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Swedish AI Innovation and Automation – the Enabler of a Circular Economy

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Sweden is set to become a leader in the global Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry by prioritizing AI-driven initiatives and opportunities in the country.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), referred to as intelligence demonstrated by machines, encompasses many technologies, such as, machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL), blockchain, etc. AI Sweden launched in February, 2019 (formerly, AI Innovation of Sweden) is an initiative by the Swedish Government’s Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation to harness the opportunities offered by digital transformation in automation.

The government is implementing this initiative in collaboration with the European Union and several partnering agencies, such as, Lantmäteriet, Vinnova, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, universities, and research institutions. The Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program (WASP) was launched in 2015 but received an additional billion Swedisn kroner grant in 2018 from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. This funding has expanded the AI Sweden initiative under the name of the Billion kroner program for AI research.

Initially, the organisational framework of WASP follows two structures:

  • Autonomous Systems and Software (WASP-AS) and
  • Artificial Intelligence (WASP-AI) which consists of:

a) Machine Learning (WASP-AI/MLX) focusing investments on machine learning and deep learning algorithms.

b) Mathematical Foundations of AI (WASP-AI/MATH) increasing our understanding of the mathematical principles behind AI, a research initiative by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology, Linköping University, Lund University and Umea University.

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Additionally, Vinnova, Sweden’s innovation agency, is responsible for mapping, analysing and assessing the potential of using AI in Swedish industry – both business and public sector. By strategic investments in innovation projects and research initiatives, Vinnova aims to make Sweden an advanced global player in the AI field.

About 80 partners, both global such as Google, Fujitsu, Sony, etc. and local such as Veoneer, Region Skåne, Machine Intelligence – Sweden, Essity, Ascenda, etc. with CGIT as the core technology partner. These partners represent various sectors that have joined AI Sweden, the Swedish National Centre for applied Artificial Intelligence and related research, innovation and education.

Open Data – the Driver of AI in Sweden

A prerequisite for AI application and development is access to digital data. Large quantities of unstructured data can be combined and visualized through data-driven analyses performed using machine learning, deep learning, etc.

The large amounts of data produced in Sweden must be made available to both business and public sector. This will unlock the extensive possibilities associated with increased data use. The Swedish Government’s Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive 2019 has made information that is complete, current and machine readable, accessible freely in open format. Specific datasets such as geospatial data/geodata, address data, geological data and public sector data are made available with minimal restrictions – known as open data.

Open data is a strategic resource in the digitized economy. It is the driver of the AI innovation. The ability to combine and use different components from different amounts of data is a prerequisite for being able to build large, complex systems – a critical prerequisite for unlocking the potential of AI.

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AI and its Value Creation Potential – Synergistic relation with open data and future technology

AI can initiate automation of operative processes in established value chains; develop new business models, products, services and system solutions; transform workflows and sectors for brand new developments via application of ML/DL algorithms, and future technology such as cloud-based AI engines, augmented reality, blockchain, etc.

To understand the potential of AI for value creation and to exploit this potential, it is necessary to understand its possible applications within different industries.

Specific examples include,

  • Innovative tools – Aifloo SmartBand, a self-taught e-health system for home care by Aifloo and the Skellefteå Municipality.
  • Solutions for integration of real-time data – Wireless and Remote Operation of Mobile Machines (WROOM) for automating mine operations by manoeuvring vehicles through mines and contributing to the vision of independent mines.

Additionally, the potential of open data is exemplified from several projects on the AI Sweden portal. Most of these projects are driven by open data.

For example, open datasets for High-Definition (HD) Map are used for the Validation of Mapping and Localization for Autonomous Vehicles (VAMLAV) project. Zenuity, AstaZero, RISE and AI Innovation of Sweden (currently AI Sweden) have collaborated with Mapillary that will collect map data using dashcams, lidar and radar. The data acquired in a cost-effective way will be validated by Zenuity in the VAMLAV project. A synergistic approach to combine AI Sweden to open data and geospatial/location data thereby updating HD maps and teaching autonomous vehicles to understand their surroundings. Research Institute of Sweden (RISE) is responsible for providing locational accuracy by contributing to measurement of uncertainties using reference systems and GNSS.

Other examples are the Space Data Lab consists of the Open Data Cube (ODC) platform. It consists of freely accessible Sentinel 1 and 2 satellite imagery is updated every 2-3 days. These can be used with programming tools such as NumPy, Matplotlib, Pandas, etc. for several applications. One such example is the removal of cloud from satellite images that can then be applied to thematic areas such as spatial planning, water monitoring, agro-environmental monitoring, forest and vegetation monitoring, etc. Similarly, the Road Data Lab, uses the Data Factory of AI Sweden to integrate various transport data for improved road maintenance, planning and traffic flows for improvising road safety.

The above examples depict the value creation potential of AI and the synergies it brings about by the utilisation of open data in various sectors, thereby driving the Swedish economy.

Role of Startups in AI Upsurge

Most of these applications and solutions are developed by startups that have an important role to play in transforming business – especially in the field of AI. Sweden has witnessed an upsurge in AI startups that are creating innovative machine learning based solutions for automation and optimization of processes in industries.

Hence, RISE and Ignite Sweden are mapping the landscape of Swedish AI startups. Finding the best AI startups will accelerate and contribute to the utilisation of AI applications in Sweden. Since AI has the potential to augment human capabilities, improve the quality of products and services, make processes environmentally friendly and efficient, the ongoing European initiative for mapping Swedish startups has gained immense significance.

Swedish startups are keen on being visibly represented internationally and joining the European Applied AI – an initiative of the European Union to invest, develop, and actively participate in building a strong AI ecosystem. Sweden is represented by WASP and RISE. By partnering with European Applied AI initiative, the Swedish startups are engaging in an AI ecosystem where they will flourish and benefit society. Additionally, mapping the AI startups will determine AI maturity in Sweden and other countries in Europe.

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Enabler of Circular Economy

A common and well-coordinated digital infrastructure interconnecting private enterprises, academia, research and development, and public sector determines the usefulness of spatial data in society. The AI Data Factory provides infrastructure, tool chains, user interfaces and datasets that increase opportunities for reusing data by value-adding/creating knowledge out of it. The Swedish AI Innovation will empower automation of innumerable work processes, accelerated by startups, furthering the process of understanding the flows of increased efficiencies and enhanced opportunities.

An AI-driven economy accelerates circular flow of data between various sectors fuelling the Swedish economy. The cyclic pattern begins with data creation, data dissemination, data utilisation, data visualization and data-driven analytical reports, etc. Lastly, storing all the data and data models on a common platform available as a future resource. Thereby creating a regenerative system – where data and data models can be used in several different ways by several sectors from a single integrating platform. In this case, the AI Data Factory will serve as the common integrating platform enabling a circular economy where fact-based data and decisions will determine the visualization of different socio-economic scenarios.

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