"The lab has been testing user experience and functionality ever since Berntsen was an idea. It’s unique."
- Marit B. Hagland, Manager of Norwegian Smart Care Lab

Smart Care Lab Ensured Innovation Success

In February 2018, Stavanger municipalitiy signed the first innovation partnership contract in norwegian history with the companies Innocom AS and Topro Industri AS. Norwegian Smart Care Lab was hired to be Innocom’s test partner.

In just one year, the activity robot Berntsen has developed from an invention to a virtual, but highly up-and-coming personal trainer for the elderly. In the world of innovation, this is considered record speed.

Berntsen is unique in so many ways. He is a real innovation created based on an experienced and real need formulated by the customer; Stavanger municipality. Their need is to provide the elderly with quality-assured, motivating training in everyday life in a nursing home or in the home care service. Today, physiotherapists are responsible for this important training in health, but the need is far greater than what the municipality has the staff and finances to offer.

Berntsen has therefore been developed in an unusually close collaboration between the municipality and Innocom, and all his functions, properties, design, intended and unintended results have been tested by Norwegian Smart Care Lab, with those who will actually use Berntsen, but also with those who are around the elderly in everyday life; health professionals and relatives.

FEBRUARY 2018: Kjersti Balke Hveem from Topro Industri AS, Ingvild Lilleheie and Hege Eiklid from Innocom AS have signed Norway’s first innovation partnership contract with Stavanger Municipality. In one year, they will deliver their solutions to make patients and the elderly more active and self-reliant. (All photos: Hilde Garlid)

Norway’s fastest robot?
- It has been incredibly good, and not at least fast. We have had a close and good collaboration with the municipality, including weekly meetings with the project manager. With such close follow-up, we have been able to coordinate the project along the way. That insight is completely unique for a developer, innovator and private supplier, says Hege Eiklid, founder of the company Innocom AS.

The innovation project also has partners on the “sideline” who are now eagerly waiting to get to know Berntsen and his qualities as a personal trainer. On the waiting bench are other municipalities that also know the need for such a training partner, and who can quickly get in a position to act, if the results from Stavanger prove to be successful.

It is also an unusual, but effective, way to implement innovations. Effective both for the municipalities and for the company.

Why develop robotic training?
Exercise is super important in the everyday life of the elderly and for people who have to train after a hospital stay, but in practice the training sessions with a physiotherapist are usually too few and short. The question was whether any of these sessions could be robotized while maintaining quality?

With Berntsen, patients receive a training plan and a timetable that can be followed without an appointment with other helpers. Proper training is critically important. Research shows that good and intensive training shortens the convalescence time and prevents readmissions. The latter is very costly for the healthcare service.

The fact is that Stavanger municipality has 200 short-term places today. The average length of stay is 26 days. It costs the municipality NOK 200 million annually.

-If we can save only 10 percent of these expenses with other solutions, either with shorter stays or fewer readmissions, the savings will be as much as 20 million kroner a year, says Marianne Sigurdsen Schwerdt who is project manager for Innovation Partnership in Stavanger municipality. The needs have their core in Stavanger municipality’s project “Lev hele livet”. The goal here is for residents of Stavanger to be able to live at home for as long as possible.

Innocom’s training robot and Topro Industry’s smart walker became the winners of the partnership competition.

TESTING: Here we can see testing of the robot.

Sets innovation speed record
Berntsen is now ready for production on a large scale so that he can be used with residents in the thousands of nursing homes, or in private homes. Here he will, on behalf of physiotherapists, help the elderly with exercise exercises, exercise motivation and be a guide in daily life; yes, it has actually been shown in the test phases that Berntsen can be a friend.

Because Berntsen can even talk, roll on a trip and be remotely controlled so that relatives can have contact via the screen and participate in an everyday life; without even being physically present.

-It was one of the testers who gave him the name Berntsen. It definitely makes him more personal, and this is how he is also treated by the users, says Hege Eiklid.

In one year, Berntsen has gone from being an idea to becoming a rolling, talking and motivating training robot. It is said to be a real speed record compared to traditional innovation races.

-Stavanger municipality had a couple of years first with needs mapping before we signed the innovation partnership agreement, but still, this is far faster than for example an innovation race where you write research applications at different stages of the process. It can take 2-3 years before you get started properly. We have projects in Innocom that started the year before this activity robot, but which probably cannot be commercialized until in 6-7 years, says Eiklid.

It goes without saying that such long development processes are a risk both in time and money for innovation developers.

DEVELOPMENT: Berntsen has in one year gone from being an idea to a rolling, talking and motivating training robot.

Active testing along the way
The pace of innovation is confirmed by Marit Hagland in Norwegian Smart Care Lab, who has been commissioned to test and verify the product with users and employees in nursing homes and home residents, as well as their relatives.

-The fact that Berntsen has gone from idea to finished product in one year is incredibly fast. The success factor is that Innocom AS develops together with those who have the need, in this case the municipality, and that the product is tested along the way with those who will actually use it. The lab has been testing user experience and functionality ever since Berntsen was an idea. It’s unique. It is common for companies to develop a product first, which is then user-tested. There is then a risk of using resources to develop something that the end-user is unable to use, and which must be adjusted at a later stage which is expensive in the development process, says Marit Hagland, manager of Norwegian Smart Care Lab.

The lab’s assignment has been function testing, usability testing and security in the sense of testing a solution in relation to information security.

-We have tested with real patients in the day ward at Haukåstunet and in the short-term ward there. We were assigned test persons by the municipality. When Berntsen was just a pilot, health professionals were at first skeptical of the complexity. After all, we were to develop a robot for people who have not used a smartphone or iPad before. But in reality it turned out to be easy, says Marit Hagland.

The use of technology in this group surprised everyone, and Hagland says that she “saw the light” when they asked the municipality to include relatives in the test.

-Relatives can log in and remotely control the robot. It was nice to see how relatives liked this, used it, and how patients and relatives had close and good contact much more often than the regular visits, she says. Hagland also experienced that patients were motivated to use Berntsen, also for their relatives.

-That way, there will be less stress for my daughter. Now she can visit via Berntsen, said one of the testers.

STYRES: - Relatives can log in and remotely control the robot. It was nice to see how relatives liked this, used it, and how patients and relatives had close and good contact much more often than the regular visits, she says. Hagland also experienced that patients were motivated to use Berntsen, also for their relatives.

Private and public develop together
But let’s turn the clock back to February 23, 2018. It was cake and press briefing when Stavanger Mayor Christine Sagen Helgø (H) stated that Stavanger with 12 million kroner in the pot will go to the front, on behalf of other Norwegian municipalities, to find new and smarter ways to develop products and services.

-We must develop products and services in closer collaboration with users. They are the suppliers who are best at innovating, but the closer the private actors can get to the municipalities' real needs, the greater the chance we have of success. Together. The public sector buys products for NOK 500 billion a year, but most of them are yesterday’s off-the-shelf products. With this type of partnership, tailor-made products can be developed based on real needs, Sagen Helgø told NRK Rogaland.

The tender process started in April-May 2017 and 56 companies submitted tenders in October. 22 was approved, and in February 2018, Stavanger Municipality signed Norway’s first two innovation partnership agreements.

In March 2019, Berntsen stands out straight and proud as a completely new and unique training buddy.

Municipalities on the waiting bench
When Berntsen has now been developed and tested, Stavanger municipality will make an independent assessment of whether they should go for the purchase of x number of Berntsen. Innocom, therefore, does not yet know whether it will be commissioned to produce 10 or 2000 devices.

There are also other municipalities, as well as NAV, which have followed the project closely, and which can now quickly get involved in the procurement phase. The accompanying activities are the municipalities of Bærum and Kristiansand, as well as NAV.

-We are now entering a fifth phase of the project, which is almost as innovative and groundbreaking as the development phase. We will now continue working on service innovation before it is implemented. Now we will have real partner meetings with the accompanying companies. This is also new, says Eiklid.

-But can you take Berntsen with you to other municipalities, Scandinavia and Europe if you want and sell him there?

-Yes, there are no limits for further commercialization or further development of the product. We will now deliver what is to be delivered to Stavanger municipality, and further improvement of the product is seen as positive, says Hege Eiklid.