How to forecast people flow?

  • September 25, 2017 08:49

The answer to this question will help KONE to develop its customer experience even further. And this is the question which D.Sc. (Tech.) Juho Kokkala has been researching in KONE for the last 18 months, the first six months period thanks to a PoDoCo project.

While Juho was working on his doctoral thesis about Bayesian filtering methods, he took part in the 30th anniversary of the Systems Analysis Laboratory at Aalto University in autumn 2014.

"There I met Juha-Matti Kuusinen from KONE who told me about the potential application to elevator traffic. After having heard about the Post Docs in Companies program next spring, I contacted Juha-Matti to ask whether KONE would be interested", tells Juho.

In PoDoCo program Juho applied the mathematics for developing KONE's leading customer experience

They decided to apply and Juho was one of the nine doctors chosen to the very first PoDoCo program, run by DIMECC. The grant was awarded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation.

Building on vision

KONE's vision is to deliver the best people flow experience. This calls for a throughout understanding of traffic in and between buildings. KONE aims to make people's journeys safe, convenient and reliable.

In tall buildings, elevator group control systems select which elevator to dispatch to each request, aiming to minimize waiting times. The performance of these systems may be improved by forecasting future traffic based on historical statistics. During his PoDoCo project Juho started to develop Bayesian filtering based methods for short-term traffic forecasting.

Data based modeling

Juho's research was conducted using data obtained from simulating the traffic of an office building in Finland. The simulated traffic counts were aggregated into incoming, outgoing, and inter-floor traffic components and 5-minute intervals.

"During the PoDoCo period, I developed a proof-of-concept forecasting model for the simplified problem of forecasting single traffic components. With the data we had, the main conclusion was that the idea has potential, but more data and research will be required", describes Juho.

"By nature, my project work was very independent. All the practical arrangements were taken care by DIMECC and by Aalto University Department of Electrical Engineering and Automation, and I could fully concentrate on conducting the research."

Work continues as permanent basis

As one very concrete outcome of the project, Juho was hired permanently to KONE's people flow planning team. The team is working on optimizing people flow in buildings.

Juho has continued to work with mathematical modeling of traffic inside a building.

"The PoDoCo grant definitely influenced the direction of my career. Without the program, I would possibly have tried to continue in academia at least for a while. But now, I can contribute to business with the research knowledge I have acquired", Juho sums up.

"At the same time, my work is very research oriented. I am privileged applying the mathematics for developing KONE's leading customer experience further."

PoDoCo project pushed lightweight vessel forward

  • September 13, 2017 09:01

Meyer Turku is innovating the use of steel with the aim of building a lightweight cruise ship in 2025. The shipyard was able to accelerate this work as PhD in Technology, Ingrit Lillemäe-Avi joined their team to study the fatigue of high strength steel. The project turned out to be a perfect match for both parties.

Ingrit finalized her PhD studies on thin steel decks for passenger ships at Aalto University in late 2014. Soon after that, she learned from her professor about a new program of Post Docs in Companies, coordinated by DIMECC. Ingrit applied for the very first PoDoCo round in 2015 and was awarded a one-year grant by the Finnish Foundation for Technology Promotion.

Since Aalto and Meyer Turku have had several common projects in recent years, Ingrit had got acquainted with the leading shipyard already when preparing her master studies. Originally Estonian, it was precisely the master studies in marine technology which brought her over the Gulf of Finland, from Tallinn University of Technology to Aalto University in Espoo.

Smoothly from academia to industry

"Having specialized in marine technology in Finland, Meyer Turku was the obvious opportunity for me. I was more than happy to move to Turku and join the company's very talented research team", tells Ingrit.

"My working environment has been very positive and research oriented. Actually, many of my colleagues are preparing their PhD thesis as an agreed working arrangement in our team."

The aim of Ingrit's PoDoCo project was to experimentally study the fatigue strength of high strength steel. The experiments covered the variation in the production quality as well as the very high cycle fatigue region. During the grant year 2016, laboratory tests were successfully finalized and the results showed significantly improved fatigue strength of this innovative steel.

"The industry-relevant experiments were carried out in cooperation with Meyer Turku, Hamburg University of Technology and Aalto University. This gave me a valuable experience of coordinating research between multiple partners and surviving in new environment. I also enjoyed working four months in Hamburg during the project."

From grant to job towards big goal

Following the grant period, Ingrit is now employed by Meyer Turku and continues the research work started during PoDoCo project. The next phase is to validate the fatigue strength under realistic loading conditions.

Ingrit Lillemäe-Avi found employment through the PoDoCo program

Meyer Turku is targeting to introduce high strength steel in vessel structures. This would remarkably benefit the environment, reduce the fuel consumption and improve the competitiveness of Finnish steel industry and shipbuilding.

For Ingrit PoDoCo grant enabled a smooth transition from academia to industry.

"This was the best option for me since now I am able to utilize my research knowledge and background in vital work of developing the shipbuilding forward towards more sustainable solutions", concludes Ingrit.

Grant year brings business and academic research closer

  • September 13, 2017 08:59

Otto Långvik has just at the end of summer completed his PoDoCo grant year together with Mirka, a world leading abrasives and power tools manufacturer. His work focused on researching the chemical and physical properties of the lignocellulosic biomass.

Otto finalized his PhD studies in Organic Chemistry at Åbo Akademi University in 2105. He had learned about PoDoCo program at the university, and he decided to register his profile in the match-making system. However, he also marketed himself directly to companies. One of the companies Otto was interested in was Mirka.

Activity helps, and the PoDoCo project on Industrial Utilization of the Lignocellulosic Feedstock, nicknamed as LiFe, was established in June 2016. The grant was awarded by Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation.

Mirka, a recognized champion

Internationally growing Mirka is part of the KWH Group and offers a complete range of superior sanding solutions for high quality surface finishing. Clientele includes automotive refinishing and vehicle manufacturing, the manufacture of composite parts, wood and furniture industry, and metal processing. Based in Ostrobothnia, Mirka has 16 marketing companies and 3 sales offices abroad. Approximately 96 per cent of production is exported.

"I found it very interesting to work at Mirka. To me it was a few steps towards corporate life, and I am sure Mirka benefits much even from the fundamental research conducted during the year", says Otto.

More to come

As one result of this PoDoCo project, the cooperation between Mirka and Åbo Akademi University will intensify further. Otto is now continuing to steer a common project with the company based at the university in Turku, which was his preference due to family life.

"I can see lot of potential to apply the research on hemicelluloses and lignin in abrasive products", describes Otto.

Otto is demonstrating a traditional two-phase liquid-liquid extraction

"Interestingly, the purpose of the polymeric lignin is to act as a glue between the fibers. It is therefore quite fascinating that some of the new industrial applications of lignin are for adhesives, resembling to some extent the original biological purpose of the lignin material."

Building bridges

The chemical industry is facing a shift where several different biomaterials will replace an increasing part of the fossil feedstock. The novel biorefinery concepts need to be based on the chemical and physical properties of the lignocellulosic biomass. The new processes should enable selective fractionation of biomass by utilization of environmentally friendly solutions.

The seamless collaboration between PhD Otto Långvik and Mirka is another example how dynamic business and advanced academic research can learn from each other and build competences for further growth.