Technology scouting report from Almedalen
The word on everybody’s lips this year was AI, artificial intelligence, unchallenged by any other topic. 13% of all events and seminars were devoted to AI.
Other buzz topics were sustainability, circular economy, fossil-based plastics as a sustainability problem, healthcare and e-health and last year’s hype, digitalization of course.
Below a few notes from the more than 4000 events held during Almedalen 2018.
What is AI? The question is not easy to get a straight answer on. Not even from our digitalization minister, Peter Eriksson, who took part in numerous seminars on the different aspects of AI.
AI is fueled by data and the algorithms constitutes the engine. The concept of AI is not new. It has been around since the fifties. The reasons why it happens now is the advent of exponentially growing processing power of huge numbers of inexpensive processors connected in parallel, in a neural-like network as well as access to massive amounts of data to churn as collected by e.g. Google and Facebook.
– You have to own your data. If you only use Googles data, you will soon be out of business, as investor angel Jane Walerud,put it as an advice to startups at an event discussing AI as an engine for growth, organized by Dagens Industri and CGI.
Many examples of AI application can be mentioned of AI used already today by all of us like translation tools for text, playlist recommendations offered by Spotify and ad pop ups on Google. Or more recently discussed, the employment of robot algorithms for handling applications for social security aid in Trelleborg.
An interesting perspective is the potential of improving the public sectors offering and service efficiency by adopting the big data processing and AI. The public society collect large amount of data both real time data such as traffic data but also data concerning the citizens like health care data that constitute enormous values for both public organization but also for private enterprises.
– One problem is Sweden’s decentralized management structure – the state must take special responsibility here, says digitalization minister Peter Eriksson.
Competence supply is one critical issue where the political establishment has a special responsibility. Some actions taken to address the need for educated personnel were highlighted by Peter Eriksson:
- 500 MSEK will be invested in AI during the coming 10 years, mediated by Vinnova
- The Wallenberg foundation will back this investment with another 1 billion SEK
- A ”data factory”, a reseach center, in Lindholmen, Gothenburg, will be set up with a yearly budget of 50 MSEK
A general limitation in Sweden and in Europe for a rapid deployment of AI is the availability of public data. It’s generally difficult to get access to data due to the Swedish data storage law and now GDPR. According to Daniel Akinine, Microsoft security, on the other hand the Swedish unique access principle would be a real potential competitive advantage. In order for this to happen a systematic digital access API infrastructure would have to be put in place. Personal integrity and societal vulnerability would have to be guaranteed. Åsa Schwarz, Know IT, pointed out this aspect as a potential export opportunity for Swedish AI enterprises.
- The roadmap of the government act on reformation of the transport system was described by Stefan Engdahl, responsible for transportation infrastructure at the Swedish Transport Administration.
- A special program will be launched for digitalization of transport systems headed by Jan Petersson.
- The Swedish government and the Swedish Transport Administration have allocated 300 MSEK for a 30 km demonstration road infrastructure driven by electricity. Industry will back the investment by another 300 MSEK. Business models and usability aspects will be studied. Electricity distribution will not, as in the case of railroads, be provided by the public.
As announced by Lena Stridsman, digital lead ABB, and Jan Moström, CEO, LKAB, ABB and LKAB have joined in a partnership for employing IoT and digitalization in order to design the next mining level of the iron ore mine in Kiruna Svappavaara from scratch using sensors, IoT and AI in order to maintain the cost efficiency of deep mining of iron ore.
– In Australia and other places, iron ore is shuffled in near surface findings at low cost but with high environmental impact. This is the competition. By employing the latest technology wisely Sweden can maintain a competitive advantage even at big depth, Jan Moström said.
Materials and sustainability
Polymer materials was discussed and the various negative impacts it has on the environment in a seminar called The hunt for the plastic – do not throw out the bathing duck with the bathing water, organized by IKEM (Innovation and Chemical Industries).
Magnus Huss, chariman of IKEM, initiated the session by stating the positive impact plastics and polymers have had historically on fuel consumption, reduced food waste etc.
A number of projects are now running to address sustainability issues like the brand new sorting facility for recycling in Motala.
Today we use 30% of the recycled material as raw materials for new products. 70% is used as burn fuel. By using a planned plastic refinery 100% could be used as raw materials.
Linnea Engström EU parliamentarian, pointed out that earlier on Sweden shipped 85% of our plastic waste to Kina, but now China has stopped this import which means that the situation has now become even more urgent.