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Finnish firms and researchers pioneering health and safety solutions

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Coughing Finnish robot is ready to join the battle against pandemics
Several Finnish businesses and organizations have developed innovative health and safety approaches for the cruise sector to support its resurgence, post pandemic.

The Healthy Travel project is one such initiative: researchers collaborated with cruise lines, shipyards, and subcontractors to find ways of improving health and safety on cruise ships and in terminal buildings.

Researchers in cell biology and industrial management created models to analyze passenger flows on vessels of different sizes and developed processes and procedures to minimize infection risks.

Cell biology and industrial management

‘Our initial focus was on how to ensure a safe cruise experience in the middle of the pandemic. We then explored ways to attract more passengers to the ships,’ says project manager Jonas Spohr, a lecturer from the Laboratory of Industrial Management, Åbo Akademi University.

During the project, researchers in cell biology and industrial management at Åbo Akademi created models to analyze passenger flows on vessels of different sizes and developed processes and procedures to minimize infection risks. Finnish diagnostics companies have developed different types of testing systems to cost-effectively prevent infected passengers from boarding the ships.

‘We also produced a questionnaire to understand customers’ experiences and opinions regarding the safety measures implemented by the cruise lines in response to the pandemic, as well as their views on a range of other possible measures, including the use of technology to monitor passenger movements on a ship,’ says Spohr.

The Healthy Travel project has also provided an opportunity to consider the long-term future of the cruise industry, including the diverse range of large and small businesses that serve the industry. In order to support the companies‘ strategic decision-making processes, the project has collected data on cruise industry developments and shared its findings from the customer questionnaires.

‘The big questions are concerned with: who are the customers of the future, and what will they value in the cruise experience? What is the impact of global trends like sustainability on the cruise industry, and how can all companies, including the subcontractors, be part of supporting these changes?’ Spohr adds.

Robot head prototype

To further understand the role of breathing, coughing, and sneezing in spreading COVID-19, researchers from Tampere University, VTT Technology Research Centre of Finland, and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, created a robot head prototype as part of the AIRCO research project.

The initial aim of the robot was to support the design and planning of all kinds of indoor spaces, including ships and terminals, and to measure the effectiveness of masks, ventilation and air filtration and purification solutions in preventing the spread of viruses.

‘The droplets coughed by the robot can be supplemented with surrogate viruses to discover how the viruses travel in any given space,’ explains Topi Rönkkö, associate professor of aerosol physics at Tampere University. ‘Used with the right measuring technology, the robot can be a useful tool in the design and planning of all kinds of indoor spaces, including ships and terminals.’

The robot can also measure how effectively masks, ventilation and air filtration and purification solutions prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses, and verify the accuracy of computer simulations. Scientific measurements and reliable data are the keys to developing different methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.

ALMACO teams with Genano on air purification systems

Ensuring the indoor air quality (IAQ) is also a crucial factor for minimizing infections among passengers and crew. To support the need for better air purification techniques, interior accommodation provider ALMACO partnered with Genano to provide advanced air decontamination technology that removes airborne impurities of all sizes, including microbes and the novel coronavirus.

‘Finland is a forerunner in air purification and Genano has more than 20 years’ experience in the most demanding settings, such as hospital operating theatres. ALMACO’s extensive networks across the maritime industry enable Genano to bring its patented electric filtration technology to this market,’ says Erik Schobesberger, VP modernization & newbuilding support, ALMACO.

Compared to disposable HEPA filter systems, Genano’s air purification devices do not clog up and are easier to maintain. With health precautions now at the core of the cruise experience, we are confident that Genano’s solutions will set the standard for indoor air quality in the maritime industry of the future,’ notes Schobesberger.

KONE focus on people and material flow

In addition to air quality, the flow of people and material can have a huge impact on the transmission of airborne viruses. KONE, focussing on marine elevators and escalators, conducted research in partnership with several cruise lines to develop new solutions for people and material flows on ships, while improving health and safety on board and in the terminals.

This involved collecting data with sensors installed on ships, timing activities, and conducting interviews with passengers and crew members. In the same vein, an IoT platform from Hypercell uses Bluetooth signal sensors to collect data on people volumes, dwell times, and flows in indoor and outdoor locations.

Accurate data, insight, and new techniques will play a key role in moving forward, as Timo Pakarinen, managing director for KONE’s marine business explains: ‘Any changes on cruise ships must be fact-based and commercially viable solutions because the investments required are so large.’

KONE has used 3D simulation modelling of people’s movements on a ship during embarkation/disembarkation and the sea day. This made it possible to run different test scenarios on how elevators and escalators work, depending on the number and types of passengers. Modelling includes different distributions of various walking speed groups, as well as restricted mobility users to match predicted passenger profiles. The end solution will help tackle challenges such as crowded elevator lobbies or other passenger flow bottlenecks.

Collaborative research projects such as these, which have been initiated and funded by Business Finland.

‘Finland now offers leading technologies and solutions focusing on indoor air quality, passenger flows, safety protocols, and touchless solutions. The insights gained from this vital research are also contributing to the design of new cruise ships,’ says Ulla Lainio, head of marine & ports global industry team at Business Finland.

Hypercell tracking people flows

Hypercell’s tracking technology and Internet of Things (IoT) solution enhances people flows and safety.

Hypercell’s IoT platform uses Bluetooth signal sensors to collect data on people volumes, dwell times and flows in indoor and outdoor locations. The collected data is anonymous and GPDR compliant.

‘Our platform combines the hardware and software needed for a complete IoT solution that has proved its value across a range of industries. We see great potential in the maritime industry in terms of enhancing people flows and safety onboard and in terminals as well as helping to make shipyards safer,’ says Sami Vepsäläinen, COO at Hypercell.

Installed on a cruise ship, Hypercell’s sensors can monitor passenger flows and trigger notifications to take action if areas become over-crowded, thereby increasing infection risks during a pandemic. Safety concerns can be further alleviated by the creation of named tags for all passengers or employees.

‘On a cruise ship, the tagging feature can be added to each cabin card, enabling the faster evacuation of passengers in an emergency. At a shipyard, named tags could save workers’ lives in the case of a fire. Our technology could quickly locate the tagged employees working on the different decks of a large vessel and guide their evacuation via the safest routes,’ Vepsäläinen explains.