How can we Digitalise the Non-digitalisable?

15. 10. 2019 | Source: Technology Agency of the Czech Republic

There is nothing “impossible” for Space System Czech. This Czech company develops software for digitalisation in various fields. In our interview with its co-founder Daniel Štefl, we talked about the benefits of digitalisation, space and the difference in their approach to new technologies between the Czechs and the Finns.

Digitalising is your “bread and butter”, so to speak. What do you think is its biggest advantage? 
Mankind can edit DNA or launch a car to orbit Mars, a small company from Prague can participate in a mission to an asteroid and most of us daily use a universal piece of electronics that has replaced many previously separate devices, from a telephone through calendar, calculator, camera, music player, sound recorder, dictionary and flashlight to an alarm clock. And all of that thanks to digitalisation. Space Systems Czech is now digitalising a field that, at first glance, appears to be purely analogue, archaeology.

Nowadays, people speak of digitalisation mostly in relation to the streamlining of production and data analytics, which lead to saving money. Personally, I would prefer not having to fill in any forms when going to a doctor, and for the nurse not to be burdened by meaningless copying of information and other non-productive administration. Especially considering the lack of medical personnel, it is an unforgivable waste and the hospital software which reminds us of the steam age should be put in a museum.

Your company focuses on system engineering and software development in various industries. What are the areas where you can see the greatest potential, and why?
Of the areas in which we operate, the most likely to be beneficial are the utilisation of space resources, the transformation of the automotive industry into mobility providers and the aforementioned healthcare software. Space is the last distinct frontier which is difficult for mankind to conquer. Even though, for example, the information on your location provided so routinely by the GPS satellite system, and recently the European Galileo system, has become indispensable in our modern world. Our mission to an asteroid has among its objectives an experiment to shift the trajectory of the asteroid so that such technology would be available in the extremely improbable case of the Earth being threatened by an object in space. I could say as a joke that if the dinosaurs had a space agency and Space Systems Czech, they could still be around as an advanced civilisation.

Today, people often talk about the transformation of car manufacturers into mobility providers. When we free ourselves from the idea of the car as a status symbol, and taking into account the parking issues in bigger cities, the car itself ceases to be of that much importance compared to the speed of transport, with the appropriate mode of transport depending on the specific situation.

The supply chain, starting with the production of a screw and the delivery of the control unit, to the transport of the vehicle, and its maintenance and insurance thus become still more complicated. Here, I can see a great opportunity for an independent software developer like us. Especially if the paradigm shifts, the sides that didn’t trust each other so far and needed a certain push from an authority to interact will start cooperating through blockchain, and automate everything with “smart contracts”.

”We all need to think about which routine tasks we don’t want to perform and how a computer can do them for us.“

Blockchain will also be of crucial importance in the digitalisation of healthcare. Now, most of the healthcare agenda operates digitally, but still needs a signature and a stamp for mutual trust. When you send a blood sample in a hospital to a laboratory, a doctor or a nurse must usually first submit a request to some laboratory system and, at the same time, issue, sign and stamp a paper request which is processed further and archived. In 2018, we have great technology at our disposal, which doesn’t require such double processing. Blockchain is, because of the unchangeability of records and their reliability and decentralisation, ideal for use in healthcare, but I presume it will take some time before someone dares to commission such a new database from us.

Specifically, in the Czech Republic, the hospital information systems are truly obsolete since a limited number of companies which already have their systems in use actively prevent the API connection, i.e. the competition, from entering, so they don’t have to make any improvements or make the system more user-friendly. For example, if you were to expect that, following the processing of the request and the testing of the sample in a laboratory, the doctor is notified that the results are available, you would be mistaken. Most systems cannot handle even such “sophisticated” notification. Not even in the “STATIM mode”, which indicates the highest urgency.

That’s why we started to focus on the development of hospital information systems. We have already completed the advanced GalaxyMD reservation system, which has a modern architecture and user interface in the form of a web application that works even on phones. The first hospital where we deployed it has nothing but praise for it. The system can plan rehabilitation care with unlimited configurable dependencies and general outpatient care and automatically offers the optimal option.

We also managed to connect it to the existing hospital database. Even such a relatively simple change will increase the efficiency of the workplace, save time spent on administration by the rehabilitation personnel, increase patient comfort and, thanks to the management module, provide an overview of the management of the hospital.

Your company is located not only in the Czech Republic, but also in Espoo, Finland. How much of a difference is there between the Czech and the Finnish approaches to new technologies and digitalisation by the (expert) public?
Finland provides textbook examples of good utilisation of technology, but also some exemplary failures. Many probably remember Nokia, the headquarters of which are also located in Espoo, a rubber production company that managed to rule the mobile phone market, that missed the trends, didn’t provide its system to external developers in time and was nearly forgotten. However, today, it is still a thriving company providing telecommunication infrastructure. When we founded the Prague branch of Space Systems Czech together with our Finnish colleagues, we managed to handle it within a timeframe of a few weeks. It was reasonably fast from my point of view, but the colleagues from digitalised Finland wondered why it took weeks instead of days.

Do you think that the Czechs should learn from the Finnish approach? If so, what should they learn? 
Yes, after getting out of the sauna you don’t need to jump into ice-cold water; a walk along the bank of the lake is enough. We can learn from each other. Personally, I really appreciate the Finnish transparency, and we at Space Systems Czech like to follow this example. We also shouldn’t overlook the education system, where the children can learn more while spending fewer hours at school. However, this is not my area of expertise and I cannot truly compare it. The Finns can learn from us that ordinary conversation with other people is nothing peculiar as they naturally tend not to speak much.

Originally published in TA.Di magazine of Technology Agency of the Czech Republic (TA CR).  Author: Veronika Dostálová.

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