Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

IBM brings cognitive computing to play for Finnish healthcare

Steve Rogerson
September 27, 2016
Finnish funding agency Tekes and IBM have announced a partnership that will enable Finland to use Watson cognitive computing to help doctors improve the health of its citizens, and strengthen and develop the innovation and business ecosystem in the fields of health and well-being.
To facilitate the collaboration, IBM intends to establish a Watson Health centre of excellence in Finland, the first Nordic healthcare competence centre, and the first national imaging centre of excellence outside the USA. These centres are expected to employ 150 people over the next few years.
Tekes anticipates this collaboration with IBM will create data-driven cognitive computing applications and will lead to an expansion and growth of Finland’s business and innovation ecosystem. Specifically, Tekes expects the partnership to accelerate creation of start-up companies in Finland, gain opportunities for Finnish companies for global growth, and help digitalise the country’s healthcare business sector for companies of all sizes.
“The combination of world-leading information and communications technology competences with health and well-being are already creating world-leading health-tech innovations in Finland,” said Pekka Soini, director general of Tekes. “In Finland, the close collaboration among health-tech companies, top-notch researchers and world-class hospitals has created a strong health eco-system, called the Health Valley. I am positive that Watson cognitive computing capabilities will further boost innovation in Finland and put Finland at the forefront of game-changing health transformation, at the European level and in the global marketplace. Foremost, we believe the collaboration will benefit both IBM and Finland, and the development work conducted in Finland will further advance Watson’s capabilities.”
Finland has a unique health ecosystem characterised by full electronic health records and nationwide access to healthcare, in addition to the close co-operation among public and private sector entities working in health and wellness. Finland is also a European forerunner in designing legislation for secondary and secure use of data on well-being and health. Enabling regulation is believed to open opportunities for research, development and innovations.
“Tekes estimates that investments by Finnish companies and Tekes to artificial intelligence in well-being and healthcare will reach hundreds of millions euros over the next five years,” said Anssi Pulkkinen, strategic head of well-being and health at Tekes. “Cognitive technologies, like IBM’s Watson, will enable a new management design and systemic control of healthcare. Tekes' vision is an open healthcare ecosystem based on compliant and efficient utilisation of healthcare data, making our hospitals the world's most advanced data-led IoT hospitals.”
Finnish doctors and researchers will work with Watson Health data scientists, engineers, researchers and designers to develop a new generation of data-driven healthcare applications, advancing R&D and innovation in Finland.
For example, the University of Jyväskylä in central Finland aims to use Finnish health and well-being data to develop applications on the Watson Health Cloud, with the aim of improving the healthcare of Finland’s citizens. The goal is to develop these applications in accordance with the healthcare regulatory landscape, while also supporting the regional economy in a fruitful manner.
“University of Jyväskylä has been experimenting with IBM Watson collaboration and it has been very fruitful,” said the university’s rector Matti Manninen. “Digitalisation and digital services are core fields in our strategy and we are happy to take the next step in cooperation with IBM.”
Central Finland’s regional governor Tapani Mattila added: “In central Finland there are several health related competence centres that would benefit from deployment of IBM Watson cognitive computing. We see this as an excellent opportunity to contribute to the common good for the region and the nation.”
The Hospital District of Helsinki & Uusimaa (HUS) is planning to work with Watson Health and employ cognitive computing to aid in the early identification of serious bacterial infections in prematurely born babies and to bolster imaging of cerebral haemorrhage patients. HUS is also evaluating Watson Health and employing cognitive computing to aid physicians in providing patients with personalised cancer care.
“IBMs approach to AI, with its focus on augmenting human intelligence, may open up entirely new avenues for us to develop treatments,” said chief medical officer of HUS Markku Mäkijärvi. “There is potentially globally ground-breaking research in these areas of application with Watson cognitive computing.”
IBM anticipates that its new centres will use the Watson Health Cloud, a health-data enabled, platform-as-a-service, to provide the foundation for cognitive offerings designed to help enable individualised insights and provide a more complete picture of the many factors that can affect people’s health. This will be done in compliance with any operational and security requirements for Finnish health data and data reservoirs.
“Finland was selected as a destination country to implement various Watson Health capabilities, including the Watson Health Cloud, based on the country’s vision to restructure and digitalise its healthcare system, its tech-savvy citizens and mobile capabilities, and a social environment that supports a culture of health,” said Deborah DiSanzo, general manager for IBM Watson Health. “The Tekes-IBM Watson Health partnership makes Finland a forerunner in health globally with Finnish citizens at the centre as the ultimate beneficiaries. We are honoured to work together to improve lives around the world.”
IBM has been operating in Finland since 1936, with multiple business divisions active in various industry sectors that are strategic for national development, from manufacturing to healthcare. With its headquarters in Helsinki, IBM Finland has become a cognitive and cloud platform company that digitally transforms companies and industries in Finland.
“The Tekes-IBM partnership places Finland globally on the front line of development and deployment of cognitive digital healthcare with Watson Health in an open ecosystem with local and international partners,” said Tuomo Haukkovaara, general manager for IBM Finland. “Our mutual target for the partnership is to improve quality and lower cost of our Finnish healthcare system, as well as create new jobs, develop globally exportable solutions and increase investments in Finland."
Tekes is the most important publicly funded expert organisation for financing research, development and innovation in Finland. For international companies Tekes provides easy access to the Finnish innovation ecosystem and helps companies start research and development activities in Finland.