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Navigating a Sensory Revolution at SenseWay

In her previous life, Anu Peippo was a chief officer on board offshore vessels in Europe and Brazil. Today, she has a different kind of command at VTT SenseWay as she uses her maritime training and experience to navigate the development of the company’s various marine engineering projects.

Perfect on paper

Anu hails from the small, historic town of Rauma on Finland’s west coast. With over 580 years of history behind it, Rauma is Finland’s third-oldest town and, thanks to its rich history and historic buildings, it even boasts UNESCO world heritage status.

The town’s key industry is its local paper mill. A family friend worked on one of the large ships transporting loads of paper from the mill to Germany while a young Anu stood on shore, imagining what it must be like on board. “The ship looked quite exotic from my point of view; it really made an impression on me,” she recalled.

Helpfully, she’d grown up in a family of mariners, with both grandfathers having worked at sea. “One was an oiler, the other was an able-bodied seaman. I heard so many fascinating stories about life at sea from them,” she remembered.

When it was time to choose a career, the sea was a natural first option, but under pressure from various quarters, she also applied to study political science at university. Her application to that curriculum fell short by a hair’s width of 0.5 points. So, off to maritime school she went. “I thought I’d go to maritime school for a year and then apply for political science again,” she explained. “But then the maritime academy was so much fun that I decided that that’s what I’d continue with.”

An intelligent move ashore

After graduating from the maritime academy, she eventually earned her Master Mariner qualification after which she worked on board tankers and offshore vessels around the world.

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It was an excellent career move and a job of which Anu has the fondest memories. “The people I met, the languages I learned and the places I’ve visited are the main highlights for me,” she noted. “I don't miss the sleepless nights when the weather is so bad that it’s impossible to sleep. In general, being away is the other part that is tough - you miss weddings, funerals, birthdays etc.”

After a successful career at sea followed by juggling two pregnancies in a row, Anu decided that it was time to move ashore in order to be closer to her young family. But after the excitement of her life at sea, any old job would simply not do. “I decided that I wouldn’t settle for any job; it had to be interesting. That’s how I ended up at Rolls-Royce.”

Specifically, Anu accepted a job offer at Rolls-Royce's Ship Intelligence unit, where she would meet her future business partners Jere Laaksonen and Jaakko Saarela.

Navigating a new challenge

In late 2019, Anu decided to follow Jere and Jaakko when she made the leap out of Rolls-Royce and into a whole new challenge at VTT SenseWay. The three are the public faces of a small team of multi-disciplinary experts, developing products and services specifically for the maritime market.

Most notably, the team has developed a revolutionary new person-in-room sensor called ZediSense. ZediSense is a circular, hockey puck-shaped device designed to be discretely integrated into spaces, with minimal aesthetic impact.

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Using millimetre-length radar wave technology, ZediSense can identify the presence of people in a space with complete accuracy and total reliability, even if the person is asleep or otherwise motionless. Importantly, since it’s not a camera and cannot actually ‘see’ who is in the cabin or what they look like, there are no privacy risks.

ZediSense has applications in the cruise ship industry, superyachting industry and in the hospitality industry on shore. Amongst other uses, it will allow an operator to automate climate control measures inside a cabin, resulting in significant energy savings when a space is unoccupied. It also improves guest safety by allowing for faster, more targeted evacuations during emergencies. In future, the data generated by ZediSense sensors is expected to yield major improvements in interior design both at sea and ashore.

Though her new career at SenseWay is a huge shift from her life at sea, it’s a challenge that Anu has embraced. “On the ships, you just drive the vessel; someone else takes care of the contracts. At Rolls-Royce, revenue was someone else’s responsibility. But at SenseWay, it’s just us deciding where we’re going to go with this. It’s our responsibility to drive revenue and every other aspect of the company’s success. It’s totally different from my previous roles. At the same time, it’s given me opportunities to do things the way I like to do them; to create my own version of my career.”

Ramping up ZediSense 

Having started the ZediSense programme in early 2020, the team was immediately confronted with challenges around Covid and global lockdowns. “We had to make a lot of tough decisions, but we’re fortunate to have lots of experience across our team members which allowed for some very wise decisions.”

Though the initial period was challenging, ZediSense is making ground and market reception so far has been positive. “There are several companies testing it and we expect our first install to come soon,” Anu commented. “We have some great references already and those speak for us, but everyone just wants to be sure that ZediSense is fit for their purposes before going ahead.”

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Meanwhile, Anu revealed that SenseWay has some fascinating plans for ZediSense in future, with a whole family of products envisioned. “There’s a demand for a product that can count the number of people within a space,” she noted. “I envision that we’ll bring out different sensors and then we’ll also go further into developing a platform for our data.”

When she’s not contributing her maritime training and experience to engineering products or developing the sales and marketing efforts for ZediSense, Anu can be found caring for or riding her horses or even baking bread. “I bake all of our bread myself,” she proudly admitted. “We never buy any bread from the store. Once you’ve had homemade bread, there’s no going back!”

About the product 

ZediSense is a groundbreaking person-in-room sensor designed to feed precise, reliable room occupancy data to cruise ship operators, superyacht captains and the hospitality industry in general. To find out more or to place an enquiry, check out the ZediSense website here. 

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