Pandemic Work Rhythms: Moonbird takes a look at the new “business as usual”

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.”

About Moonbird

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.

Moonbird logo
Visit Moonbird at their website and follow them via their social media channels

Covid-19 Innovation Leads to Prestigious Nomination for Flemish StartUp Edgise

Data News Awards for Excellence

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.

A crumpled piece of paper on a sketch book of ideas

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).

Telly – Face mask detection

Wearing a face mask protects you and others from the spread of the coronavirus. But how do we encourage people to wear one? 😷Follow Telly for more updates and check the link in comments for more info 👇🏼

Geplaatst door Edgise op Dinsdag 16 juni 2020

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

Smart Sensors 4 Agri-Food Kicks Off

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.

Stay connected

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.

Eclipse Foundation Comes to Europe

We are thrilled at the news that open source software foundation Eclipse Foundation is moving to Brussels!

Eclipse Foundation logo

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. 

-the Eclipse Foundation website

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.

– Eclipse Foundation press release announcing move to Europe

A boon for our ecosystem

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.

Check out the details at the Eclipse website, and be sure to read Executive Director Mike Milinkovich’s statement, too.

Deltaray Launches Disruptive Tech

Less than a year ago, Deltaray officially came on the scene as a new company. They’re already turning heads and disrupting conversations with their unique technology: 3D Xray equipment for 100% inspection of mission-critical mechanical parts.

Quality control woes

Industry needs quality control. It ensures customers receive defect-free products that meet their needs. This we all know. We also know that the current system isn’t perfect. Incomplete or incorrect inspections put users at risk and lead to recalls, which are, of course, are a nightmare for companies. The damage to the company’s reputation, the hassle, the expense.

Inspecting products thoroughly reduces the chances of recalls and also ensures that a company’s products function as they should every time, all the time. Current inspection technology, using CT scanning, cannot yet scan thoroughly and fast enough to do more than random sample checks. Employees can only visually check a product, and often can only do so for a few seconds before needing to move on to the next specimen.

A scanned image demonstrating how Deltaray’s technology works

A unique solution

This is where Deltaray comes in. In cooperation with the University of Antwerp, they’ve developed accelerated 3D x-ray technology that can inspect every individual unit both inside and out, comparing each component to engineering files using AI.

How do they do it? Image-based 3D x-ray scanning enables real time inspection in-line or near-line. at 50 to 100 µm resolution. Form-fit inspections use the CAD file as quality master, making use of AI-enabled inspection to perform fully automated defect detection. The data-driven analysis and resulting reporting is Quality 4.0 compliant.

The exciting technology behind Deltaray’s turnkey inspection solutions offers plenty of possibilities for critical part manufacturers in the automotive, additive manufacturing, critical assemblies, and medical devices industries.

Find out more

Deltaray’s official launch takes place in two weeks. You can meet them and find out more for yourself at the free entry Virtual Industry Fair on June 10. They’ll be one of the keynote speakers at the event.

Interested companies can attend a private open house on 16 and 17 June, where they’ll get a glimpse of the first demo system and be able to interact with the Deltaray team. You can visit their website to get your personal invitation.