Kuopio Living Lab at the heart of North Savo product innovation
The DigitalHack2020 event created new solutions for the social services field as well as jobs for new developers.
The DigitalHack2020 idea competition, carried out online in May, looked for digital solutions for distanced life in these exceptional times. Teams of Savonia University of Applied Sciences and University of Eastern Finland students received a list of themes and two weeks to create demo solutions to the needs the themes presented.
– Besides the ideas themselves, we wanted to see how a Hack event, traditionally a weekend-long live event, would work as a two-week, all-online idea contest, says Marko Jäntti, research manager with the University of Eastern Finland.
The grand prize was an opportunity to develop the winner’s idea into a business with the support of the Living Lab’s multidisciplinary network. Every student whose team submitted an idea also received a certificate for 2 ECTS credits, to be applied by their school in e.g. elective studies, for participating in DigitalHack2020.
Modern solutions for everyday needs
One of the sources for ideas for the contest was the Kuopio branch of Save the Children Finland.
– One of our wishes was for a way for children to find stories read out to them, says chairperson Eeva Heinonen.
Another idea selected for further development was a mood meter for children and youth to take notes on their emotions during a day, requested by Save the Children and thought up by Roope Saastamoinen from Team Inetor.
– We got much more than we expected to. The story idea was developed by Team Inetor into Muksuboksi, a portal made up of several services that lets users not only find and listen to stories, but decide how the story is going to develop as they listen, says Heinonen.
The portal also enables children to call out to other children nearby for play dates, and to log emotions they’ve had during the day.
– The Muksuboksi application is an answer to a number of needs and has room for many kinds of development, and that’s something the city was also interested in, says Jäntti.
From an idea to a business and a job
Team Inetor is today a company employing the students who were part of the team. The second-place Team Soft Bois is also working to develop their idea into a business. BusinessCenter supports them in this effort.
– Team Soft Bois developed a speech-controlled life management app called Porkkana, which can remind school kids about homework and to have snacks in between their hobbies. This is ground-breaking work being done in Kuopio, because it’s quite uncommon to incorporate smart speakers into this kind of service, says Jäntti.
Living Lab coordinator Seija Jääskeläinen, who worked to bring the parties together in the event, says it’s important to develop new digital solutions for social welfare, because virtual home calls have increased greatly during the year.
– We’re currently testing a parenthood support app. With it, we’ve been able to experiment with digital tools to help everyday life. Virtual and digital services remain a very new element of social work, and event such as this one can give us new ideas to develop for the modern digital life, says Jääskeläinen.
New ways of working
The City of Kuopio, DigiCenter, BusinessCenter, the Savonia University of Applied Sciences, the University of Eastern Finland, the Living Lab and Save the Children Kuopio all participated in the DigitalHack2020 event.
– The Save the Children perspective is very valuable to us, as it helps the teams to develop solutions for practical needs in the social services field, says Jäntti.
He hopes more events such as this can be organized. Slack, used to communicate between the city, the teams and the expert advisors, was also praised by Jäntti for enabling seamless interaction between the parties.
– I think it’s important to introduce new ways of working and to continuously improve existing methods. Organizing events such as this to help needs-based services get from the level of ideas all the way into practice is a part of the palette of services Kuopio Living Lab provides, says Jääskeläinen.
Text: Maiju Korhonen
The Kuopio Living Lab project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the North Savo Regional Council, the City of Kuopio and the Kuopio University Hospital.