‘Incredibly inspiring’, Kalliola says about the basic course in radio technology led by professor Anttti Räisänen that inspired his interest in the field.
Alumnus of the Year 2017 of the School of Electrical Engineering is Kimmo Kalliola, DSc (Tech), CEO of Quuppa. The decision was made by Dean Jyri Hämäläinen based on the proposals of the school’s alumni.
‘Kimmo is a positive, open-minded and active alumnus who has built a successful career in industry and as an entrepreneur. He has proven that a strong command of basic research can be utilised in the development of products that use cutting-edge technology. Kimmo has also created new work and expertise in Finland and has at the same time found the time to share his experience with the younger generation of engineers, Hämäläinen says.
With an accuracy of ten centimetres
Kalliola did not plan to set up a business when he was researching the progress of radio waves in indoor spaces during his doctoral studies. After the dissertation, his career continued at Nokia’s research centre where new business opportunities were feverishly sought at the beginning of the 21st century.
‘Indoor positioning was already a huge thing at the time, but none of the available systems were able to reach the required accuracy of less than one metre. Then we realised that the measurement methods and technology I had developed for my dissertation could be used to define a location. We used Nokia’s development platforms to develop a Bluetooth direction finder that made it possible to reach the accuracy of even ten centimetres.’
The high-accuracy positioning systems manufactured by the company can be found across the world, for example, in the world’s third largest children’s hospital.
When the productisation of the invention was delayed, Kalliola decided to establish a company of his own together with four of his team members in 2012. At the moment, Quuppa employs 18 people and its turnover is close to €3 million. The high-accuracy positioning systems manufactured by the company can be found across the world, for example, in the world’s third largest children’s hospital, Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami.
‘Every patient in that hospital wears a positioning device in their wristband compatible with Quuppa technologies’, Kalliola reveals.
‘With the devices, the hospital can for example monitor the queueing times to procedures and build a system that alerts a nurse if the wait has been too long.’
The latest application is the system of smart pucks recently introduced at the Hakametsä arena, the home arena of the ice hockey team Tappara. The direction-finding aerials mounted in the arena’s ceiling monitor the minute tags sown into the players’ shirts and embedded in the pucks and provide very real-time and accurate information on playing times, skating speed and shot power. Tieto is another Finnish customer. In its headquarters, even the managing director does not have a workspace of his own, but a suitable free space is found with the help of the tags employees carry in their neck straps. At the same time, the company obtains data about the use rate of the facilities, which saves money and the environment.
‘Most of our business is currently in industry, where accurate tracking of people and devices can save time and money and prevent accidents. For example, warehouses can prevent trucks from colliding with people and the necessary tools for servicing aeroplanes can quickly be found among dozens of other tools at airports.’
A good spirit
The Alumnus of the year praises his alma mater for the practical hands-on teaching and its encouraging atmosphere.
‘Especially, the responsibility given during post-graduate studies was important as it taught me to be confident about what I was doing. There was a good spirit at the School of Electrical Engineering and it is something I have also wanted to promote at Quuppa.’
Kalliola encourages the school’s present students to go and bravely test their expertise, even if they are not sure what they want to do in the future, yet.
‘I have never known exactly where my path will lead me’, he says and laughs.
‘When I look at it now, it suddenly looks very clear. You should trust your intuition, take advantage of your strengths and boldly seize the opportunities.’
Kalliola’s confidence in innovations based on technology is strong and he has often visited the School of Electrical Engineering to talk to post-graduate students about entrepreneurship. In his opinion, solid expertise is a competitive advantage that will help you go a long way.
‘A product based on it may not even need a patent. The actual product might be possible to copy, but without the engineering it is based on, all further development would be impossible. That is why universities are so important, they are the home of expertise.
Text Minna Hölttä, photo Sakari Heikkilä