Business Espoo: Vending Machine – An Intelligent Service Platform

Our solution connects local services and AI based cloud solution in a coherent service in order to create a more visible and accessible one-stop services for businesses of all size.

Elevator pitch

Vending Machine connects local services and AI to create a visible and accessible one-stop shop for all businesses.

Challenge

To create a concept for Business Espoo service center, that illustrates how information of the variety of business services can be offered to companies in customer-oriented manner – in cooperation with different business service providers.

Researching BE

We began our work by doing a small research of how different sub organisations play together under the BE brand.

What are current challenges of BE

Based on the provided materials by BE, our quick research of businesses we concluded two key challenges. Service and accessibility - It’s inefficient for companies to skim through the current services of BE since the palette of services is scattered around different stakeholders. Marketing and visibility - Local companies lack the basic information of what BE is, what it does, how to incorporate etc. In short, BE currently hasn’t integrated into it’s environment.

Digging deeper - Needs for Service

We performed a series of interviews during the hackathon to entrepreneurs and businesses across different business sizes to perceive a better picture of the challenge they encounter. We found the following: Personalised service - “I’m having a Chinese delegation visiting our company and I would like to show them City of Espoo and why not even couple of other companies one they are here. There is no one I can call and arrange that. I feel like lot’s of potential is being unused and I’ve to do organise City tours all by myself” Information accessibility - “I’m having a characteristic issue for a company of my kind (size, industry), but I’m unable to resolve the issue with my sources of expertise. I’d either need a clear and accessible internet reference or then a easy way to book a meeting with someone who has expertise from the problematic field. Notable is that whichever the channel is (internet, email, phone call, one time physical meeting or long lasting tutoring relationship) we should have the process as light as possible.

Digging deeper - BE Visibility, marketing & integration

What we also encountered was that BE was currently rarely known among the Espoo based corporations. To actually effectively serve Espoo based corporations, the visibility and marketing has to be drastically improved.

Quotes from our research: “I’ve never heard of BE” “Is it somehow related to Innovation Garden? I don’t know what that does” “Umm, I’ve heard about Espoo Entrepreneurs? Is it the same?”

Solution - Vending machine

Our concept is to tie services both local and online together in a coherent way which bundles all BE services in one easily accessible place. The service concept will work like a Vending Machine where businesses easily insert basic business information, and based on personalised AI-recommendations can pick the services they need from BE’s wide service palette.

Online Vending Machine

The online Vending Machine is a cloud service containing all the services and materials from BE’s sub-organisations in a form which is clearly designed, divided and represented.

Our proposal is to create a unified cloud service which would serve as a umbrella for all of the service providers of BE. The goal of the platform is to reorder services in a way which is most convenient for businesses to work with. Rather than organizing the services based on the operators (BE’s sub-organisations) we’ll use the service type and customer need to perform the dividation, matching and querying.

Additionally, part of BE’s materials would be digitalised and fed into platform, since there are lots of repetitive and rather common troubles that businesses at every level and industry face. These online materials will also serve as a hook to get users more attached into physical services of BE. From the convenient and easily accessible online source users will be directed to the more personal face-to-face guidance when needed.

Having digital source will serve as a low barrier service of BE and be a base for relatively easy questions. For more personal and complex services there would be an option to either contact a specialist on the net and make the first booking. Goal for this is to always lower the barrier of BE’s services and save corporations time spent on trying to find the information.

Technology

Online utilises AI based NLP (natural language processing) to process queries and match linguistic differences between material. We also combine that with Neural Network based analysis where platform combines online data streams with external data sources (most notably PRH YTJ and social media API’s). Thereby it continuously learns how and where problems usually lie in in different business sizes and industries.

Offline Vending Machine

Offline Vending Machine represents BE’s offline (ie. physical) pop-up operations. Our vision is to create a mobile pop-up space which will reclaim areas for BE and increase its visibility among businesses and citizens. The Offline Vending machine will go around Espoo and will always have a BE’s professional assisting companies on site. BE’s professional will be also using our AI based solution so that they can immediately connect businesses to the right expert if the general information she can provide isn’t coherent enough. Offline pop-up Vending Machine will play a key role with connecting the physical and cloud services together.

With this two-divided solution we can offer BE services both scalable, and personalised whilst always maintaining the high quality. Especially with the offline operations we can create more visibility for the BE. The physical and AI based online solution together will create a perfect one stop service where customer can always find the correct answer and personalised service.

Challenges

Understanding the big picture of the challenge and creating a comprehensive solution for that in a such a short time. Covering the scale and extent of customers and services under one concept. Despite these challenges we managed to succeed.

Accomplishments

Understanding how to tie local and online together into one coherent package. In this concept internet serves as a high volume and low barrier platform to get your issues sorted out fast. Local services work as a great marketing tool by increasing the knowledge. It also adds personal feeling to the service and allows BE to produce more customised services when customers need that. Understanding that businesses (end customers) don’t really need or care which organisational unit from BE is handling it’s case. They just want to get their things done. This is why we’ve restructured the way how we present the service palette of BE to businesses in a more customer oriented way. Understanding that challenges BE faces are not only about the service but also about visibility, and finding a solution which also addresses that. We also dig through couple of BE’s competitors and organisations that are doing somehow similar actions as BE is. We did go through services of Helsinki, Business Finland and why we liked them and why not.

What we learned?

Making the high intensity customer contact with City of Espoo and companies we interviewed was a lots of fun and it taught us a lot. We also utilised some design paradigms we hadn't used before, so getting know with these and utilising them was fun.

What’s next for our project?

The hack was awesome and we’d more than happy to be building this concept into a more concrete one together with Business Espoo.

Team

  • Sabina Friman
  • Max Kalhama
  • Fanny Haga
  • Iiris Huotari
  • Aleksandra Bodekhina
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