The Lokki location sharing service, launched by F-Secure in 2013, shares information among a selected group about where each member is at a certain time. The service, based on voluntary information sharing, helps families and groups by identifying and sharing the locations of the group members that have been marked in advance, or by announcing a member’s new location if they so wish.
F-Secure handed over the Open Source Lokki code to interested development communities. The ‘Lokki’ cooperation project between F-Secure and the University of Helsinki Software Factory functions as one of the Open Source projects in the Open Academy programme of an international university network. In the international training programme coordinated by Facebook, software technology students from all around the world are able to develop new services with the lead of experienced mentors.
“It doesn’t make sense to reinvent something that is built by talented and passionate people and proven to work. Therefore we also like to give back to the community, so others can use our building blocks to innovate. With open source, everyone benefits from sharing the development effort,” says Harri Kiljander, Director of Consumer Security at F-Secure.
Harri Kiljander is a data security expert with a long, international career, and at the moment he is responsible for the Personal Identity Protection product area for the company. Kiljander and his team create new product and service ideas for protecting one’s personal identity and privacy. The product concepts are tested with users and the most promising ideas are brought to the market to build up the company’s new business.
Kiljander started at F-Secure in 2010 and, for the first few years, he led the user experience design team. Before F-Secure, Kiljander spent 15 years in different areas at Nokia organisation, doing user experience planning and leading design teams. “I am a product designer at heart, and I wish to create the best products in the world. In my current team, we try to operate like a small and agile startup within a large company,” Kiljander summarises as his professional mission.
A virtual tracker dog traces, locates and warns when needed
“We want to give back to the community, so others can use our building blocks to innovate.” Harri Kiljander, Director of Consumer Security at F-Secure
One of the creations of F-Secure’s service incubator is the location sharing service ‘Lokki’. The idea for the service was born in F-Secure’s internal strategy meeting in 2012, but in the concept creation phase Kiljander brought in his experiences of everyday life with his family in the US.
“At the end of the 1990s, we spent a few years on a work posting at Nokia’s product development unit in Irving, Texas. I worked as a usability designer and my wife led the mobile software development team. Our son, who was a few years old, went to the local kindergarten. I conducted many user tests for new products with American consumers. It was an enlightening experience to get to know American culture; the physical safety of families and children is often a much more concrete part of every-day life there than in Finland,” Kiljander sheds light on the first steps of the project.
The finished Lokki application showed the members of the family or group who had logged in the joint, self-defined locations, such as home, school or a friend’s house. The application could be used to check if the child was in school or at home at a time agreed on. The programme would send an automatic notification when a member of the group arrived at a certain location or left it. The users could invite the other group members to the service and decide whether they wish to share their own location with others. Through the application, it is also possible to send messages among the members. The application did not save the users’ location history, but it identified and showed only the person’s latest location information.
“The finished Lokki application showed the members of the family or group who had logged in the joint, self-defined locations, such as home, school or a friend’s house. The application could be used to check if the child was in school or at home at a time agreed on.”
The service innovation exercise increased agility, customer insight and business dynamics
According to Harri Kiljander, Lokki was a product and service innovation exercise for F-Secure, and at the same time also an experimentation platform for business models.
“From the start, we had the idea that the first version of the product will be developed with a quick cycle and as a free service so that we will be able to increase the user numbers as quickly as possible. The production costs for the Lokki service were minimal, so it felt natural to keep the product itself free,” Kiljander explains the background for the development philosophy for Lokki.
The Lokki service was actively developed for six months after the launch, and new versions for the mobile applications were published every two weeks. At best, the service had 30,000 users, over 20,000 with Android phones and the rest with Windows phones and iPhones. Less than half of the users were in Finland, less than 10% in Russia and the same number in the US, and the rest were distributed between European countries and Latin America.
“It is important to look after the privacy of personal information. We built Lokki as such that we would not ourselves know where Lokki’s users had been, and the service users’ information was not used for marketing or shared with other parties.”
The open source code ‘Lokki’ gets a new nest at the University of Helsinki Software Factory
At the end of 2014, F-Secure decided to terminate the Lokki service as its own separate service.
“The Software Factory at the Helsinki University Department of Computer Science got involved in the project at the same time as we were considering Lokki’s future. The service no longer clearly supported the rest of F-Secure’s product portfolio, and we did not wish to continue investing in its further development. We ended up with an open source code project because we use open source code software in our own products as well. At the same time, we wanted to give something back to the research community and our partners, and see what the Lokki source code could become outside the company. The Open Academy project between the University of Helsinki and the international university network shows that it was a good decision to get into open source code, ”Kiljander says, satisfied with the result.
At the University of Helsinki, researcher Fabian Fagerholm is responsible for the cooperation project. Fagerholm has been involved in planning, implementing and operating the Software Factory since 2009.
“Software Factory is a research and teaching laboratory maintained by the research group at our department. Software Factory combines teaching and research; relevance on a practical level derives from industrial cooperation.”
Cooperation between the university and companies is continuous, and it takes place through a wide network. In the N4S research programme, the Lokki service is further developed by the Open Academy, coordinated by the Software Factory and Facebook.
Open Academy is an international teaching programme coordinated by Facebook, which has been developed together with Stanford University. Open Academy includes universities from the US, Europe and Asia, as well as many Open Source projects. The students are able to work closely with an Open Source project, and they have an experienced developer of the project as a mentor. The work is mostly performed over the internet from the home university.
“In this way, the open source Lokki gains more visibility straight away, and in the future it may operate as a platform for examining the N4S research themes,” Fagerholm states.
“Our students are involved with the Open Academy through the course unit structure provided by the Software Factory. The universities in the programme, in addition to Stanford University and the University of Helsinki, include the Tampere University of Technology and from abroad MIT, Cornell, University of Texas at Austin, Imperial College London and the University of Singapore, for example,” Fagerholm says.
Fabian Fagerholm is interested in studying the real-time nature of the application.
“We wish to understand what bringing the software to end users in real time means, how the customer value is created for the software and how it can be created in different ways. We wish to develop new methods for managing the real-time nature and discovering customer value. Personally, I am very interested in the software developers’ viewpoint into this new way to develop software. I hope that the Lokki service will bring new versions to the application shops in some form. This would support our research and teaching aims.”
Harri Kiljander is looking forward to Lokki’s next application versions with interest.
“It is important to look after the privacy of personal information. We built Lokki as such that we would not ourselves know where Lokki’s users had been, and the service users’ information was not used for marketing or shared with other parties. Families’ internal localisation and location sharing are culturally specific, and it will be interesting to see what kind of different approaches are chosen by the possible new initiatives created around the Lokki source code.
Interested in contributing to ‘Lokki’ Evolution?
The source code for the Lokki project is open for all and anyone can can contribute to its development. The original version by F-Secure is available at https://github.com/F-Secure/lokki
The further developed version by the University of Helsinki Software Factory is open for students of the Open Academy programme at https://github.com/TheSoftwareFactory/lokki