Estonia wins 3rd prize in the European Big Data Hackathon
On 13–15 March in Brussels, the Estonian team won the 3rd prize in the "European Big Data Hackathon", organised by the European Commission statistical office Eurostat. The Estonian team was led by Innar Liiv, an Associate Professor at Tallinn University of Technology.
The first prize was awarded to Croatia and the second to France. 22 teams, each consisting of three members, from 21 countries took part in the competition.
The Estonian team included Innar Liiv, an Associate Professor of Data Science at Tallinn University of Technology and a Cyber Studies Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, as a university representative, Rain Öpik, CTO at DeltaBid, as an industry representative and Toomas Kirt, a Principal Analyst of Statistics Estonia.
The task of the competition was to prototype a product within limited time that would analyse big data and other possible data sources and answer the question about how to use data and analytics to support policy makers of the European Union in reducing the mismatch between jobs and skills at regional level. In Europe, there are many countries with labour markets demanding people with certain skills, while in other countries, people with these skills are looking for work. The competition aimed to find out whether data would help to better understand the problem or whether it is possible to develop data visualisation tools that would allow a quick overview and discovery of interesting relationships and patterns.
“Our team concentrated on understanding the roots of the problem and on achieving a clearly distinguishable solution,“ said the team leader Innar Liiv. "Before we started programming, we read through a large number of documents, starting with President Juncker’s letter to Marianne Thyssen, strategic documents and budgets of the directorate dealing with employment issues to the suggestions and reports of the European Parliament committees which deal with the same subject,” Liiv explained the approach of the Estonian team.
The Estonian prototype was given the name "Megatrend and Intervention Impact Analyzer for Jobs" and the aim was to visualise the inner structure of the labour market based on the similarities of job skills and to visualise as one image both the labour market demand and supply and the affecting so-called megatrends. As a distinguishing factor, the Estonian team used as an external source the sensational article by the Oxford Martin School, published some months ago, where those jobs were named, which are at biggest risk of disappearing if the trend of automation and robotisation continues. The list of jobs in the scientific publication had to be transformed into European standards and comparatively analysed. This work resulted in images displaying together the labour market demand and supply, the mismatch and as additional information, also the impact of robotisation on the labour market. The last item enabled to also answer the question about whether robotisation targets the current gap between the labour market supply and demand or, instead, further increases unemployment.
The teams were evaluated by a panel of 20 members, consisting of policy makers from many directorates and divisions and industry representatives from Oracle, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, SAP, SAS, Accenture, etc.
Mariana Kotzeva, the Acting Director-General of Eurostat, who presented the award pointed out that the Estonian team went beyond the expectations and tried to look to the future.
„I am delighted about the success of the Estonian team in the hackathon. This confirms the good level of Estonia as an e-country and our scientists in the field of data analytics and big data. Big data is the topic of the future and as a leading e-country, we wish to discuss this matter also at a high-level conference on the free movement of data in the single digital market on 17 July during the Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union,” Urve Palo, the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, commented on the success in the hackathon.
The Estonian team used Python, Amazon RDS Postgres, Hadoop cluster with Hive, Spark and other technology.
Award ceremony and the presentations of the prototypes of the winning teams can be watched at https://webcast.ec.europa.eu/ntts-2017-15.
A mobile phone apps’ test center unique in the Baltic states is open at Mektory
On February a test center unique in the Baltic states for mobile applications – Smart Lab – was opened at TUT Mektory.
Students’ newest applications are available for trying out at the opening. Solutions of start-ups such as FreePee, Rentmarket, Qminder, Lingvist and Code2Kids are presented on the smart devices of the lab. It is also possible to ride an electric bike – parameters of its battery can be observed on a smart device.
The purpose of Smart Lab is to make top conditions available for Estonia’s undertakings and the students in order to create new and globally successful applications.
“For the first time, there has appeared an environment in Estonia, where it is possible to seriously test the applications of smart devices. We are waiting for the environment to bring together the best developers, which will in turn increase the number and quality of apps created in Estonia. The Smart Lab is outfitted with top quality devices, which enable the testing of created applications on any platforms,” commented Tiit Tammiste, Eesti Telekom’s Director of Technology.
“The app lab creates the students studying in Estonia globally competitive conditions for putting together new applications. Tallinn University of Technology and also the IT College have the opportunity to use the environment for study activities and thereby also bring practical know-how to university’s subjects. However, for the undertakings, this is an environment where they can test their product before marketing it,” said Tea Varrak, Vice-Rector of Innovation and International Relations.
The Lab is located on the mobile and media floor of the Mektory Innovation Center. In addition to the lab there is also a corner for brainstorming and holding meetings, the development work is supported by the mobile and media lab.
There are tens of different smart devices at the new testing lab, which enable testing new applications manually as well as run automatic tests and thereby guarantee the users best experiences. The environment is meant for software developers, students, scientists, testers, mobile companies and undertakings ordering apps.
At the end of November of 2015 TUT Innovation and business center Mektory, the IT College and leading Estonian IT undertakings Eesti Telekom, Samsung, TUT, ASA Nortal, StagnationLab, Applaud, MobiLab and NGO IKT Demokeskus signed a cooperation agreement, which created the apps’ testing environment at Mektory. The Center is also sponsored by Microsoft, HP, Valge Klaar and LG. The idea of creating an app lab came about due to IT undertakings’ common interest to increase the capabilities and business potential of applications created by Estonian undertakings. The center was created as it is not feasible for each undertaking to build a separate center and the universities lack the necessary infrastructure for a large-volume study activities. By now the creation of the lab has been completed.
Photo gallery by Heidi Pihlak, TUT Mektory
Additional information: Krõõt Nõges, TTÜ press representative, phone 620 3594, mobile 5303 6163, kroot dot noges at ttu dot ee
President Ilves gave a public lecture on the future of IT
The President of the Republic of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, gave a public lecture on the future of information technology on 7 April in the TUT assembly hall.
President Ilves analysed inevitable and progressively increasing dependence of our everyday life on the digital world. As a state largely dependent on digital solutions, we experience and feel the benefits of the digital era, but also the risks long before others.
"The security environment surrounding us deteriorated significantly in 2014. The fact that war is being waged in Europe was also reflected in the cyber incident statistics in Estonia in 2014. But there are other critical issues to be considered. In addition to national defence we need to think about civil liberties and democracy," President Ilves said.
The Head of State gave the lecture at the invitation of the Student Council of the IT Faculty, he was welcomed by the Dean of the IT Faculty, Gert Jervan.
"IT Future" is series of lectures on the future of the information society delivered at Tallinn University of Technology throughout the year. The lectures are delivered by professionals who have an innovative approach to IT and a different perspective compared to the teachers, the aim of which is to diversify students' knowledge. The next lecture will be delivered on 28 April by Kaido Koort and Urmo Keskel from the Certification Centre on the topic "Future identity technologies".
Previously Henrik Roonemaa (Digi), Vahur Metsala (NetGroup), Ralf Morawietz (Kühne + Nagel) and Kestutis Patiejunas (Facebook) have performed at TUT.
Additional information: TUT Student Council of the IT Faculty, Kristin Ehala, kristin dot ehala at tipikas dot ee
Karsten Staehr: Why Tax Fuel?
Karsten Staehr, professor of International and Public Finance, on fuel taxation.
Fuel taxes are taxes on petrol and diesel used for transportation. For what purposes are fuel taxes used in other European countries? Are they used to finance the building of roads?
Some countries earmark taxes on petrol and diesel for road building, public transportation or the traffic police, while other countries do not earmark the taxes for any particular purposes. This is largely a matter of bookkeeping as there is no logic in any particular tax being spent on any particular purpose. Taxes should be levied so that they harm the least and public spending should go to the areas where it is most beneficial.
Earmarking of the revenue from different taxes to particular purposes does not make sense. In the extreme Estonia would then need to introduce a tax earmarked for spending on primary schools, another tax earmarked for street lightning and yet another one for defence. Taken to the extreme, such earmarking of taxes would make it impossible to manage the government budget and it would stand in the way of reforms and changing policy objectives.
What are the consequences in raising the fuel tax to the state, private citizens and to the economy?
The consequences of raising the fuel tax are straightforward. Those driving a car or truck will pay higher taxes and they may perhaps try to drive less or buy a car using less fuel. The government will have a higher tax intake. In this respect the effects of an increase in the fuel tax would resemble any other tax increase.
The effect on the overall economy will be small as long as the tax increase is modest. There might be a bit less car use and this might reduce congestion and pollution and this will generally be a good thing. The costs of some businesses may increase but the effect will also here be small. The planned increase of the excise taxes on fuel is supposed to bring in 46 million euros next year, while GDP, the overall size of the economy, is forecast to be around 22 billion euros. In other words, the planned tax hike amounts to 0.2% of GDP in 2016. In 2017 the tax increase amounts to perhaps 0.3% of GDP. It is unlikely that the planned tax increase would have any major effects on production and employment.
What are the functions of excise taxes in general?
There are two different types of taxes. The first type is broad-based taxes such as social tax, income taxes and value-added taxes. It is difficult to avoid paying these taxes for economically active persons by changing economic behaviour. One would still need to pay income tax if one changes from one job to another, and one would still need to pay value-added tax if one changes from eating potatoes to eating rice. Economic theory posits that broad-based taxes are preferable, because these taxes do not cause people to change behaviour and make people do things they really do not want to do.
The other type of taxes is taxes where a specific product or a specific economic activity is taxed. One example is excise taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and energy. The main purpose of such taxes is precisely to make people change behaviour. Taxes on alcohol might lead to less drinking and this is good for other family members and society at large. Taxes on petrol and diesel may lead people to drive less or buy more economic cars, and this might reduce congestion and be good for the environment.
In conclusion, the main purpose of broad-based taxes is to bring in tax revenue without people changing behaviour, while the main purpose of excise taxes is to make people change behaviour.
Do the high level of excise taxes on fuel undermine the competitiveness of Estonia compared to other EU countries?
The planned hikes of the excise taxes on petrol and diesel are relatively small and will have a minimal impact on the costs of companies in Estonia and hence the competitiveness of the Estonian economy. There could be some border trade problems if the prices of petrol and diesel will be much higher in Estonia than they are in Latvia and Russia. This is a situation which must be monitored carefully.
It should be recalled that taxes on car use are very low in Estonia compared to many other EU countries, in particular our Nordic neighbours. Many countries have very steep excise taxes on the purchase of cars, while the value-added tax is the only tax on cars bought for private use in Estonia. Many countries also charge an annual levy for the use of a car. If anything, Estonia has very low taxation of cars and car use, and this is of course what has led many Estonians to drive large and uneconomical cars.
So we should not be worried about the planned increase in the excise taxes on petrol and diesel?
Nobody likes to pay taxes, but the experience from southern Europe is that it is important that the government runs a prudent fiscal policy and raises taxes to fund new expenditures. One of the founding fathers of the USA summed it all up by pointing out that there are only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes.
Questions by Krõõt Nõges, TUT PR Officer.
A global engineering education conference was opened by the president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves
„Scientists dream about doing great things. Engineers do them.“ James A. Michener, American author.
On March 18-20, Talllinn University of Technology hosts the IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference EDUCON2015 „Engineering Education towards Excellence and Innovation“. The conference was opened by the president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
The IEEE EDUCON conference will provide an international forum for academic, research and industrial collaboration on global engineering education. Particular fields of interest include contemporary science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); also the importance of engineering education in Estonia and in the world.
The aim of the conference is to improve the quality of teaching and learning in STEM fields. E-learning, active learning, creative study environment and e-labs are only some of the topics covered in the conference.
The key note speakers of the conference are Tarmo Soomere (TUT, Estonia), Stephanie Farrell (Technological University for Dublin, Ireland), James Uhomoibhi (Ulster University, United Kingdom).
More than 250 participants from 40 countries are expected at the conference. That includes lecturers, teachers, scientists and students from 150 different universities and research institutes. Also present at the conference will be the representatives of universities of applied sciences, student organizations, the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research, MathWorks and BMW AG.
In addition to European countries, the conference will also see guests from USA, Canada, Brazil, Ecuador, Japan, China, India, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuweit, Tunesia, Egypt, Jordan, Singapur, Philippines, Nigeria, New Zealand, Malaysia, Panama, Cuba, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, and other countries.
From Estonia scientific papers will be presented by representatives of Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn University and Estonian National Defence College.
IEEE -- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – is an international organization which develops and promotes the application of new technologies all over the world. IEEE was founded in 1884. IEEE is also active in Estonia, ¾ of its members are connected to TUT.
Conference website: http://www.educon-conference.org/educon2015/
Merili Deemant, TUT Open University, tel +372 620 3607, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chinese New Year and Cultural Day took place at TUT
On February 26, TUT International Relations Office organized the Chinese Cultural Day to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
At 11am, TUT Rector Andres Keevallik and His Excellency Chinese Ambassador to Estonia Mr Qu Zhe jointly opened the TUT-Xinhua News Agency Photo Exhibition.
This Exhibition will be inaugurated and displayed on February 26 till March 5, 2015 in the corridor connecting the Library and Social Sciences Building.
By juxtaposing images of Estonian people in everyday life and ceremonial events, the exhibition aims at illustrating the Estonian people, tradition, festival, nature and culture. The audience will ponder how different we are as cultures and how similar we are as humans.
After that, Mr Qu Zhe gave a public lecture on "Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and Sharing Opportunities for Prosperity". He introduced the connotation and key features of the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative as well as favorable conditions for implementing it. The Ambassador also talked about the opportunities it will bring to the world and Estonia.
The Ambassador stressed that the Silk Road Economic Belt is open and inclusive system which is to promote economic growth for all parties through better connectivity and comprehensive development plans. China will not seek predominance during the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt, and the initiative is not going to disrupt other existing cooperative mechanisms. Not only an economic initiative, the Silk Road Economic Belt is also a bridge connecting different civilizations and promoting better understanding among peoples, which is essential for regional peace and stability.
Representatives from Xinhua News Agency Tallinn Bureau and Huawei Corporate Baltic Office also shared their experiences of conducting business in Tallinn and their future development plan. There was a healthy interaction between the speakers and audience during and after the open lectures.
There was a considerable interest among TUT staff and students to learn more about the Taiji after 30 min introduction and practice. A talk is going to hold an event training group at the Student House for participants to pursue the harmony in body and mind.
More than 50 people participated the get-together event of dumpling-making and tea ceremony. For many, it is their first time making the traditional Chinese food. Not only had they learned the basic skills to make dumpling by hand, but also shared a moment of joy and fun with fellow students.
Text by Keit Kissel, TUT International Relations Office.
Scientists at Tallinn University of Technology have worked out a unique method of producing nanofiber
Tallinn University of Technology (TUT) has worked out a unique method of electrospinning, which makes it possible to produce large quantities of extremely thin yarn or nanofiber in the future.
This material, which is thinner than a hair’s breath, is used in medicine as well as in electronics, mediated the news programme “Aktuaalne kaamera”.
Tallinn University of Technology has also filed for a patent for its electrospinning device.
Preparation for production of nanofiber is currently on the way in a glass cabinet at a laboratory in TUT department of polymer materials. Once the spinning machine is working it is reminiscent of a spider’s web spinning in the wind. Nanofiber can actually be several times thinner than a spider’s web or the breath of a hair.
Regular fabric, which is used for making clothes, may consist of a few dozen interwoven spun fibers. Nanofiber may consist of hundreds of fibers. Electrospinning means turning polymer into fibers in a high voltage electric field and even though machines like that have been created before, the one created at TUT is unique.
“The principle of twisting together in a vortex of air, that the speed of air flow is very high, is what makes this machine effective. We can take in large quantities of polymer solution at great speed and therefore create large quantities of yarn, in comparison to technologies this far,” explained Andres Krumme, professor at TUT department of polymer materials.
What to do with such a thin yarn when there is no shortage of fabric in the world? Use of so-called smart textiles is still in its infancy, but for example, it is possible to interweave into such fibers polymers, which conduct or store electricity.
Medical industry is also interested in such materials, more so, because the device at TUT is compact and easy to use in a hospital laboratory for example.
“Such fibers could be spun into growth substrates for cells, as cells like to grow on nano-scale fibers, which would be various skins grown in artificial conditions, veins, also medical sewing-threads, which could contain substances aiding healing of wounds,” said Andres Krumme.
The electrospinning machine, which was built in cooperation with TUT, several cooperation partners and the Archimedes foundation, was worked on for two years. At the moment it is awaiting a patent.
Author: Marju Kaasik.
Source: 31.01.2015 Aktuaalne kaamera.
Why is the price of oil so low?
TUT Professor Staehr talks about oil prices.
* Why is the price of oil so low?
The large decline in the dollar price of oil started in the summer of 2014. At that time the price of unrefined oil was around 100 dollar per barrel and it has since fallen to around 50 dollar per barrel. Both supply and demand factors are behind the decline.
Supply has increased very rapidly in recent years. This is in large part due to the oil shale revolution, where a new drilling technique, fracking, has made it possible to extract oil from layers of shale deep underground. While the oil shale in Estonia lies in the upper layers of the earth, they lay much deeper in other parts of the world. New technology has made it possible to extract oil and gas from shale deep underground and this has led to extra supply of oil from the USA and other countries. Oil production has also increased in countries such as Iraq and Brazil.
The increase in demand for oil has declined due to the weak economy in Europe and slightly lower growth in China and other Asian countries. The gradual switch to renewable energy has also lowered the increase in the demand for oil.
The combination of rapidly increasing supply and a lower increase in the demand has put downward pressure on the oil price. That the decline has been so rapid reflects that supply and demand are price inelastic in the short term, i.e. supply and demand do not react very strongly to price changes. This means that a sudden oversupply of oil must be followed by a large price decline to re-establish equilibrium. However, supply and demand are likely to adjust more strongly over time. Oil companies have in recent months announced postponement of new projects and closing of some high-cost projects, so the growth in supply will likely decline during the next year or so.
* Price of oil is very low. How directly and fast will the price of oil influence the price of gasoline for cars in Estonia?
Changes in the oil price is typically carried into gasoline prices rather quickly. The decline of the oil price has already led to substantially lower gasoline prices in Estonia. Gasoline prices in Estonia have declined by something like 20 percent since the summer last year. This is of course less than the 50 decline in the dollar price of oil in the same period, but this reflects that the dollar has appreciated against the euro and that refining and transportation costs and government taxes have been largely unchanged.
* Is it possible that the price of gasoline will fall even more?
This basically depends on future developments in the dollar price of oil and the exchange rate of the dollar against the euro. It is fair to say that nobody have been able to produce reliable forecasts of either of these prices. This applies to market participants, commentators and academic economists alike.
Numerous academic papers have sought to model the dollar oil price. The modelling uses statistical methods to find the most important factors and how these factors influence the oil price. Factors such as world economic growth, the price of opening new oil fields, the price of other energy forms and interest rates seem to be of importance. However, while it is possible to construct reasonable models of the oil price in the past, none of these models have been successfully applied to forecast future oil prices. Something similarly applies to the dollar-euro exchange; while models may explain the development of the exchange rate in the past, no model or theory is of any use in forecasting exchange rate developments. This empirical finding has been called the Meese-Rogoff Puzzle since it was demonstrated more than 30 years ago. The conclusion is that since it is virtually impossible to forecast developments in oil prices and in the exchange rate, it is also impossible to forecast developments in the gasoline price in Estonia. The gasoline price can go up and it can go down, but the reality is that nobody can predict these movements.
* After the lowest point how fast the price of gasoline will go up? What are the most significant factors?
The experience is that changes in the dollar oil price and in the dollar-euro exchange spill over into gasoline very quickly. This means that if the dollar oil price starts increasing or the euro starts appreciating against the dollar, then the effect will be seen at the pumps in Estonia within a week or a few weeks.
Questions: Krõõt Nõges, TUT PR Officer.
A robot turtle will help underwater archaeologists to inspect shipwrecks
The Robot Safari in London Science Museum will see the world premiere of the underwater robot U-CAT, a highly maneuverable robot turtle, designed to penetrate shipwrecks.
U-CAT’s locomotion principle is similar to sea turtles. Independently driven four flippers make the robot highly maneuverable; it can swim forward and backward, up and down and turn on spot in all directions. Maneuverability is a desirable feature when inspecting confined spaces such as shipwrecks. The robot carries an onboard camera and the video footage can be later used to reconstruct the underwater site.
“U-CAT is specifically designed to meet the end-user requirements. Conventional underwater robots use propellers for locomotion. Fin propulsors of U-CAT can drive the robot in all directions without disturbing water and beating up silt from the bottom, which would decrease visibility inside the shipwreck”, says Taavi Salumäe, the designer of the U-CAT concept and researcher in Centre for Biorobotics, Tallinn University of Technology.
“The so called biomimetic robots, robots based on animals and plants, is an increasing trend in robotics where we try to overcome the technological bottlenecks by looking at alternative technical solutions provided by nature ”, explains Prof. Maarja Kruusmaa, a Head of Centre for Biorobotics.
Underwater robots are nowadays mostly exploited in oil and gas industry and in defense. These robots are too big and also too expensive to be used for diving inside wrecks. Shipwrecks are currently explored by divers, but this is an expensive and time consuming procedure and often too dangerous for the divers to undertake. U-CAT is designed with the purpose of offering an affordable alternative to human divers.
U-CAT is part of an EU funded research project ARROWS, which is developing technologies to assist underwater archaeologists. The technologies of the ARROWS project will be tested in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Baltic Sea, two historically important but environmentally different regions of Europe. “In the ARROWS project, the U-CATs would work in cooperation with larger underwater robots and together with image recognition technologies for discovery, identification and reconstruction of underwater sites, would facilitate the work in all phases of an archaeological campaign”, says Dr. Sebastiano Tusa, an underwater archaeologist from Sicilian Regional Government.
In London Science Museum, the team will show the U-CAT robot as well as its interactive downscaled models u-CATs operating in an aquarium. Robot Safari is open for visitors from 28 November to 1 December.
Prof. Maarja Kruusmaa, (+372) 51 83 074, Maarja.email@example.com
Centre for Biorobotics, Tallinn University of Technology www.biorobotics.ttu.ee
ARROWS project website www.arrowsproject.eu
Formula Student Team Tallinn overall winner in Italy
Formula Student Team Tallinn, the joint team of Tallinn University of Technology and TTK University of Applied Sciences became the overall winner in Italy in the competition of electric formula.
The competition took place in Italy, on the Riccardo Paletti motor racing circuit, where 64 teams from 20 countries competed both, in theoretical knowledge and driving tests.
The Estonian team demonstrated high level in defending their theoretical work. Thanks to its marketing strategy business plan and the technical design of the vehicle it was one of the three teams, who reached the finals to present its expertise. The team was able to eliminate technical problems in the speed tests that took place in the last two days and the drivers realized the potential of the vehicle by showing the best times in the Autocross and Endurance races.
Overall winner of Formula SAE Electric Italy
Autocross 1st place
Endurance 1st place
Acceleration 2nd place
Business Presentation 2nd place
Engineering Design 3rd place
Skid-pad 4th place
Cost Report 9th place
Before the competition in Italy the FS Tallinn team competed in Austria (on the Red Bull Ring) and in Hungary (in Györ). In the competition in Austria the team achieved the very strong fifth place. Special prizes (the cups of the 2nd and 3rd places respectively) were awarded for energy efficiency and skid pad test of the vehicle. At the competition in Hungary, the car was unfortunately disqualified from the endurance race since the obligatory light characterising the status of an electric vehicle failed. The failure in Hungary aroused eagerness to fight and to demonstrate the potential of the vehicle and the team in Italy.
The team would like to thank all its supporters, who have believed in the capability of Estonian youth. The major supporters besides Tallinn University of Technology and TTK University of Applied Sciences are Ehvert Mission Critical, E-Profiil, PKC Group, Viking Motors, Auto24, KH Energia Konsult, Baltic Bolt, Brandner PCB, Oshino Electronics Eesti OÜ, Uddeholm, Baltic Bolt, Bestra Engineering, Ministry of Education and Research, Estonian Research Council, SKF, Attila, Scuderia Nordica, Hydroscand and Eliko.
Mr Teet Praks
Formula Student Team Tallinn
Phone +372 56 111 234