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Espoo opens new horizons of AI opportunities in new space, quantum tech and 6G

Artificial intelligence has been a hot topic for decades. Yet, AI is still not applied to its full potential in many fields. In Espoo's innovation ecosystem, Finland's leading developers of new space, quantum technologies and 6G are opening the vast sustainable business and research opportunities in AI.

AI-driven data analysis leads to better decision-making In new space tech

Within the last few years, the Espoo-based startup ICEYE has become one of the world's leading providers of earth imagery. ICEYE uses AI as a tool to analyse the complex sets of data coming from its SAR (synthetic aperture radar) satellites. Recently, the company has established an open-source library that allows machine learning-based analysis of its SAR images.

"The unique source of information enabled by AI-powered SAR analysis allows authorities and organisations to respond effectively and in a timely manner to events under all challenging natural conditions," explains Simon Barrette, the Head of PR and Communications at ICEYE.

Among relative new space newcomers like ICEYE, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is an old hand at the space game. Being one of the leading research institutions in Europe, VTT has led the Finnish new space field for over two decades by creating solutions for several missions into space. VTT's new space strengths include satellite technology and remote sensing, among many others. VTT uses AI in satellite data analytics and remote sensing, for instance, to analyse forestry and marine or other vessels.

Meanwhile, CollectiveCrunch has created an AI-driven tool for forest asset management. It allows forest owners to find the correct value for their property and assists the decision-making of insurance companies. Morten Larsen, the Head of Marketing at CollectiveCrunch, explains the role of AI for the startup.

"Forest is a challenging asset to manage due to its size and constant changes. AI is a perfect tool to deal with this level of complexity."

Quantum computing sets up a basis for novel AI applications

At the heart of Espoo's innovation ecosystem in Otaniemi, VTT builds Finland's first quantum computer with IQM, a local startup. VTT has a 30-year history in quantum technology research, while IQM is one of Europe's leading developers of quantum computer hardware. The startup also has the largest team of industrial quantum hardware experts on the continent. As a result of this collaboration, a 50-qubit computer will be built by 2024. 

Besides quantum computers, VTT develops quantum sensors used in medical imaging and diagnostics and quantum-encryption algorithms.

Despite the newness of the technology, researchers are confident quantum computers will have the capacity to solve humanity's most significant challenges and bring new sustainable business opportunities in AI and other fields. However, the exact form of quantum's AI applications remains somewhat unclear. VTT's research professor Heikki Ailisto believes that quantum computing could result in different types of AI algorithms.

"It might be that quantum computers use something else, like quantum annealing for finding the global optimum solution."

Nokia explores the intersection of 6G and AI

Finland is a global forerunner in 6G development. And in Espoo, you can find many Finnish key players in 6G. Nokia is one of the world's leading developers of 5G, while the local Aalto University and VTT are building the world's first experimental 6G research environment, 6G-FUWIRI, as part of the Finnish 6G Flagship programme.

Mikko Honkala, Research Group Leader, Machine Learning, Nokia Bell Labs, explains some of the current 6G research happening at Nokia's research arm Nokia Bell Labs. 

"We are studying the future intersection of 6G and AI/ML, and there are many AI/ML applications that will probably benefit from the lower latencies and higher reliability and bandwidth that 6G would bring. Connected driving and VR/AR are examples of this." 

However, Nokia Bell Labs has started to uncover potential benefits of artificial intelligence and machine learning compared to existing expert-designed systems. 

"We think that AI/ML may have a big effect on how wireless protocols and algorithms are designed in the future," Honkala says. 

Globally, there are still ways to go to take full advantage of AI in various industries. However, whether it's new space, quantum technologies or 6G, Espoo offers you easy access to world-leading sustainable business and research opportunities.

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