DEL20 in 2021: a vaccine against innovation impasses

Jan 26, 2022
  • operations
  • retail
  • SAP
  • beacons

2021 proved to be a year of great challenges and uncertainty, but also a year of hope and immense technological progress. In fact, the perfect conditions for creative innovation to flourish. During this year’s DEL20 innovation cycle, leading companies from Belgium once again demonstrated their ability to seize the opportunity and use unpredictability to their advantage.

First, let us jog your memory. Developed as an innovation accelerator, DEL20 enables delaware clients to propose a project and develop their idea within an established framework. In this way, they can experiment with cutting-edge technologies without having to worry about budget restrictions or failure. Insights get shared with the broader DEL20 community, which often leads to interesting cross-pollination across different industries. Participating companies receive free consulting days to help realize their ambitions. 

The goal of the DEL20 community is two-sided. “For participants, every project offers value either in the form of new insights or real-world optimizations,” explains Steven Lenaerts, partner at delaware. “At the same time, delaware learns a lot about real-world market needs and how we can adapt our offering accordingly.” 

Cora Belux: redefining the offline shopping experience 

“With the rise of online shopping and next-day delivery, clients are used to getting what they want immediately,” says Alexandre Hupet, pricing and BI manager at hypermarket venture Cora Belux. These changing customer expectations led the company to think of a way to create a more pleasurable shopping experience. The main idea? Creating an app that gives customers the most efficient route through the store to pick up their products.  

Based on the well-known Dijkstra algorithm, delaware and Cora Belux developed an Azure web application that calculates the shortest path between two points, as well as the optimal order in which customers should pick up the products on their shopping list. While there is still some work to be done on creating an attractive user interface, Alexandre and his team are confident that existing and new customers alike will find the app extremely valuable. 

RMB: making space for sustainable advertising 

Regie Media Belge (RMB) commercializes the TV, Radio and digital advertising space of leading audiovisual brands like RTBF, NRJ and Dailymotion. To make advertising more compatible with sustainability, the saleshouse decided to develop The Blue Score: an internal metric that evaluates brands’ commitment to sustainable goals (related to the 17 dimensions of the UN0 Sustainable Development Goals) . In the future, this scoring mechanism could enable RMB to reserve preferential advertising space for sustainable stakeholders and help boost consumption of sustainable products.

In collaboration with delaware, the team focused on the three sectors whose sustainability efforts are currently most transparent: food, automotive and cosmetics. A single score is calculated based on weighted data from the Open Food Fact database, ESG scores, CO2-Neutral label, and other sources. The main challenge? Merging all these data and connecting them with RMB’s databases of advertisers, brands and products. The Blue Score itself is easily accessible per product or brand in a Power BI Dashboard. The next step is to find additional data to broaden the scope of the experiment to other sectors. 

In the video below, Valérie Janssens, Director of Development at RMB, explains the project more in detail.

Cargolux: balancing pilots’ sleep cycles

As Europe’s number one all-cargo carrier spanning a global network, Cargolux operates round-the-clock. Depending on the length of a duty period, a flight crew consists of 2,3 or 4 pilots. Flight times and rest periods of pilots, both between flights and during a flight, are governed by stringent safety regulations. In addition to regulatory rest requirements, each pilot has his/her own specific needs and internal “body clock”, based on sleep cycles and previous flights. Optimizing each pilot’s sleep schedule taking into account all constraints and preferences can therefore be quite challenging.

After experimenting with Excel-based algorithms and self-learning models, experts from Cargolux and delaware settled on a heuristic approach: an algorithm developed by experts in the domain themselves. Based on this algorithm, a prototype with quantitative insights was established to provide to the Captain on his or her iPad, which can help him or her to determine the optimal rest schedule for each pilot. Next up: allowing the prototype to run offline, up in the air, and optimizing the algorithm to make it work for pilots who are participating in consecutive flights.

John Cockerill: paving the way for green mobility

Like many companies, international engineering and maintenance group John Cockerill wants to persuade its workforce to opt for electric company cars. Anticipating the success of these cars in the coming months, the group has set up a tool to manage charging stations.

With the help of the DEL20 community, John Cockerill's team developed a smartphone application that allows employees to reserve a charging station on a specific date. The goal is to ease the logistical burden of managing charging stations while also optimizing their usage. To maximize convenience, charging point allocation are based on employees’ affinity. They can even make requests through a Microsoft Teams chatbot.

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NMBS-SNCB: analyzing travelers’ behavior 

To keep its innovation train moving, Belgium’s railway company also looked into ways to analyze passenger flows in a GDPR-compliant way. For example, insights in travelers’ behavior could provide early warnings for potential incidents and help determine whether transit to facilities such as bike parking’s and bus stops is easy and the amenities are adequate. 

For privacy reasons, using cameras was an obvious no-go. Instead, 3D sensors were used: not only are these GDPR compliant, they also enable NMBS-SNCB to count individuals. After a proof-of-concept project, the next big step will be to roll out the system across Belgium’s entire network of more than 500 railway stations. 

NMBS-SNCB: innovating in reliability

When you’re handling over 253 million domestic passengers a year, punctuality is crucial. That’s why Belgium’s national railway company NMBS-SNCB wants to help train managers find their assigned train faster. Today, they must start by asking a colleague, who then searches for the right train. The precious minutes lost in this process can snowball into national delays.  

A DEL20 experiment with low-energy Bluetooth sensors was set up in the national train depot in Forest, near Brussels. Here, train managers walk through a tunnel to get to the trains. When a train manager passes a beacon, he or she gets a push notification with the location of the assigned train. The next step is to turn this proof of concept into a real-life application. 

Learn more about this DEL20 experiment in the video below, where we interview Steven Duvillier, Project Manager digitalization at SNCB-NMBS.

Unilin Insulation: benchmarking marketing performance

For Unilin Insulation, supplier of insulation solutions for the construction industry, evaluating performance is key. Tracking the effectiveness of digital marketing results and benchmarking them with competitors is crucial to remain in pole position. However, there are plenty of ready-made benchmark solutions available, which often makes it difficult to take the right decision and none of them measures performance across all channels.

In digital marketing, trends are more important than absolute numbers. Therefore, Semrush was deemed to be their best choice. The custom-made dashboard compares traffic to their own website, as well as engagement and activity on socials with that of a few competitors. As a result, Unilin now has proof that their focus on paid reach is indeed working. While the dashboard is currently still running in an Excel file, the next step is to transform it into a dynamic tool with real-time data

Roularta Media Group: automatic summarization of content

Roularta Media Group, a Belgian media company active in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, is experimenting with the algorithmic summarization of content. While extracting the key sentences of a longread is a task typically performed by human editors, it’s almost impossible for them to keep up with demand for short, on-the-go content. Automating the process could offer a solution. 

As part of their DEL20 experiment, Roularta Media Group and delaware unleashed the existing TextRank algorithm on a large number of articles. An editor manually reviewed the results. This manually reviewed dataset was subsequently used to finetune the TextRank algorithm for Roularta’s content specifically. When it comes to editing text, however, there will always be a subjective aspect at play. The next step is to find the right balance between quality and efficiency.  

In the video below, Erwin Danis, Director Innovation at Roularta, explains the project more in detail.

BekaertDeslee: simplifying cost price calculation 

For many years, mattress textile manufacturer BekaertDeslee has been looking for ways to speed up its quotation process with data. As part of their DEL20 journey, the company initiated an experiment that involved feeding historical data from SAP into a Microsoft machine-learning algorithm. The main obstacles? The high number of variables that impact cost price calculation, as well as the absence of a dedicated data scientist. Based on insights from the experiment, BekaertDeslee is now exploring the viability of existing CPQ applications to solve this complicated puzzle. To be continued!

Sabam: Fair remuneration for every use of copyrighted content

Sabam, the Belgian authors’ society managing the distribution of copyright fees, is looking for a way to automate the detection of the unlicensed use of copyrighted content. While the use of copyrighted content is more widespread than ever, detection technology is quickly catching up. In this case, the society was looking for a tool to automatically detect the unlicensed use of its members’ copyrighted works on YouTube specifically. 

DEL20 experimented with speech-to-text (STT) technology to see if a match exists between an upload on YouTube and one of the lyrics or scripts in an audiovisual production in Sabam’s database. Due to the diverse nature of Dutch dialects, STT so far lacks efficiency and is too expensive for this purpose. Talks with YouTube are ongoing, as their cooperation is needed to make this experiment viable.  

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