At our latest online edition of the Use-Case Talks, held on November 2, 2020, industry, academic and individual members of the Swiss Alliance for Data-Intensive Services joined us to discuss data-driven innovation, confidential computing, and natural language processing for analytics.
The first speaker of the evening, Dr. David Sturzenegger, Head of Product at Decentriq, talked about how to enable secure data ecosystems with confidential computing. David explained how Decentriq’s cloud-based platform always protects data during the process.
Then our second speaker, João Pedro Monteiro, Co-Founder and CTO of Veezoo, gave his talk with the intriguing title “From Questions to Answers”. João Pedro gave an introduction to Veezoo, that uses the natural language of analytics and how it works.
These two interesting Use-Case talks sparked a lively and interesting discussion, where the participants could ask their questions and give their points of view. In the Q&A session we exchanged ideas, challenges and information among the industry and academic experts.
This was the second online Use-Case Talk this year – special times call for creative measures – however, we hope that we in the next ones again will be able to meet in person at Aspaara’s venue in Technopark Zurich, to have fruitful and to have a fruitful in person networking session.
The Use-Case Talks are part of a series organized three times a year. If you are interested in sharing your AI stories and discussing them with other industry members, you are warmly welcome to join us for our next Use-Case Talks taking place on March 15, 2021. If you are interested in presenting a Use-Case, please contact us by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
About the Use-Case Talks
The Use-Case Talk Series allows participants to enjoy in-depth technical discussions and exchange information about interesting technical challenges amongst experts. Two to three industry experts and numerous participants takes part in the Use-Case Talk to share stories and insights about frameworks, best practices and tools in data science.
The Use-Case Talk Series are organized by Aspaara Algorithmic Solutions AG on behalf of Swiss Alliance for Data-Intensive Services.
About 20 guests attended the online Service Lunch organized by the Smart Services Expert Group on September 22, 2020. Fabien Olivier (KWe Consulting GmbH) presented key success factors for a transformation journey to smart products.
Here are some highlights from Fabian’s presentation:
What are the challenges?
Market prices are going down as a result of product commoditization and a lack of differentiation. How do we gain market shares and how do we grow revenues in a highly competitive and saturated market?
Solution: create differentiation and a sustainable competitive advantage through technological innovation.
How to use IOT as a key differentiator? With the illustration of a real case study from “Transformation Journey to Smart Products” that shows:
Which data to collect
Who is responsible for data management
How to be compliant to the data privacy regulations
Who to partner with
How to translate data into information: the role of a dashboard
What is the business case
What is the best approach to build a business case
A new revenue opportunity: pay per use
How to move from a product to a knowledge organization
How to build a digital DNA
With which Service-oriented Approach did we Solve it?
The real case study explains how the IOT value proposition has evolved over time through the transformation journey to become a key Value-Added Service to improve profitability (internal transparency), customer satisfaction (external transparency) and cross-selling.
What are the learnings?
Digital Transformation is a journey that requires exploring the digital opportunity on a trial and error basis with a good dose of faith and perseverance.
Digital Transformation is Change Management.
If you have any questions concerning this event, please contact Jürg Meierhofer or Rainer Fuchs.
What are the likes and dislikes of robots and what makes them act? On October 15, 2020 F&P Robotics, together with the Swiss Alliance for Data Intensive Services, organized an interactive Robotics workshop. F&P Robotics introduced their products and solutions in the field of professional personal robotics. Their applications can be used in healthcare; for example mobile assistants for elderly care, persons with disabilities and for people in rehabilitation centers. They also create gastronomy robots, i.e bar robotics
The workshop was made up of four interactive talks, where the participants got to know the robots on a first-name basis. We made our acquaintance with the autonomous assistant robot, Lio, and shook hands with his collaborative robot arm, P-Rob. At the end of the day Barney, the robot bar, made us some drinks.
Dr. Hansruedi Früh, Managing Director of F&P Robotics, opened the workshop and gave an introduction to cooperative and care robotics. The Care Robot Lio is not a medical device but aims at helping people with special needs while at the same time leaving space for autonomy. Its collaborative robot arm P-Rob can be used for a variety of tasks, for example in the kitchen: you teach him by moving him in accordance to your needs.
After our first introduction to Lio and his P-Rob arm, Rastislav Marko, working with Software and Lio System Development at F&P Robotics, introduced us to the integrated Python scripting language and we got to do some programming exercises via myPⓇ’s browser interface: a web interface that controls Lio. Like all of us, Lio has a calendar when he works, to remind himself of his daily tasks. Lio can recognize people and has a good memory, this means that he can remember that he has seen someone and report this. Lio then proudly demonstrated his skills, singing a song and giving us a quote of the week.
But can a Robot choose how to act? Frederik Zwilling, working with Software Development and Lio Project Management at F&P Robotics, told us about the principles of autonomous behaviour in a robot. They are programmed to make decisions through logical reasoning of knowledge-based systems and common-sense rules. For example, a robot knows that at night you should be silent and let us, the non-robots, sleep.
Dr. Justinas Miseikis, Head of AI at F&P Robotics, told us about the learning principles for voice and face detection. Robots detect faces, usually through pre trained neural networks that are then optimized further, if they are not performing well enough. Although Lio has some trouble understanding people with their face masks – Robots have their own challenges with covid-19!
At the end of the day we got to see demos of the robots. To round off the day, we moved to Baronics AG to have a drink at the Barney Robot Bar where we continued the discussions.
The Workshop was highly interactive and interesting, the participants got to try the coding and communicate with the robots, something most of us don’t get to do everyday. We got an understanding about how robots move and work and exist in the world. The participants agreed that it was a very exceptional opportunity.
Could you shortly tell us what Rockstar Recruiting does?
Rockstar Recruiting is a personal recruiting platform that connects strong IT and technology experts with ambitious tech companies. We are not a typical recruiting company in that we primarily focus on the candidates, with whom we establish contact first. We are not big fans of using the classical, and in our view impersonal, methods of approaching candidates (for example via LinkedIn). Instead we focus on being present and active in the community. We organize events – such as hackathons – and contribute to tech events, giving presentations about relevant topics, for example tech recruiting. We are also members of the Swiss Data and Service Alliance, thus placing ourselves in the ecosystem, allowing us to grow our network organically with people who are passionate about what they do. This has proven a successful approach; we have seen many success stories and received positive feedback from the community.
What is Rockstar Recruiting’s background story?
Rockstar Recruiting is the brainchild of founders Klaus Fuchs and Justus Spengler. Klaus did his PhD in Information Management at the ETH Zürich, in collaboration with the University of St. Gallen, and he is going to be associated with the newly founded ETH AI Center. Justus studied Psychology at the University of Zürich and has over seven years of experience in tech recruiting. They complement each other well and therefore Rockstar Recruiting can provide candidates and tech companies personal and competent support in tech recruiting.
Rockstar Recruiting is a University of Zürich spin-off, which means that we are endorsed by them and part of their start-up program. Already as a student, Justus worked in tech recruiting where he acquired a strong skillset in the field. However, he soon realized that when he met the candidates in person, he could establish a much better relationship with them and get a better understanding of their motivation – consequentially the potential for finding the right jobs increased. Justus sat down with Klaus, they brought their ideas together, and Rockstar Recruiting was born: a very personal service for both candidates and companies.
Since then, the company has grown into a team of 15 employees. We have eight in-house staff and the rest are external employees servicing our clients. Every internal consultant at Rockstar has learnt some data science and tech basics and is able to interact on the necessary level with our candidates – some of the smartest people around.
Why is it important that Rockstar Recruiting exists?
We help create the perfect match for both candidates and tech companies. For candidates, it’s important to find the right next challenge. It’s not difficult for them to find a job – au contraire – they have too many options to choose from! What is more challenging is to find the right companies. We understand their motivation, skillset and – at times – their frustrations, and we then connect them with the companies that could be a good fit. We have direct contacts in many companies that the candidates may not have heard of and in many cases our placements go to positions that were never advertised. We help the candidates access the “hidden market”, so to speak. This is good for both sides as the companies are saving a lot of time when we send them good candidates before they have advertised the position. Recruitment processes are often so long that by the time they’ve run their course the best candidates may no longer be available. The recruitment market is competitive and fast-moving, which means that momentum plays an important role.
Can you give some examples of your success stories?
Three years ago, we were referred to the Hiring Manager of a big American tech company. They had access to some of the best data scientists on a global scale but lacked contacts in the Swiss talent pool and therefore asked for our help. Through our close ties to the ETH we helped them tap into the Swiss market. We made quite a good first impression with the hiring manager; after one interview he said that he never interviewed a stronger candidate – and he has experience from Silicon Valley and Seattle where he has met very impressive minds. In general, he said that the candidates from ETH were fantastic. It was great for us, a small company, to get appreciation from such a big American company and to be reminded that ETH really is a leader in European higher education.
Another success story, also in the field of data science and data engineering, was a project for an International online gaming company who asked for our help with their key hires as they were building up a team of data scientists and engineers in Switzerland. Once again, we got this opportunity through recommendations and we were positively surprised to have gained this kind of recognition outside of Switzerland.
Of course, we have some great domestic success stories too. We partnered with a Swiss start-up that had just received a sizable funding round and had ambitions to grow their data science and engineering team. We helped the start-up find amazing people that worked for established and reputable international companies and helped the candidates relocate to Switzerland.
How do your clients find you?
A nice side-effect of our personal approach is that clients and candidates appreciate it so much that they recommend us and give referrals. Instead of us constantly trying to acquire new business, we invest a lot of time into the personal relationship with our existing candidates and clients – which leads to referrals.
What are your biggest challenges?
We could always meet more candidates. This is the biggest challenge as we work with personnel. Another challenge is that our personal approach makes it difficult to expand the candidate base exponentially and to keep up with client demands. We address this by teaming up with other companies and expanding to other locations, such as London.
Additionally, we are working on a collaboration with a company that is based in Berlin – the partnership will soon be official. They are building their network there, and some of their candidates are interested in exploring options on the Swiss market. We will be able to leverage their network and help their candidates come to Switzerland.
Finally, we are working on the digitization of our internal workflows because we realize that our personal approach benefits from technological innovation. We are investing money and time in developing a newer, more comprehensive and inclusive approach internally. Important to mention is that we recently received the label “swiss made software”, because we appreciate the skills of our local network of outstanding developers.
How do you see the future of Rockstar Recruiting and what is your long-term goal?
From the perspective of our candidates we see potential in enlarging our network with high-growth technology companies in Switzerland. From the client perspective we will be able to cater even better to their high demand through our onsite consultants and partners that are screening the local market in Switzerland, London and Berlin – we anticipate that further destinations will follow. As a result, we will be able to connect not only single candidates with companies, but to search for entire teams as well.
Mid to long-term we see us growing with our candidates and will provide services in the field of executive search in addition to the professional and expert level of today.
Throughout our journey it was and will remain important for us to respect our values and ethical standards that we internally describe as “sustainable recruiting”. Business growth has been just one of its many positive effects.
At the end of the day we enjoy what we do and how we do it – especially the strong connection to the tech community plays a big role in this. So, we are curious to see where this path will lead us, as Switzerland is gaining more and more attraction as a global technology hub.
Our 10th meeting of the expert group “Blockchain Technology in Supply Chain Management” took place virtually. In the first half, Dr. Davide Calvaresi presented his insights into Multi-agent Systems (MAS) combined with Blockchain Technology. In the second, half, the experts pre-tested a survey about the blockchain adoption in Switzerland set up by researchers from ZHAW.
Davide Calvaresi is at the forefront of research in MAS and Blockchains. He introduced the audience to MAS and presented the connection to Blockchain. In MAS, trust plays a crucial role and is defined as the belief that the other party will do what it says. Blockchain with its immutable data structure can serve as a backbone to obtain this accountability. Dr. Calvaresi showed the experts a concrete project in which startups are evaluated by experts before the receive funds from investors. In this project, the blockchain servers as a layer for trust and reputation. To conclude, MAS and Blockchain is a promising combination, however, there are still many open technical as well as ethical challenges.
After Davide’s very exciting presentation, the experts conducted a survey about the adoption of Blockchain in Swiss companies. The goal was to pre-test the survey. As expected, the experts could give the authors valuable recommendations on how to improve the questionnaire.
We are looking forward to our eleventh meeting in November.
Skillue is an ICT start-up in the HR and Recruitment field. With a technology that uses pattern recognition to extracts skills from unstructured text, we help companies identify the skills and roles of their employees in order to enhance their performance and, at a time of big changes in the workforce, help them in the area of strategic workforce transformation. We help companies in their recruitment and management as well as with employee development. Through this big space we help companies find the right skills and the right talents for the right jobs.
What is Skillue’s background story?
We started Skillue in 2016 at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Northern Switzerland (FHNW). We thought about the future of jobs in the fast-changing market and came up with the idea of a technology that could extract the hidden skillset of employees and job seekers. In fact, Skillue started as a bachelor thesis; while working on it, we became passionate about the project and felt that there was much potential for our idea in the HR recruitment space. So, after the bachelor was ready, we decided to keep going with our business plan. We then found partners for the technical side of the project and together we created a prototype. During the time of development, we also completed an Innosuisse project together with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.
However, we realized that the marketplace is pretty difficult to push into because you compete against all the big players. We decided to change the business model and moved from the marketplace to a B2B model, and this is where we are at now.
Why is it important that Skillue exists?
We have a vision about the future of the labour market. The technological changes will disrupt so many industries that companies will have difficulties finding suitable job profiles five years from now, if they keep using their current recruitment methods. Many stakeholders don’t know what skills are needed for the future job market. Skillue is here to help with this change. We believe that instead of focusing on education and experience alone, employers should really focus on all of the skills that a candidate or employee has. Skillue differentiates between core skills and extended skills. We look at education and past experience of the candidate but also – and mainly – what this shows about what this person is capable of and what they can offer in the changing job market. We believe that Skillue should exist because of this: we drive this vision. And we try to educate ourselves and companies to drive this change. We have realized that more and more companies are aware of this issue and that they are moving towards a skill-based approach.
Who can profit from your services?
Basically, bigger organizational structures of 1000 employees and up; companies that have natural fluctuation are the ones that can really benefit from our product. For example, the public sector has different needs from the financial industry, and Skillue will be personalized to the needs and preferences of the structure.
On the one hand, Skillue helps a company to determine a specific skillset that is needed, where there is a gap within the organization and how they can close this gap. This can be done at all levels: in recruitment, in management, etc – Skillue is employed to prepare the company for the future and the direction it should take.
On the other hand, there is the traditional job platform. Skillue has 25% more skills than regular extractors, with a better precision. And we are only at the start of the technology – with a bit more time and more data, the record will continue to improve.
What are your biggest challenges?
We have a lot of challenges. The biggest challenge is driving the change of our skill-based approach. Within companies it’s quite difficult, because a lot of people agree that things are changing but are still reluctant to change the tools that have been working for them in the past. This has been difficult: to really implement the change within the company. And the bigger the company is, the more people we need to convince.
In the very beginning it was also a challenge to get enough data to run the research on our technology – especially resumes were hard to come by. Luckily, we succeeded in getting enough data to develop our technology.
How do you see the future of Skillue and what is your long-term goal?
We have different goals, but as a start-up you have to adjust. We have a winning idea, but the topic and vision are new. We see the future of Skillue to be providing models for strategic transformation within bigger organizations. We believe that Skillue can make a huge impact in organizing workforce transformation.
The future also lies in a B2B approach, and we are excited to get in contact with more businesses that want to try this exciting new technology and take a step into the future together with us!
The main part of the meeting consisted in an update regarding the work for the new “Data Ethics Codex” of the Alliance. Markus Christen clarified that the Codex is actually a whole “bundle” of the following documents:
– Codex Overview Poster – A “Foundation” document outlining structure and values – A “Recommendation” document that includes the concrete recommendations including cases outlining how one can implement those recommendations – A “Implementation guide” outlining how the Codex can be integrated into the business processes of companies – A “Background” document providing further information for interested persons like e.g. relation of the Codex to other codes.
Members of the expert group provided final input to the “Foundation” and “Recommendation” document that now will be finalized. Members of the expert group will provide input to the case descriptions that will be finalized in the next 4-6 weeks.
A graphics designer is currently working on a standardized graphics language that will be used for all documents. It also has been decided that the documents (with exception of the “Background” document that will only be available in English) will be made available in German, English, French and Italian. The documents will be made public using a Common Creative License (non-commercial use only, no changes allowed).
The dissemination is planned for fall 2020. The expert group is currently evaluating optimal dissemination channels.
Other points discussed in the meeting were the following:
Data Ethics training: Christian Hauser presents his idea of creating a data ethics training. This should be realized in an Innsuisse funded project in cooperation with companies. SBB is already on board.
How to set up a data board: Karin Lange reports about the Mobiliar attempts to collect knowledge and best practices on how to set up a data board in companies (e.g. whom to involve, which questions to discuss, …). First contacts have been made (SAP, Swisscom, Cornelia Diethelm).
Common activity of “Data Ethics” Expert Group and “Data Sharing” Expert Group of the Alliance: The Data Ethics Expert Group will make contact to the data sharing group for exploring potential collaborations.
Data Ethics and Data Sharing for fighting against COVID-19: Michele Loi gave a short pitch about the moral issues in data-based approaches for fighting COVID-19 (in particular contact tracing). What are the ethical issues for or against such attempts, and what would be ethical requirements for creating such solutions? He argues that the collected expertise of our group is exceptionally suited to discuss this issue. It is planned to perform a survey within the Expert Group for collecting the most important issues around this topic.
The Expert Group on Digital Health met once again in person on the 7th of July. This was welcomed by everybody, as they felt that the interactions in physical meetings are much more intensive than in online meetings.
We had a few presentations – mainly about project ideas – each followed by a lively discussion. One idea is about how to induce trust in a medical AI system by giving a physician feedback on how well his/her current patient is represented by the original training data set of the AI algorithm. Another project idea concerns the development of a toolbox for visualizing time series data, including algorithms and visualization widgets. A further presentation was about an ongoing, multi-phase hackaton on patient-centered digital health.
Two of the working groups within the expert group are currently preparing white papers. One will be on the certification of advanced AI algorithms as medical devices, esp. self-learning algorithms, which automatically adapts to a patient. The other paper will give an overview of various approaches on how to get access to health data, taking into account possible ways in Switzerland as well as in other countries.
The meeting was interesting and we are looking forward to the projects going forward.
On the 26th of June 2020, the 7th Swiss Conference on Data Science took place, for the first time online. The conference was already in preparation to be held on location in Luzern, Switzerland, when the COVID-19 epidemic broke out. The team had to consider the next steps, with international speakers and participants joining from near and far. In the end the bold and forward-looking decision was taken to keep it as an online event. With only a couple of months to go, the team reached out to Studio Habegger in Regensdorf who, together with the Talque platform executing the streaming, made the conference accessible and widely reachable.
Our three keynote speakers each participated in the way best suited to their situation; Marcel Salathé and Pieter Abbeel remotely and Luca Gambardella joined us in the studio. They and the speakers of the 39 other talks made the day and all our three streams relevant and interesting. The topics were Digital Health, Data Products, AI for Finance and Insurance and Robustand Trustworthy Machine Learning, as well as additional talks about Data Science related challenges. The participants could pose questions through the platform, which they did actively. Thanks to all of you for making the conference such a success!
SDS2020 in numbers
Total participants in the conference were 416. We had 23 sponsors – an enormous thanks to all of you! 42 talks and 13 poster presentations. The industry/academia ratio was 64.9% and 25.6% respectively (and 9.4% other). Data+Service members 56.2% and non-members 43.8%
Our “Ort der Vision” plate also made it to the conference, after being delayed during the lock-down. It will now continue to visit all of our members in time for our General Assembly in October.
We again want to give our heartfelt thanks to our sponsors, especially our presenting partner D ONE solutions AG.
You can see our flashback video here, and if you missed some talks or want to refresh your memory, the videos and slides are on the SDS2020 website.
We are already looking forward to the SDS2021. If you want to join us as a speaker, you can find the Call for Participation on our SDS2021 website! We look forward to seeing you there!
Employees are the most influential production factor and — at the same time — the largest cost factor in most companies. Therefore, it is important to make best use of the skills in-house. Our artificial intelligence-based optimization engine, the Aspaara® MatchingCore®, identifies hidden internal potential within the company and satisfies customized scheduling criteria while adapting to our clients’ specific situations. Our optimization engine ensures that the right people are in the right place at the right time. We make sure that the final result is optimal for our client’s specific needs. Through sophisticated analyses, accurate predictions and optimizations, MatchingCore® is specifically aimed for recurrent, long-term time allocation of the team, and it complements and helps internal operations.
What is Aspaara’s background story?
Founders Alexander Grimm, physicist with a PhD in Business Administration and Kevin Zemmer, PhD in Applied Maths, met at the ETH Zürich. The history of Aspaara Algorithmic Solutions AG began more than five years ago with the Sola-Match project. We attended as runners in the Sola-Stafette. The challenge there, we noticed, was to put together a team of 14 different runners. We created a platform that matched runners with teams that still had capacity for additional participants. We realized that this type of calculation of runners’ skills, connecting them to the right team, could be further developed within a professional team in a company. This is how the business idea was established. From there we moved on to tutoring schools and then aircraft ground handling was added relatively quickly. We make allocation solutions for companies in the professional service sector, such as PwC, but also for logistics and railway companies.
Why is it important that Aspaara exists?
We have been able to save up to 6% of wrongly allocated labor costs for our clients and up to a quarter of travel time reduction. We make sure that employees’ preferences are respected and that the best teams work together. Moreover, we ensure that all persons involved are satisfied, and therefore we have been able to achieve sustainable success with our customers. We accompany our customers over a long period of time.
Who can profit from your services?
Staffing is complex because of a variety of constraints. Our precise and predictive decisions enable our clients to automate planning processes, reduce failure rates in staffing, while increasing reliability and efficiency. Our customer-base is very varied. We work with professional service companies where we focus in particular on assurance and auditing, we have clients in the transportation sector, such as aircraft ground handlers, further we have clients in logistics companies. Our clients use the MatchingCore® for their allocation and planning of long-term jobs – some companies use it once a year to optimize their staffing as well as when there is a turnover or a new client. Others, for example ground handlers, have more recurrent needs and use it more frequently. The clients use the MatchingCore® continuously and independently as “Software-as-a-Service”. Our customers typically have at least 350 permanent employees (internal and external).
Your client-base is very varied; can you give some examples of your projects?
At PwC Switzerland we conceived, implemented and deployed the Aspaara MatchingCore® for internal staff, matching operations for all of their 14 offices. While respecting all kinds of optimization criteria our MatchingCore® aspires towards the minimization of travel costs. We also seek to increase employment satisfaction, looking at satisfactory career paths. We find the best matches to increase team continuity.
At Zurich Airport, Aspaara® Groundcloud® uncovered how to save over 5% of wrongly allocated wage costs while increasing process reliability for customer airlines for all air and land-side operations of a ground handling company.
What are your biggest challenges?
What is special for us is that we offer services that are individually developed for each client’s specific need. MatchingCore® adapts to the very individual planning challenges of each client with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning – which takes some weeks.
Currently, we work hard on bringing the learning cycles for the customization down to a few days. This way we will be able to offer a fully customized plan for our clients within a few days – which a technical challenge. But we love challenges!
How do you see the future of Aspaara and what is your long-term goal?
In the short-term we would like to help our existing customers, as well as those who would like to become our customers, with a planning optimization to help them out of the current Covid-19 situation and strengthen them beyond this.
Our long-term goal is to become the best and most innovative provider of customized resource planning software in Europe.
Use Case Talks Series
Three times a year we organize the Use Case Talks series, on behalf of the Swiss Alliance for Data Intensive Services. At these events we discuss among experts about Artificial Intelligence. We are joined by about one third industrial, one third academic and one third individual members. The next Use Case Talk will take place the 2nd of November – save the date and contact us if you are interested in participating! Find out more here.
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