The summer students at COWI spent 30 per cent of their time on innovation projects this summer. Three of the students have already joined the company.
Over eight weeks, 18 students on COWI’s summer job programme, COWI Try, experienced life as consulting engineers.
Along with practical planning experience on projects, the students developed concepts for how virtual reality, the Internet of things, big data and Microsoft’s own collaborative tool Surface Hub could enhance the quality of future solutions.
“The industry is undergoing a big transformation, with digitalisation and technological development challenging traditional work processes and business models. It is important to embrace this mindset as early as possible in one’s career,” says Terje Bygland Nikolaisen, COWI’s Managing Director.
During the summer months, the students were divided into three groups and asked to suggest and develop an innovative idea based on virtual reality, the Internet of things, big data and Surface Hub.
“We started with a blank sheet of paper. None of us had much knowledge of IoT and big data from before. So we started with research and analysis. Then we developed our own matrix to identify areas where it makes sense for COWI to innovate within IoT and big data,” explains Ingrid Elise Johansen from one of the innovation teams in COWI Try.
By 2020 one expects that there will be around 50 billion devices connected to the Internet. By that time this might include everything from street lights, lifts, traffic systems and water pipes to cars and production facilities that will have one or more sensors that communicate with a system which constantly analyses, reports and ‘fixes’ on the basis of historical and real-time data.
“We believe that within automation in particular, there is great potential for using sensors and big data, in manufacturing for example. If we make smart use of this, we will detect faults early or even before they arise – and optimise processes and energy consumption,” says Ingrid Elise Johansen.
Terje Bygland Nikolaisen is impressed with what the students presented.
"They have an intuitive understanding of the potential of the technology, and also show that they understand the industry they will be entering in a few years. Through the innovation project, they have helped us to identify some opportunities which will improve the processes and add value for our customers in the future,” says Bygland Nikolaisen.
COWI has already employed three of the summer students, while one is to go on working at COWI on his master’s degree and another on a bachelor’s dissertation.
The summer student programme COWI Try kicked off on 27 June at COWI’s head office in Lyngby. The students came from very varied backgrounds: from high-energy physics, water and waste and thermal energy to BIM, building design and law.
Close collaboration across disciplinary and national boundaries is one of COWI’s strengths. Until this year, COWI Try has only been run in Norway. This year the programme was expanded with the global headquarters in Denmark involved for the first time.
The students were split across seven office locations: Oslo, Drammen, Fredrikstad, Trondheim, Lyngby, Aalborg and Aarhus.