Yahoo and Google set up research centres here. Microsoft is talking to local, open-source browser success story Opera. Offshore, this Nordic country’s information and communications technology (ICT) sets the standard for remotely controlled offshore oilfield operations, with terabytes of data processed daily. In this country of 4.6 million people, a disproportionate number of Norwegians engage in innovative ICT.
On the strength of their work, paper publications around the world with previously pessimistic prospects and the static websites of banks, businesses, member organizations and governments do a brisk business in unforeseen opportunity. The appetite for innovation is fostered at home.
Norwegians live in a largely paperless society. Cheques, money orders and bank notes are reserved for visitors. One-piece plastic ID instantly draws citizens’ contact info from the electronic public record. No fuss.
Online, the Norwegian web presence is fully upgraded for all-out business. Banks offer a multitude of chargeable services. The private and public sectors are transformed on the strength of local search software, network designs, business applications, mobile communications and digitized systems.
E-Strength in Numbers
The high degree of innovation in Norwegian ICT companies claims many origins. Some point to 30 years of technology development spun off by the offshore oil and gas industry. Commercial giant Telenor and research paradigm SINTEF are also credited with creating value in new companies. Others suggest affluent Norwegians eager to buy the latest advantages give the home industry a springboard for success abroad.
Marshalling its strength, Norwegian ICT is formed up into easy-to-reach industry associations. The board of one such employer grouping, Abelia, is just the tip of Norway’s ICT berg, and includes representatives from software giant Microsoft, media centre builder Expology, telecoms giant Telenor and ICT research institute SINTEF. Abelia represents an impressive 530 ICT member companies and 25,000 workers.
Not Just Content
An ever increasing number of Norwegian firms are in demand by organizations serving large counts of customers, members or sitting on vast product catalogues. As the world’s commercial giants upgrade, they adapt to an online marketplace where game-changing technology is key. Norwegians embrace the new market with open arms. At Germany’s CeBIT 2006, the largest technology fair in the world, 15 Norwegian exhibitors – more than many countries with ten times Norway’s population – showed big business their ICT wares.
FAST’s young search software developers.
One Norwegian ICT enabler of international acclaim is FAST. The company’s FAST Enterprise Search platform – its core product – powers a range of solutions for different business needs. The company is changing the interface between technology and users by providing next-generation search technology.
“We connect users to information that represents distinct value to them – information at a premium,” says company human resources leader Bjørn Lidsheim. Company clients are willing to invest in innovation based on search technology to better use content. FAST has helped numerous high-profile customers better use their databases: online newspapers and the American Newspaper and Magazine Association, to name a couple. FAST gives them their own information centres to help manage business and quickly create more products.
The company has helped historically paperbound companies – like the Norwegian Yellow Pages – survive the threat from new search media. As advertising money becomes per-hit, per-click payments to competitors, FAST helps connect clients’ users to items of particular usefulness, such as maps to go with addresses and phone numbers. “This added huge value. (The paper publications) turned a negative trend into a new revenue stream and were able to regain their position with ads and a lot of premium web traffic added quickly,” Lidsheim says.
Reaktor is another ICT outfit helping to change business models, cut costs and create business where none existed. This 50/50 grouping of economists and engineers is part consultancy, part software provider. Its Kreator solution lets you type in Microsoft Word to create perfect copy on your web portal, including its interactive elements.
Big banks DnB and SkandiaBanken avail themselves of Reaktor’s Applikator suite, which offers a web-based credit-handling solution which also serves customers’ banking needs and permits stock trading. Applikator’s public face is user-friendly and, on the inside, customer requests are efficiently expedited.
With such dynamic web interfaces, customers need not fill out forms. At public-sector web portals, name, address and so on is retrieved with the entry of Social Security number and password.
New Music Media
For the online music business, Norway-based Artspages partners rights owners and technologists and pioneers the distribution of world music via software.
Experimenting with file types and delivery systems brought video streaming to China, while an MPEG-7 delivery project with Oracle and Sony is followed up with a delivery contract for Fraunhofer IDMT and Grieg Music Education. A contract with the China Education and Research Network puts music from independent record labels within earshot of 30 million Chinese students.
One of the first companies anywhere to develop business software for the Internet is WebOn from Tønsberg. Since 1995, the company has evolved online applications for retail giants, including Norway’s Coop — a retailer owned by its one million members. WebOn solutions convert vast product inventories into online sales while simultaneously publishing to paper or the web. Marketing info is also generated, saving on time spent updating data, photo and price archives.
Helping small- and medium-sized businesses manage growth is Oslo-based business software designer Mamut. In 10 years, the company’s 395 employees have secured 300,000 customers throughout Europe. A host of smaller software designers also offer dynamic business documentation, either Windows-based or open source. One example here is Compello Software; its automated, incoming, invoice processing complements other Norwegian technology outfits making cost accounting and finance easier.
|A SINTEF researcher handles wafer-thin microtechnology.
© Thor Nielsen/SINTEF Media
A current focus of Norwegian ICT R&D is eMobility, part of the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme. Some of Norway’s participation is organized under the home-grown initiative Trådløs Framtid (Wireless Future).
This grouping of over 20 broadband and mobility companies have joined forces with Telenor and SINTEF to develop solutions and spin-offs to answer the challenges posed by wireless. To this end, the Research Council of Norway organizes research programmes and companies offer their wares and commercializing ability as building blocks.
SINTEF channels its far-researching research into such areas as nanotechnology and quality control. At the MiNaLab, a facility shared with the University of Oslo, clients make use of a silicon processing line and design, process and device development.
Secure by Satellite
The Oslo and Trondheim centres of Thales Norway progress the cause of data security by integrating networks for seamless roaming and the use of network resources. The Thales Group created the Cold War’s secure Moscow-Washington hotline, including its modern ICT version.
By satellite, the videoconferencing of veteran radio outfit Tandberg facilitates business, medical and educational communications. Tandberg Movi technology lets laptops become videoconferencing devices from anywhere — café, home or park bench.
Web browser maker Opera has become a worldwide competitive force in part for the compatibility of its browser technology with mobile devices. While a favourite browser of Mac, Windows and Linux users, Opera is not alone in lending advancement to local mobile technology.
Norwegian providers of Bluetooth phone devices replace cables between portable and fixed devices with secure infrared, short-range signals. The technology, named for a Viking king, allows collaboration between the computing, mobile phone and automotive industries. Bluetooth’s use of on-the-spot piconet networks does not interfere with local area networks, the data pathways that grant Internet and e-mail access at Oslo International Airport and nearly every Norwegian hotel.
Telenor, whose LAN networks offered its employees “hot-desking” — the OK to move around and share info with colleagues — has fostered an ICT cluster of companies outside of Oslo. Telenor Research’s latest business offering is the Nordic Connect Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network, or IP VPN. This scaleable network for businesses allows access to e-mail and video streaming from Telenor’s growing IP-based network.
For Society’s Sake
Basic research into the underlying quirks in networks and distributed systems is carried out at Simula research lab. The future ease of service, safety and reliability — or Quality of Service — of today’s technology is scrutinized at its labs.
SINTEF Telecom and Informatics has evolved ICT R&D to help offer e-medicine solutions, allowing specialists in urban centres to help doctors in remote areas with special cases. Home care now includes wireless medical monitoring, where micro-sensor devices transmit ECG data, blood oxygen levels and heart rates wirelessly.
In education, Tandberg won the US Distance Learning Association award for its blend of satellite and teaching technology.
In oilfield services, Norwegian reservoir-modeller Roxar and drilling-aid software provider Scandpower are two of hundreds of companies which have turned labour-intensive platform extraction into hidden-away seabed production. Onshore operators control offshore operations by fibre-optics and satellite.
With robust financing and sales behind them, the frequency of technology successes from Norway is set to continue.
Only company accountants reportedly use fixed desks at Telenor’s headquarters in Fornebu outside Oslo.
© Damian Heinisch/Telenor