The N4S Program creates new business models and methods for accelerating service development and production of software-intensive products. The digital economy requires that services are created in nearly real time – while continuously listening to the customer.
The digital transformation in economy has been intense. Digital commodities are instantly available to everyone, at any time of day. The challenges of real-time services do not concern merely small and agile gaming companies or mobile application producers. The transformation has an impact on traditional industries as well. Managing and analyzing the data collected about products and customers is also critical. This is the reason why the partners cooperating in the N4S Program are IT companies and large industrial companies, whose business is increasingly relying on software.
Companies focused on data analysis in the Program are the top in their field. For example, Avaus is designing and implementing solutions related to data management for many large companies in the European market. Whereas Invenco specializes in data storage and its operations cover all the important database products.
The N4S Program includes expertise in designing embedded systems. Applications where microprocessors have been used to provide intelligence for the devices are abundant in consumer electronics, automation, mobile phones or, for example, in switchboard operations. These applications exist in vehicles in particular: combustion engine control systems, anti-lock brakes, traction control and on-board computers.
Metso operates in many sectors and is a leading supplier of device and service solutions for industries that design embedded systems for the process industry. Another Finnish company, Elektrobit develops the most progressive embedded technology solutions in its field for the car industry and wireless systems.
N4S Project Director Janne Järvinen in the lobby of F-Secure, under the monitor where data security attacks all over the world can be monitored in real-time.
Digitalization is taking traditional industries by storm. Future devices and home appliances consist increasingly of embedded systems that use information networks to communicate with each other. Ericsson, a world-leading supplier of internet solutions, forecasts that by 2020 there will be more than 50 billion devices operating with a network connection.
Janne Järvinen, External R&D collaboration Director of F-Secure and Focus Area Director of the N4S Program, believes that the business operations of traditional large industrial companies will gain new opportunities when the latest technology developed by software companies is utilized.
“It will not merely be small and medium-sized software companies leveraging the new opportunities, there are also large companies, such as Ericsson, Huawei and Elektrobit, involved in the program.”
Data collection, analysis and quick reactions are foundations for success
It is not sufficient enough that digital products are available to everyone in the cloud. In addition to mobile applications, successful companies must also collect data regarding customer behavior in a sensible manner. According to Janne Järvinen, companies must understand their customers very well and engage in constant interaction with them. This applies to traditional industries as well as sectors of new innovation.
“The transformation of the new digital economy is so rapid and immense that companies must be able to follow and manage their business with a new flow and rhythm. This is how the best gaming companies operate already. If large companies wish to maintain their competitive edge, I do not see any other possibility but to adopt a new kind of rhythm. This requires critical inspection of existing structures, and their possible elimination.”
Järvinen believes that change is possible if the companies build an infrastructure that enables real-time reactions and service. The N4S Program is actively creating this type of infrastructure.
“In practice, you have to have the technical competence to produce, test and deliver software to customers customer almost in real-time. You also have to be able to obtain feedback and react to it just as quickly.”
As an example, Järvinen mentions F-Secure, which has developed such a system for virus protection. It is proven that F-Secure provides the best data security in the world. The company, who has received many awards and certificates, has quickly started developing different cloud services. Younited, their new private cloud solution for everyone, specialises on security with sharing and syncing capability for any device, anytime and anywhere. F-Secure can process as much as 300,000 malware samples per day, and it can provide a nearly real-time response at best.
Younited is F-Secure's new flagship cloud solution.
“Reacting through the system developed by F-Secure is very quick, because it is a system dedicated to combating malware in particular. Similarly, some gaming companies are able to provide a very quick response too. The idea is to apply the same method systematically and broadly in Finnish software-intensive industry.”
Even though reacting to changes must become faster, it cannot be done at the expense of quality. Traditional quality assurance methods are not sufficient in real-time business operations. Therefore, new analytic methods and testing techniques are needed, based on lean thinking. New methods for designing, developing and testing software and accelerating production are being created during the N4S Program.
Finnish software competence is also used in icebreakers, whose design is very lean and agile. In the 1990s, Järvinen was installing the new special program on icebreaker Kontio when the ship had an immediate duty call and had to storm out to fulfill a mission. It took half a day of icebreaking before Järvinen was taken back to the harbor.
“New methods are related to making the whole production chain faster. These methods include dividing things into smaller parts, iteration and strong automation. In practice, therefore, one small amendment can be made for the customer, which will be implemented and reviewed. Then it will be locally tested and integrated with other parts, against the whole system. When this has been done, it will be delivered to the customer for deployment. The change is significant, since previously even the smallest amendment was delivered to the customer but only together with a larger update.”
Järvinen’s vision is an application with which, just by clicking, it is possible to easily conduct “business experiments”, as he puts it - for example, testing two or three versions of the new property for the product or service. Through the system, the different versions are implemented and tested with different customers in different countries. The following day, Järvinen would obtain information about the purchase behavior of the customers. If, for example, 64% of people in a certain country liked version C, it will be selected for further development.
Before becoming the Director of the N4S program, Järvinen spent four years as the Director of the Cloud Software Program. What were the lessons learned from the Cloud Software Program and what kinds of good practices did it bring to the N4S Program?
“Cooperation, cooperation and cooperation. The Cloud Software Program proved that even large joint projects can be successful, if common values are discovered and genuine cooperation constantly sought. A tangible innovation was to apply incremental techniques known in the software industry, such as SCRUM, in the research project. In this manner, transparency was gained for work in different organizations faster compared to the traditional models.”
Three focus areas
The N4S Program has been divided into work packages, which focus on three large focus areas.
N4S-program (Need for Speed)
Delivering value in real-time provides approaches, methods and tools for quickly and inexpensively designing, creating, and empirically evaluating mockups or prototypes of new products and services. These include software-intensive systems (SiS) and hardware-based products.
Deep customer insight work package aims to create data-informed design solutions. A deep understanding of customers and products is garnered by gathering data continuously from the live use of the products.
Mercury business work package enables companies to seek new ways to run their existing business, but also to transform themselves into completely new businesses and fields of business - behaving much like liquid mercury.
There are 33 companies and research institutions operating in Finland who are involved in the NS4 Program. These include: Aalto University, Åbo Akademi University, Avaus, Cybercom, Descom, Digia, Elektrobit, Ericsson, F-Secure, Gosei, Huawei, Inno-W, Invenco, Ixonos, JAMK University of Applied Sciences, Jutel, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Metso, Nokia Solutions and Networks, PacketVideo, Qentinel, Reaktor, Tampere University of Technology, Tieto, Tribeflame, Visma, University of Helsinki, University of Jyväskylä, University of Oulu, Vaadin, VividWorks, Vincit and VTT.
Managed by DIGILE, the four-year program is funded by Tekes and participating companies.
F-Secure cloud services
F-Secure’s latest application for privacy protection is Freedome, which hides traffic and makes its user anonymous online, without collecting any personal information about the users. It enables completely anonymous online presence, hidden from tracking. Freedome hides the device’s IP address and shows the F-Secure address selected by the user. The application hides connections, prevents tracking, protects browsing and provides virus protection. It does not collect user data and does not require registration – the users are completely anonymous to F-Secure as well.
Younited gathers photos, videos, documents and all other content that users have on different devices to one place. It includes virus protection and the best data security in the field. It has been designed especially for securing your privacy. The information saved by Younited users in the service is located in Finnish data centers, providing excellent privacy protection for the data. All the data in the service is encrypted, and the user information is not given to advertisers, unlike in many other popular online services.
Smartphones or tablets can easily be lost or stolen. Due to F-Secure’s SAFE application, the user can lock their device and locate it.