and tools for building decentralized social applications. It uses Linked Data principles, a collection of best practices for publishing structured data on the web. If you apply it to structuring personal data, you have to create a meaningful link between two elements. For example:

Person (element 1) – has name – Christophe (element 2)

The above structure results in an overview of connected elements, with each having a different meaning. To perform searches on data sets build on this principle, you use SPARKQL, the standard query language, and protocol for Linked Open Data on the web or semantic graph databases.

Another technological data privacy aspect is the storage of your data transactions. Here, blockchain might be the solution as it is a distributed ledger. It is a control mechanism to track, e.g., which person or company has access to what data for which time-period.

Digital Twin Meetup 
To implement and further develop the legal framework and technological aspects of the European data privacy business model, individuals, businesses, and governments have to join forces. Christophe: “Currently, we have a basic framework. The next step is to put this framework into practice and to improve it. Regaining control of your data, improving data privacy, and authorized access to (enriched) data is a win-win situation for all involved stakeholders. The Digital Twin Belgium Meetup aims to realize a sound European data privacy business model that provides citizens control over their data.”

Are you passionate about data privacy? Do you want to contribute to the creation of the European data privacy business model? Join the Digital Twin Belgium Meetup  

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Ethical Artificial IntelIigence

Ethical Artificial Intelligence is at the heart of Omina Technologies, an AI and machine learning company. In June 2019, Rachel Alexander, the founder, and CEO, won the Belgian AI Personality of the Year Award. “Getting the award, for me, is a real validation of ethical AI. It is crucial to have people in your organization who believe in ethical AI because it is a mindset that you need to develop. When I started our business in 2016, I had to explain the dangers of AI. Now, I focus on how we can take concrete steps to solve it.”

AI in Europe
On April 8, 2019, the independent High-Level Expert Group on AI set up by the European Commission presented the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence.

The guidelines put forward a set of seven critical requirements for trustworthy AI systems. The group also prepared a document which elaborates on a Definition of Artificial Intelligence used for the guidelines:

Artificial intelligence refers to systems that display intelligent behavior by analyzing their environment and taking actions – with some degree of autonomy – to achieve specific goals. AI-based systems can be purely software-based, acting in the virtual world (e.g., voice assistants, image analysis software, search engines, speech and face recognition systems) or AI can be embedded in hardware devices (e.g., advanced robots, autonomous cars, drones or Internet of Things applications).

“I find it encouraging that the European Commission came out with a definition of AI and seven key requirements that ethical AI systems have to meet, says Rachel.”

Seven requirements for trustworthy AI

Requirement 1: Human agency and oversight
AI systems should empower human beings, allowing them to make informed decisions and fostering their fundamental rights. At the same time, proper oversight mechanisms need to be ensured, which can be achieved through human-in-the-loop, human-on-the-loop, and human-in-command approaches.

“This requirement points out that it is vital to combine AI and human intelligence. In other words, AI is augmenting human intelligence. There are studies about the diagnosis’s accuracy done by a doctor, done by AI, and done by both working together. The outcome shows that AI plus human intelligence is more accurate compared to only AI or human intelligence,” explains Rachel.

Requirement 2: Technical robustness and safety
AI systems need to be resilient and secure. They need to be safe, ensuring a fall back plan in case something goes wrong, as well as being accurate, reliable, and reproducible. That is the only way to ensure that also unintentional harm can be minimized and prevented.

“It is necessary that you have certain governance around critical AI systems to make sure that it is not possible to reverse engineer it. Additionally, how do you know that your AI system is accurate, reliable, and reproducible? To answer this question, you have to understand your algorithm thoroughly.”

Requirement 3: Privacy and data governance
Besides ensuring full respect for privacy and data protection, adequate data governance mechanisms must also be ensured, taking into account the quality and integrity of the data, and ensuring legitimized access to data.

“Since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on May 25, 2018, organizations focus more on privacy and data governance. However, I expect this to change in the future. Why? Because many youngsters don’t have a strong belief in data privacy due to, e.g., Facebook and voice assistants like Alexa.”

Requirement 4: Transparency
The data, system, and AI business models should be transparent. Traceability mechanisms can help achieving this. Moreover, AI systems and their decisions should be explained in a manner adapted to the stakeholder concerned. Humans need to be aware that they are interacting with an AI system, and must be informed of the system’s capabilities and limitations.

“Monitoring the evolution of your algorithms, and understanding what those are doing is an essential level of transparency. At our company, for example, we make it possible for customers to generate an output report by pressing a simple button. It shows you immediately if the AI system meets its service level agreements, what the risks are in the decision making of the algorithm, and how this has evolved.”

“It is crucial to have people in your organization who believe in ethical AI because it is a mindset that you need to develop.”

Belgium AI Personality of the Year Award - 2019

Requirement 5: Diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness
Unfair bias must be avoided, as it could have multiple negative implications, from the marginalization of vulnerable groups to the exacerbation of prejudice and discrimination. Fostering diversity, AI systems should be accessible to all, regardless of any disability, and involve relevant stakeholders throughout their entire life circle.

“I hear many people talking about getting the bias out of AI. That is impossible because you can’t get the bias fully out of humans and data. Nevertheless, what you can do is to minimize it by making it visible through the transparency of your AI system.”

Requirement 6: Societal and environmental well-being
AI systems should benefit all human beings, including future generations. It must hence, be ensured that they are sustainable and environmentally friendly. Moreover, they should take into account the environment, including other living beings, and their social and societal impact, should be carefully considered.

“We make our ethical AI and machine learning platform available for enterprises with lots of data and small and medium businesses with fewer data, tells Rachel.”

Requirement 7: Accountability
Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure responsibility and accountability for AI systems and their outcomes. Auditability, which enables the assessment of algorithms, data, and design processes, plays a key role therein, especially in critical applications. Moreover, adequate an accessible redress should be ensured.

“To assess if an AI system is ethical, you have to audit your AI systems and be transparent about the results and improvement plans. Overall, it is impossible to solve all ethical AI problems outlined in the seven requirements at once. Currently, our business focuses on privacy and data governance, transparency, and societal and environmental well-being, says Rachel.”

Three AI and machine learning offerings
Omina Technologies offers three AI services: Omina Academy, Omina Consultancy, and Omina Core.

Omina Academy 
The academy focuses on bringing AI knowledge to the market so that you can explore what it can do for your company.

Omina Consultancy
Rachel: “Besides the academy, we also provide consultancy. Organizations often contact us with a request to help them understand how they can strategically implement AI. So, we come in and start with a readiness assessment. For example, we perform a benchmarking of the customer’s sector, assess the organization’s strengths and weaknesses to implement AI, and look at their data. That results in a strategic AI roadmap.”

Omina Core
“Last but not least, Omina’s Core is an ethical AI and machine learning platform for enterprises and small and medium businesses. It analyzes massive amounts of data, structured and unstructured, and makes complex decisions and predictions faster and more reliable.”

Do you want to enhance your AI knowledge and apply ethical AI and machine learning in your company? Contact: Rachel.Alexander@ominatechnologies.com

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Smart and Mobile Operations

Many industrial companies deal with complex operations in their plants. It often forces management to speed up the operational digitalization to be a competitive market player. Although technological innovations make it possible to automate nearly an entire plant, it is still vital to have skilled personnel with in-depth knowledge. Unfortunately, due to an aging workforce, management sees themselves confronted with a possible loss of valuable knowledge and hands-on experience. Their main concern is how to safeguard the knowledge of senior operators and help juniors get up to speed with complex operations?
 

Geert Sergoyne is co-founder and CEO at Gemsotec. “Our mission is to enable companies with complex operations to make instructions, tasks and inspection rounds mobile and smart. It helps them to capture and organize the knowledge-based information of their senior operators and to create a digital buddy for future talent.”

Digital buddy: four critical success factors
Up till now, most junior operators get extensively training from seniors to gain complex operations knowledge and experience. However, the digital economy and the aging workforce urge companies to change the way they operate.

Geert: “We asked ourselves what the Software as a Service (SaaS) application critical success criteria are for a digital buddy, supporting less experienced employees during complex operations?” That resulted in a list of four success factors:

  1. One software platform for all company departments involved in complex operations
  2. Collect, analyze and visualize data to gain insights
  3. An intuitive user interface
  4. Augment: enriched data such as a detailed floor plan and pictures to guide operators during their inspection rounds

Based on these four critical success factors, Gemsotec created the application GoRound.

GoRound application
What is GoRound? “GoRound is a web and mobile application that assists you to perform inspections, instructions, and tasks.The web application facilitates the creation of templates, plans, and reports. It also manages tasks and collects valuable data insights for improvements. The GoRound mobile app is a digital buddy that guides operators and technicians via a step-by-step approach. For example, they can check the precise location to perform an inspection, log statuses, add text comments, check process values and make field service requests,” says Geert.

Projects and approach
Currently, several GoRound projects are ongoing in different industries. A food company is using the application to digitize the quality inspections of a product line. It means that paper-based management is replaced by tablets that run the GoRound application to log production failures and to perform critical checks such as temperature and fat content. It enables them to optimize the efficiency of the product line thanks to valuable data insights. Additionally, the digital logging of data improves its compliance with regulations and procedures.

“Another project is with a chemical company. Here, employees use tablets to inspect railway wagons containing hazardous substances and to perform full site inspections. The GoRound application provides them the instructions to execute checks and allows them to enrich their data with pictures and comments. That speeds up the time-frame to generate inspection reports and fix problems. In other words, it not only improves the efficiency and safety tracking of the railway wagons but that of the entire site,” says Geert.

“GoRound is a web and mobile application that assists people to perform inspections, instructions, and tasks.”

There is also a GoRound project ongoing with a production company in Spain to digitize more than eighty complex operations checklists for the inspection of many international product types linked to different customers and countries. The mobile GoRound app helps them to select the correct product type checklist.

All GoRound projects start with a customer kick-off meeting. Geert: “We carefully listen to our customer’s needs, identify all stakeholders, agree on what the objectives are, and how we are going to cooperate. It is our responsibility to deliver and configure the application and to provide user training. The customer arranges their team’s buy-in, enters the necessary know-how in the app, and uses it.

Active participation of stakeholders is crucial for a successful project, as well as a user-friendly interface and excellent user experience. Due to the project sizes, I expect to extend our portfolio with project management services to help customers with the implementation of the GoRound app.”

Rapid growing market
The worldwide market for mobile operations is expecting rapid growth in the coming years. That provides many opportunities for established businesses as well as start-ups. For example, in the future, operators will use smart glasses for complex mobile operations. The advantage is that you have easy access to information and work instructions. Besides, your hands are free to perform tasks, and an online expert is available if you need help to solve a problem.

“Currently, Gemsotec is active in the chemical, food, manufacturing, and logistics industries. We are often amazed by our customers with the new use cases they introduce. Although we have many projects dealing with inspections and tasks, I also see great potential for complex procedures such as the lockout tag-out procedures. The fast pace of technology innovations will further help us to develop the GoRound application and to meet the business needs of our customers,” says Geert.

Do you want to know more about the GoRound app to make your operations smart and mobile? Contact: geert.sergoyne@gemsotec.com

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The Future of Mobile Apps is Offline-First

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On April 16 and 17, Mendix World 2019, the world’s largest low-code development event, took place in Rotterdam Ahoy. The session ‘The future of mobile apps is offline-first’ had a fully packed room. Although the motto mobile-first is common sense when you build an app, there is a growing demand for offline-first apps. Hence, Danny Roest, Mendix product manager for mobile, and Marcel Groeneweg, certified Mendix expert at ITvisors, inspired the audience to start building offline-first apps.

Offline-first apps
Why do we need offline-first apps? “In city centers, you expect reliable public internet connections, says Danny. In the summer, I like to listen to music via the internet when I cycle to work. However, I discovered that there is no reliable connection near the famous Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam where our Mendix office is. Suppose I travel to work by car and get an accident. I open the online insurance app to record my claim. Unfortunately, the app needs a connection, so I get an error message due to the lack of network coverage. That is frustrating. Therefore, at Mendix, we make it possible to build apps that work regardless of the network connectivity status.”

An offline-first app works because it interacts with a local database on your device. Mendix handles the eventual data synchronization with the server. To start building an offline-first app, you have to create an offline navigation profile. Based on this profile, Mendix performs consistency checks to ensure that your app will work. Besides, Mendix also supplies the mechanisms to run on your device the wire logic, interaction logic, business rules, and so forth.

Benefits
The main three benefits of offline-first apps are an increase in user experience (UX), reliability, and battery performance:

  • UX

When you open an online app, and the internet connection is weak, your app doesn’t work well as it frequently tries to connect. As a result, your UX reduces even if the app has a fancy user interface. Offline-first apps are the solution because you don’t need a connection. That improves your UX.

  • Reliability

Field service engineers, for example, use apps when they visit remote locations (e.g., factories, basements). These locations often have bad or no connectivity at all. Offline-first apps are a reliable resolution because these apps enable field service engineers to synchronize their data before, and after, visiting a remote location.

  • Battery performance

Online apps rely on an internet connection and drain the battery capacity of your mobile device. Offline-first apps enable you to work without an internet connection and save your device’s battery life.

“At Mendix, we make it possible to build apps that work regardless of the network connectivity status.”

Mendix 8
Mendix 8 offers lots of capabilities that empower you to build better offline-first apps faster. The five capabilities worth mentioning are:

Capability 1: Automatic sync improves your data synchronization. It determines all the entities synchronized to your device, and it also applies security constraints.

Capability 2: Configurable sync gives you control over the data you want to synchronize. You get an additional syntax dialogue in your profile that shows which entities you can synchronize. Also, you can add your entities, determine which entities you want to control, and create sync activities yourself.

Capability 3: Full control is still in the planning phase. It allows you to call a microflow from an offline app. For example, fetching data from an SAP system.

Capability 4: Pluggable nanoflow actions are JavaScript actions that allow you to build custom activities inside nanoflows.

Capability 5: XPath support in offline apps helps you to query data for your offline database.

It is crucial to handle all Mendix 8 capabilities gracefully. Danny: “Like in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. When calling a microflow from an offline app, you have to handle the instances of poor or no connection. For example, be aware to catch exceptions and ensure that pluggable nanoflow actions do not make your app less robust.”

Do’s and don’ts
Marcel has extensive hands-on experience with building offline-first apps. He shared a couple of do’s and don’ts during his presentation with Danny.

Offline-first apps do’s:

  • Do double check your business processes. “If your online and offline app users insert the same type of data, you get conflicts,” says Marcel. “Although Danny mentioned a module and patterns for conflict resolution, this error might be hard to solve. It’s better to check your business process for handling data upfront and to align it with the requirements for offline-first apps.”
  • Do double check your entity access. Generally, users have more rights than you realize. It is essential to review these rights to understand and solve the problems.

Offline-first apps don’ts:

  • Don’t rename a module or entity offline. An offline-first app in production breaks when the offline user renames a module or entity and the only recovery option is to undo the renaming and have all users synchronize again.
  • Don’t just delete data. If an online user deletes data on the server and an offline user changes the same data, you get a synchronization error. Marcel: “Solving this error requires that users do not physically delete data but put a status on it. That assures that the data still exists, although it is not visible anymore for the user.”

Do you want to know how offline-first apps can help you to build and deliver apps faster, and ultimately grow business? Contact: Danny Roest, Mendix product manager for mobile.

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Get a Head Start on Low-Code App Development

Rapid application development is a hot topic in many businesses. To keep up with market demands and competitors, it becomes more important to deliver new apps faster. Furthermore, due to a shortage of developers, low-code rapid application development is a smart approach to maximize the effectiveness of available IT resources. 

Mendix, a low code development platform, enables you to build, integrate, and deploy web and mobile apps fast. It allows you to visually create apps by using a graphic user interface and drag-and-drop components.

Based on Mendix, BPM Company developed a six-step roadmap and two starter packs. The objective is to help small and medium businesses, as well as enterprises, get a head start on low-code app development.

Six-step roadmap to success
The experience of BPM company with developing apps for customers at the Mendix low-code platform resulted in a six-step roadmap. This roadmap guides you, and your team, through the full app solution design and delivery process by asking and answering essential questions. Realizing better business results with rapid application development is a collaborative journey of business and IT resources.

Step 1: Portfolio
What apps can you build with the Mendix low-code platform? What do you want to make?

Step 2: Requirements
What are the requirements of your app?

Step 3: Design
What is the best design for your app? How do you design an intuitive user interface and an excellent user experience?

Step 4: Build
How do you build your app fast with the Mendix low-code platform?

Step 5: Test
How do you test your app?
What are the Mendix tools for testing and test automation?

Step 6: Tuning
How to collect feedback? How to track, detect, and resolve issues of your Mendix app?

Mendix, a low code development platform, enables you to build, integrate, and deploy web and mobile apps fast.

Innovate with Mendix

Starter packs to build low-code apps
Besides a six-step roadmap, BPM Company also developed a universe starter pack for small and medium businesses and an enterprise starter pack. These two starter packs provide companies a proven and structured approach to discover the Mendix low code development platform. It helps first-time users to experience the platform, and to build and deliver their first app fast.

Universe starter pack 
The universe starter pack focuses on small and medium businesses. It includes a scoping session, three sprints of seven days, a demo and evaluation session, and the formulation of the next steps. In a six-week time frame, you become familiar with the Mendix low code development platform and will build your first app.

Enterprise starter pack
The enterprise starter pack allows larger companies to jump-start the creation of a first low-code app with Mendix. It starts with a design thinking ideation session. The next steps are training, the configuration of development and cloud resources, and a boot camp to build your first app.

Besides learning how to build low-code apps, it is also essential to carefully think about the best way to integrate these apps into your current IT system. For example, how to position the Mendix platform and how to build the necessary skills? BPM Company helps you to answer these questions via knowledge transfer and best practices and enables you to create a Mendix competence center.

Do you want to discover how to build and deliver apps fast with the Mendix low code development platform, and realize better business results? Contact jan.ickroth@bpmcompany.eu

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