Research on and development of • speech, audio, image and video processing • medical signal processing (ECG, EEG) • signal processing in instrumentation, robotics, wireline and wireless communication • digital and analog design techniques • system design using FPGA technology
To help face COVID-19 and ensure both health and well-being, the European service provider in product innovation Verhaert Masters in Innovation developed ‘Hai’: a digital demonstrator platform, based on user-centered Artificial Intelligence.
New platform Hai for safer behavior
After 3 months of lockdown, strong regulations, and economic struggle, we’re carefully going back to our “normal” life. It’s a challenge to find the right balance between the well-being and health of the population, and a steady recovery after this critical period.
To provide an answer to this challenging situation, Verhaert developed a demonstrator of a digital platform that uses AI-based Computer Vision to extract essential metrics from any room or area. The ‘Hai’ platform can bring COVID-related safety awareness to the public, allowing them to make informed decisions. It’s not a surveillance system, but a tool to empower people with relevant data about a specific space and to nudge them in a positive way towards a safer behavior.
Components of the AI system
The digital platform consists of 3 components:
Cameras to record a live feed of the people present in a particular area, the people entering and leaving the place.
An edge AI system to process the footage on-the-fly. The system extracts the number of people, how many of them wear face masks, and measures the physical distance between individuals.
Online dashboard to display this information in a friendly and educational way.
Let’s say you work at your desk and you want to get something from the cafeteria. On the dashboard, you can see whether or not you should wait a while until fewer people are present at that place.
Artificial Intelligence algorithms
Verhaert’s AILab trained the AI algorithms to calculate the number of people present in any space and detect how many of them are wearing face masks. What about the security and protection of private data? The cameras’ live feed never leaves the AI system. The edge AI device treats the information locally and only transfers processed and anonymous data to the dashboard. No human being sees, stores or transfers any images, safeguarding everyone’s identity and privacy.
Hai is about our health
The online platform is a tool to organize ourselves and our spaces, it doesn’t judge individuals. It allows us to access real-time information from anywhere to make informed consent whether or not to enter a room. Hai will display the total number of people in an area versus the maximum quantity allowed. Additionally, it creates a heat map of “close-encounters” (distance less than 1.5 meters) giving valuable information for cleaning, disinfecting, optimizing walking flows, and detecting bottlenecks.
Hai is about you
Hai will recognize in the near future your gestures, so if you wave hello to the camera or raise a thumb, Hai will respond interactively. The digital platform has been created to demonstrate how AI technology can help us in managing our presence and common spaces better during COVID. Ensuring we all stay safe, not only at home.
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Since 1969, Verhaert Masters in Innovation has pioneered the field of product innovation. As a leading innovation group in integrated product development, Verhaert assists companies and entrepreneurs in the development and implementation of successful innovation processes. The group now has more than 200 employees with offices in Kruibeke, Gentbrugge, Kortrijk, Nivelles, Noordwijk, Utrecht and Aveiro.
The step from break-through technology to a marketable product or machine is a challenging journey. After years of research and hard work, the proof of concept needs to be translated to a market ready product. Shifting focus from the core business to product development brings many risks and requires a complete change in competencies. However, making the right choices in the development process is crucial for the success of the product. And that’s where Comate comes in.
In order to come to innovative, break-through technology that challenges the state of the art, often years of research and great focus is needed. It’s an immense achievement on its own, to finally have the core technology on point and to have a proof of concept. But it doesn’t stop there. Eventually you want this technology to bring value. You want people to benefit from the blood, sweat and tears. Eventually this technology needs to be translated to a marketable product or machine.
Unfortunately, there’s a huge gap between a proof of concept setup and a market ready product that can be produced reliably a 100, 1.000, 10.000, 100.000 times. The expertise on the core technology that has been built up over the years doesn’t necessarily bring the skills to get a deep understanding of the market, all the stakeholders (including the end-users), the product roadmap or the know-how on prototyping, product design, materials, production techniques, suitable suppliers and so forth.
Universities, start-ups, SME’s and multinationals alike, face the choice of shifting their focus from their core technology to product development. This requires a change in competencies and the risk of falling behind on the core expertise. Universities want to keep the focus on research. For start-ups it’s not evident to suddenly hire engineers and product developers and put them on the payroll. SME’s and multinationals might lack the time or manpower to fully develop this technology and get it market ready. That is where Comate comes in.
Our expertise is in the process of developing marketable, high-tech, mechatronic, mechanical or electronic products and machines, starting from scratch, from a technological proof of concept, a prototype or from an existing device that needs to be made faster, more robust, waterproof or optimized for production. For this process to be successful, collaboration is key.
Making the right choices
Sharing expertise and co-creation is crucial in letting a company grow. An example of such a beautiful collaboration is the NGRAVE ZERO, the most secure hardware wallet on the planet. This is a Belgian co-development grown out of the idea of start-up NGRAVE and supported in development by Comate, imec and KU Leuven.
The frustration felt when being the victim of several cryptocurrency thefts and being unable to recover the funds is what brought the three founders together. They decided to develop a hardware device able to generate private keys and public keys of a blockchain wallet 100% offline, completely ‘air-gapped’ and therefore immune to online remote attacks. They had one shot at developing the hardware wallet, and decided to partner up with the experts of Comate to assist them with the engineering.
NGRAVE has launched a pre-order campaign on Indiegogo and has received no less than 1450% of their funding goal in one month. “Comate has proved to successfully combine creativity with technical excellence. Its design and engineering specialists took a lot of initiative in exploring material characteristics and technology applications to push product performance and ease of use. They contributed significantly to the engineering of the high-end NGRAVE ZERO crypt wallet, which guarantees robust operation and introduces a new benchmark in security,” shares Ruben Merre, CEO of NGRAVE.
Sharing expertise is key
“The combination between the client’s expertise as entrepreneur and our expertise to translate an idea into a high quality product is a good example of the success of co-creation,” says Wouter Foulon, founder of Comate. Whether it be the most secure hardware wallet on the planet, a medical device sold worldwide or an award-winning laser cleaning machine, sharing expertise is key in the development of innovative products.
The RAY•DANZ soundbar is the first product to use ILaB’s in-house developed audio technologies, the XBowFlector. As the Cision article announced, the soundbar won”best in show” at IFA 2019 (Berlin) and CES 2020 (Las Vegas) along with several other awards.
This XBowFlector IP is owned by the ILab, who has also started licensing it, in different executions, to various ODM. This makes it possible to create the best sound bars in their class at a very attractive price.
“When we demonstrate the immersiveness of our XBowFlector-based soundbars, the first reaction of our visitors is usually one of disbelief. The single small form-factor soundbar generates sounds all around — generating leaves rustling in the far left-corner, birds fluttering at the far right top of the room, while the falling rain can be heard throughout the room. More than once, a visitor will get up to check if there isn’t a multi-speaker setup hidden away behind the curtains… only to find an empty room except for our soundbar.”
Philip Loubele, CEO ILaB
Award-Winning Audio Technology: XBowFlector
For a sound reproduction system, user expectations include a good, immersive sound with a wide sweet spot and good speech intelligibility. XBowFlector technology was developed in order to achieve this from a compact form factor (such as a soundbar).
This XBowFlector technology has a sophisticated arrangement of speakers and reflectors to produce a wide, natural and immersive sound experience with a single soundbar unit.
The basis of XBowFlector technology is a 3 channel speaker system: two side channels and one center channel, located between two reflectors.
Every channel is reproduced by 1 or more drivers (depending on implementation). In a compact execution, these combinations of drivers reproduce mid- and high frequencies. For bass, an external sub-woofer or internal woofer is required.
The side channels
The drivers of the two side channels are angled towards a well-calculated and defined reflector. The reflector beams the sound from the drivers towards the sides under a well-defined angle. This angle is determined in such a way that in typical living room the sound is beamed to the walls and reflected towards the listener. The combination of the shape of the reflectors and the directivity pattern of the drivers makes sure that, while all frequencies are beamed, the higher frequencies are more focused to the sides. These high frequencies are thus reflected by the side walls.
Listeners perceive this high frequency as coming from a sound stage much larger than the size of the XBowFlector device. The mid frequencies—which are less beamed—makes this a homogeneous sound stage.
An additional benefit of the XBowFlector technology is the enlarged left and right channel separation due to the outward beaming.
This high channel separation in combination with the reflected high frequencies cues contribute to a large natural sweepspot, in contrast to today’s mainstream virtualizers.
The center channel
The final cherry on the audio cake is a dedicated front firing loudspeaker system is used to reproduce the center channel, with accurate voice positioning and high voice intelligibility.
ILaB is a young company of ex-Philips audio experts who are passionate about audio and strive to develop novel and innovative audio concepts.
Despite being a young company, we are a very experienced team with a long track record. In the past, we have earned our spurs as head of the Audio Innovation (R&D) lab at Philips and Gibson, of which we became independent in 2018. Today, with our audio expertise and facilities, we support well-known audio brands worldwide, and market our own innovations and IP – for sound bars, smart speakers, and headphones – under a licensing model.
* TCL is a leading brand in the global TV industry and wants to become a leading player in the audio market by using innovative audio technologies. To do this, they’ve created TCL entertainment solutions. ILaB was selected as a launching party to make this possible.
This article was written by the iLab Team and edited by Jane Judge
Leuven-based startup ArtiQ has had plenty to keep them busy these last months. Using artificial intelligence-based software, ArtiQ.PFT, they help doctors interpret pulmonary function tests and improve the diagnostic environment for respiratory diseases. As the covid-19 pandemic hit, their lung diagnostic innovation has found fertile ground.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all lung function tests were shut down during a certain time. Now hospitals are restarting their practice and lung function tests can be used to monitor the progression of the disease,” he writes.
After requests from doctors inundated by pandemic patients, Marko and the team decided to offer their software free of licensing fees until September. As such, their diagnostic AI technology is increasingly being used to follow-up on patients, in addition to its original intention to help with initial diagnoses.
ArtiQ.PFT, is already used in the interpretation of more than 50.000 lung function tests in UZ Leuven, CHU Saint-Pierre, OLV Aalst and ZOL Genk.
Following Patient Roadmaps
As Covid-19 patients leave hospitals, they’re increasingly visiting their primary care doctors for check ups. This means that non-hospital healthcare providers are in more need of lung care technology. In response, ArtiQ is looking to move out of hospitals, too, and is actively working on bringing their technological support to GPs.
“ArtiQ plans to integrate AI-expertise with spirometry to support GPs in identifying lung diseases and improving their decision making,” Marko states. “In the future, such tool may play an important role in the follow-up of COVID-19 patients on the GP level.”
ArtiQ in drug development
Given the success they’re seeing in patient follow-up, the team at ArtiQ is also looking into expanding their technologies into pharmaceuticals and drug development. They’re specifically looking to bring their technology to clinical trials and improving quality control of lung function measurements.
As Marko explains, “In respiratory drug development, lung function is the primary clinical tool to assess the efficiency of treatment. Therefore, it is critical for pharmaceutical companies and the success of their clinical trials that the results of these tests are consistent and reliable.” ArtiQ’s new AI-based software can do just this.
Using AI to improve healthcare
Ultimately, it’s the AI ArtiQ integrates and innovates that’s making the big difference. The ArtiQ team is profoundly aware of the changes AI is bringing to the healthcare system. As they see it, using artificial intelligence in healthcare can provide tangible support for healthcare workers. Three top examples, elaborated in a recent blog post. include:
Providing consistent decision support for healthcare providers, especially where large amounts of data are involved
Reducing the administrative burden so that healthcare professionals spend less time on paperwork
Creating more time to focus on human interaction. The preceding two will allow health professionals to have more time with patients and for meaningful collaborations with colleagues
You can visit ArtiQ at their website and follow them via their social media channels
In June 2020, Flemish startup Deltaray launched their disruptive X-ray technology: 3D Xray equipment for 100% inspection of mission-critical mechanical parts. Since then, they’ve been making a splash.
From 15 to 17 June, they held an open house at Averana Hasselt, Deltaray’s automation partner, which was featured not only in the Gazet van Antwerpen but also garnered visual attention from Flemish television channel Kanaal Z.
In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, the Deltaray team has seen their hard work pay off with two recent accolades:
Designed by entrepreneurs for startups developing tech solutions in the photonics field, the program includes a series of online sessions and a 2-day live event that would take place in September 2020 (date will be announced soon) in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.
As befits an exciting startup, the Deltaray team is actively looking ahead. We’ll be watching for new developments – stay tuned!
There’s no doubt that the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has changed our lives. Of course, it has most heavily affected those directly infected, their families, and those caring for the sick. But the pandemic has affected – and will continue to affect – everyone and every facet of society, not least of which is our work rhythms.
The effects of the 2020 global pandemic on work rhythms and societal norms was the subject of a recent piece written by Karen Borremans, resident clinical psychologist at Flemish startup Moonbird. Her essay, which you can read in Dutch here, asked the big questions facing employers and employees alike these days: “Are we going to go back to the ‘normal’ work rhythm? What lessons are we learning? What will be different?”
Changes from every direction
A major theme that Karen highlights is change. We all had to change our daily life and adjust our rhythms when the pandemic and the lock downs started. Now that lock downs are lifting (and in some places being reinstated), there’s whole new sets of changes.
She points out that just because we’re adjusting back to work doesn’t mean that it’s not an adjustment. What’s more, nothing is going back to exactly the way it was. So no matter what, we’re still having to figure out new ways of working. At the same time, we’re also still figuring out new ways of playing, moving, traveling, and everything else. As official measures are revised, what we can and cannot do changes. Nothing is secure or permanent. This is challenging at the best of times, let alone in a stressful situation that has serious implications for our health.
As we transition back to a less locked down work rhythm, individuals need to be mindful of their mental health. We need to introspect, take time to breathe, and allow our emotions room so that they don’t overwhelm us. Karen further points out that we need to pay attention to our physical well-being as much as our mental: relaxation and balance need to be combined with movement and healthy eating and sleeping habits.
She specifies, “Try not to be too hard on yourself . . . Define your limits and expectations, but be flexible and adjust your expectations over time. Take the time to consider what is feasible and what is not.”
Employers’ efforts to help re-establish post pandemic work rhythms
Companies, too, can play a role in easing the transition from lock down, even as they face financial difficulties in the face of the pandemic’s economic impact. “Especially at this moment employers have to find a balance between task orientation and people orientation,” Karen writes. “For organizations it will therefore be a question of finding a balance between their economic capital and the ‘mental capital’ of their employees.”
All the new ways of working that we’ve developed during the crisis do not necessarily have to be suddenly taken off the table. It’s not a black and white story. The crisis also created many opportunities: for example, in mobility or through more teleworking. Within organizations, there need to be discussions about which positive aspects of the crisis can be retained in order to increase productivity.
Karen Borremans, (Moonbird) Clinical Psychologist
Above all, it’s about paying attention to each other. Organizations need to create an environment at work that allows for Covid-19 adjustments aside from extra hand gel and spacing between desks. Senior colleagues should be cognizant of how much they ask of employees, and be watchful for signs of stress and anxiety. Flexibility will be the name of the game as we all try to re-establish work-life balances.
Tips & Tricks for employers and colleagues
Karen spells out some concrete actions we can be aware of in our working world, both as employers and coworkers, to help make the post lock down transition smoother:
“Regularly do individual face-to-face check-ins: ask before a meeting how someone is really doing, how that person feels with the current situation.” This might feel invasive, but knowing how a colleague is really feeling can help inform how we handle the work environment.
“Show understanding for someone’s feelings and look for appropriate measures: a better work-life balance, maybe more teleworking for more days, sliding hours, slowly rebuild the workload, balance productivity with capacity and adjust someone’s tasks, Or, if necessary, referral for appropriate (mental help) such as an internal confidential counselor, external prevention advisor or psychologist.”
“Be a role model for your employees: show how you can work on our mental well-being, spread actions and set up activities. Ask those responsible to explain how they actively do this, and teams will be more likely to try it out. Moreover, you create a culture where it is okay to feel less than great and you rid mental well-being of its taboo.”
“(Transparent) communication: it may be necessary to adjust the existing guidelines and procedures relating to sick leave, teleworking and welfare policy. A clear framework with a transparent communication plan helps for everyone. Plan individual one-on-one meetings between managers and employees, and facilitate networking between colleagues.”
Flemish start-up Moonbird is focused on your breath. Well, they’re focused on helping you focus on your breath so that you can relax. Through a combination of biomedical sciences and clinical psychology, the team of four is working hard on digital technology-driven solutions to help us all calm down a little. You can check out their website and their forthcoming breathing exercise device here.
Visit Moonbird at their website and follow them via their social media channels
Each year, Data News, Roularta Media’s ICT journal, presents its Awards for Excellence. Aimed at IT professionals, including CIOs, general managers, HR and Finance managers, the magazine has a strong focus on Belgian news, trends and opinions, making the awards prestigious within the Belgian IT and data world. This year, DSP Valley startup member Edgise has caught attention for their Covid-19 innovation. They are nominated for not one but two categories:
Artificial Intelligence Innovator of the Year
Belgian StartUp Company of the Year
We spoke to Edgise co-founder Nick Destrycker to find out a bit more about their nominations, what’s gotten them this far, and what they’re looking forward to.
Innovation in Covid-19 lockdown
As with most of Europe, when Covid-19 came to Belgium in early 2020, lock down soon followed. Economic and business rhythm changes ensued in turn, as official health measures forced a rapid realignment of public spaces. Many companies saw business change in an instant, and Edgise was no exception. According to Nick, Edgise saw an immediate impact as projects stalled or were withdrawn.
Not to be discouraged, the team called upon the enterprising spirit that defines successful startups. As Nick puts it, they “started thinking about how we as a company could mean something to society.” With social distancing the order of the day, they quickly focused on the need to monitor occupancy rates in buildings, which they realized would be key to ending an almost total lock down.
As health officials around the world have continuously explained, the pandemic can be contained by limiting (large) gatherings and maximizing distance among people who don’t live together. Enforcing this means being able to tell whether a space is close to capacity. In other words, being able to tell how many people are in a given store, museum, office, or whatever building at any given time.
The Edgise team combined their engineering know-how with some edge AI — meaning it operates at the device level rather than continuously connecting to a remote server — to come up with a simple, privacy-proof solution. Enter their newest technology: “Telly.”
We started thinking about how we as a company could mean something to society.
Nick Destrycker, Co-founder Edgise
Telly to the rescue
As Nick explains, “Telly provides real-time overviews of how many people are present in buildings. It is a small device that can smartly count people without any privacy exposure. Via a small low-power camera and an intelligent AI algorithm, Telly can recognize people and detect their movements (in or out of the building). This all happens without recording the video images. Multiple Tellys can also be connected [to each other] if the building has multiple entrances or exits.”
Telly’s versatility, and by consequence its award-worthy Covid-19 innovation, comes from its ability to be smart and dumb at the same time. It’s smart because it’s using AI. This means that the cameras can harness artificial intelligence to also analyze the images they see. For example, far from just counting the number of people entering and exiting a building, Telly can be integrated with a voice or chat system to proactively send alerts about occupancy rates. It could also be used to detect whether someone is wearing a mask (or not).
Simultaneously, the system is “dumb” in the sense that it’s not storing or recognizing sensitive images. Edgise has cleverly avoided sensitive privacy issues by not recording the images and not integrating facial recognition technology. Telly can pick up whether you’re wearing a mask, but she’s not picking up who you are.
Where to from here
Currently, Telly is monitoring activity at 15 different locations, including both office and retail space. That’s absolutely just the beginning for Nick and his colleagues. “We see many opportunities for Telly in the future, both in retail and in office buildings, factories, other public buildings, etc., both today and in the future.”
And of course, there’s the awards to look forward to. Edgise is a strong competitor for both categories thanks to the innovative edge AI technology in Telly. The jury is currently deliberating and the winners will be highlighted in September 29th issue of Data News.
We’ll be staying tuned!
Visit Edgise at their website and follow them via their social media channels
On February 21, the members of the Thematic Smart Specialization Partnership Smart Sensors 4 Agri-Food met at CTIC in the Gijón Technology Park in Spain. The main topic on the agenda was agreement on the partnership’s governance structure and its working plan for the near future. Additionally, the members elected the partnership’s chairs.
Connecting competences, facilitating digital transformation
18 clusters and research partners from 14 European regions set themselves the twin goals of boosting the digital transformation of the agri-food sector and facilitating access to applicable solutions for industry. By connecting competences across Europe, the partners as well as their members and stakeholders will gain a better understanding of agri-food´s opportunities, challenges, and requirements with relation to digital technologies.
The partnership has identified four core challenges that it will address initially:
Match the needs of agri-food companies with the solutions and capabilities of the technology and digital solution providers, building a “trust zone” between the involved sectors.
Roll out a step-by-step approach to digital transformation by creating cross-border innovation communities and providing funding opportunities.
Develop and demonstrate the integration of digital technologies in production lines with specific requirements for robust solutions.
Adopt and establish vocational and professional training programs for companies and their employees.
Two European projects up and running
The meeting was held adjacent to a program of study visits and matchmaking events, organized within the two European projects originating from the partnership: “Smart Sensor Systems for Food Safety, Quality Control and Resource Efficiency in the Food Processing Industry‘ (S3FOOD) and “Connecting smart sensor systems for the food industry‘ (Connsensys). S3FOOD provides support to SMEs and a dedicated funding scheme for developing and implementing technologies and digital solutions in the food processing industry. Connsensys focuses on the role and potential of living labs in the innovation ecosystem for the sector’s digital transformation. As such, the Connsensys project is paving the way for a network of living labs that will form a cornerstone in the SS4AF strategy.
“It will be a long way, but based on the established relations to our companies and the focus on applicable solutions, we will generate real added-value for our companies and regions with our partnership,” stated Simon Maas, AgriFood Capital BV (The Netherlands) after he was elected to be the first chair of Smart Sensors 4 Agri-food. Cécile Guyon from Bretagne Dévelopement Innovation (France), and newly-elected vice-chair added, “Connecting competences across European regions is an important key to successfully support SMEs and to facilitate their digital transformation processes. This is why I am happy to be part of this unique partnership.” DSP Valley’s own Bjorn van de Vondel is the newly-chosen chair of the Technology Intelligence working group. Flanders’ FOOD (Belgium) will host the Brussels-based head office of the partnership.
If you want to stay updated about SS4AF, send an e-mail to Veerle Rijkaert (Flanders Food) to receive all the latest news on the partnership and its projects.
We are thrilled at the news that open source software foundation Eclipse Foundation is moving to Brussels!
Innovation and Collaboration
Styling itself “The Platform for Open Innovation and Collaboration,” the Eclipse Foundation is a non-profit organization working to provide a community of and for open source software users and creators. It provides IP management and IT infrastructure while also developing the ecosystem and processes to govern the community.
The Eclipse Foundation provides our global community of individuals and organizations with a mature, scalable, and business-friendly environment for open source software collaboration and innovation.
What Eclipse is doing has a strong connection with our work at DSP Valley. Collaborative business development means doing more in common than in isolation. An essential component of this are common foundations to work upon. The platform developed by Eclipse is an excellent example of nurturing such common foundations and creating opportunities to harness collective potential.
A move to Europe
In their press release on May 12, Eclipse outlined their reasons for moving their headquarters to Europe, creating Eclipse Foundation AISBL based in Brussels. Their rationale — and the decision itself — is a great illustration of how Europe and its approach to digitalization is extremely attractive at the moment. This especially with regard to how the European Union is (attempting) balancing technological aspirations and capabilities with societal needs and democratic control.
“Contributions from a broad cross-section of European companies and governmental organizations to open source projects will be key to ensuring that these emerging technologies are fit for Europe, designed with consideration for the privacy and security of individuals and organizations, and have environmental impact in mind.“
This is great news for Europe, and great news for the DSP Valley ecosystem. The foundation is already deeply involved in technology areas such as cloud and edge applications, IoT, artificial intelligence, digital ledger technologies, open processor designs, and many others: a great boost for our members. As we wrote about in March, Europe is actively engaging with how to move forward with AI and data technology. Eclipse will be a strong voice added to the mix of perspectives striving for that perfect balance between technology’s capabilities and societal needs. (See our article here )
Ultimately, Eclipse itself is a testimony to the need for as-open-as-possible collaboration with regard to digital foundations. Given our strong belief in collaborative business development, we’re delighted to welcome their headquarters to our shores.