A new innovation brings peace-of-mind for memory illness patients and their next of kin

Published in Helsinki Times 18.9.2014

The ActiveMEDI service together with an emergency card was developed to make the health care system more efficient in situations where the medical staff urgently need to know the patient’s medical history. The innovation aims to empower people with Alzheimer’s or other memory disturbances and help them in maintaining a better life quality after the diagnosis.

In Finland, there are approximately 130 000 people with memory-related illnesses, and at least one million Finns are indirectly affected by them. As it is currently the national Muistiviikko (Alzheimer’s Week), a number of events have been planned that discuss how the quality of life of those with Alzheimer’s and other memory-related illnesses could be improved and maintained.

Forming a part of Muistiviikko events, a new innovation called ActiveMEDI was launched last week. Behind the innovation is Solarch Oy, a Finnish startup company that was founded in 2012. During this autumn, the members of Muistiliitto (The Alzheimer Society of Finland) are able to utilise the service first. Later, it will become available to everyone.

Along with the service comes an emergency card, containing all the essential data of the patient’s medical history and the nature of their illness. This is all the information medical staff need to know in a situation where the patient requires treatment immediately and is unable to give that information themselves. The service is launched first for people with memory-related illnesses but there are plans for expansion to include people with other illnesses too. The main idea behind the innovation is to support people in taking an active role when diagnosed with a serious illness.

“We want to empower people to take control of their own illness and lessen the effects of the unpleasant situation in their lives”, says Alireza Hasanpour, the founder and CEO of Solarch Oy.

He was inspired after witnessing closely his own family members and relatives falling ill and the next of kin struggling to come to terms with the situation:

”The thought behind our innovation is to reach into what happens after people come out of the doctor’s office, and how we could help people amidst that confusion.”

Improving abilities

Apart from providing the patient with additional security in their changing circumstances, the emergency service also improves the medical staff’s working abilities in a confusing situation. A QR code on the card enables all the vital information to be easily read. It helps, for example, the paramedics to gain special access to the medical information in cases of emergencies, and for them to know how to best treat the patient.

The CEO and founder of Solarch Oy Alireza Hasanpour has teamed up with experts of the health care sector to develop the ActiveMEDI service.

The CEO and founder of Solarch Oy Alireza Hasanpour has teamed up with experts in the health care sector to develop the ActiveMEDI service. (Alireza Hasanpour)

“Dealing with patients who are unable to give the medical staff the information they need, can be life-threatening. Helping us through the journey and bringing first-class scientific advice to our disposal, our team of advisors and board members include renowned senior authorities within the health sector,” Hasanpour says.

One of them is Tom Silfvast. He is a member of the board of medical expertise, specialising in the developing of Emergency Medical Services in Finland. Silfvast has been a vital part of the developing process of ActiveMEDI, helping Hasanpour and his crew to build the solution for different illness areas, including heart diseases and diabetes, as well as Alzheimer.

Finland as starting point

MP as well as the chairperson of the board of Muistiliitto Merja Mäkisalo-Ropponen, who has initiated an Memory club at the Parliament, says that the service also provides an opportunity for great savings in the societal level.

“The fact is that nearly 70 million euro would be saved annually if as little as five per cent of those currently in institutional care could stay at home or live in communal housing where professional help is available for them when needed. This service helps us to achieve that. Institutional care should be the absolute last resort, it is the most expensive option as well as the most unpleasant from a human point of view,” Mäkisalo-Ropponen says.

Apart from the card, the patients are given a sticker with the same QR code on it. The sticker can be attached on, for example, one’s KELA card. In an emergency situation, anyone with a mobile phone with the code reading abilities can scan the sticker and find out for example who the emergency contact is and call them.

To Solarch Oy, the privacy and security of those with emergency cards is of great importance. The patient or their next of kin can decide themselves what information they want on show when their card is being read through the QR code. Secured servers, SSL secured connections and data encryption ensure that the most private information remains private.

The emergency solution is starting its journey in Finland but the aim is to make the service a global system. Therefore, for example an Alzheimer’s patient will feel more secure in travelling, too.

“I think this country is the perfect platform for an innovation like this because of the high standard of data storage and the diligent following of regulations here. Launching the service in Finland does not require that much effort as people are used to processing data systemically and in a secure manner. Bringing the service to other countries will be easier as per Finland’s good reputation with the handling of private data,” Hasanpour says.

The service will be free for everyone in Finland. During the launching period this autumn, the emergency card can also be obtained free of charge – later on, a small fee will be introduced. The first point of information for those interested in learning more about the service is Muistiliitto where the staff is also happy to help with the process of obtaining the card.



Thinking outside the box

Published in Helsinki Times 3.7.2014

Are you moving away from Finland for a limited period of time? Or just longing for more storage room? Pelican Self Storage offers an uncomplicated solution to situations like these, and peace of mind to anyone with valuable items to store.

Pelican Self Storage is easily recognisable even from a distance, due to its signature bright green colour and the large pelican logo. A first-time visitor is welcomed at the combined store and information point where a variety of packing materials can be bought, and customers are served and advised.


Aside from the storage room, Pelican Self Storage also provides all the packing materials.

“The first contact can just as well be made by phone or by leaving a request for a callback for us online,” explains the manager of Pelican Self Storage in Kilo, Mari Rautelin.
“We then decide together with the customer on the size of storage needed. After that, the customer comes over and we show them how everything works. Of course, customers are welcome here straight away too, if they want to see the premises before starting negotiations. We are here from 10am to 6pm every weekday, and Saturdays and Sundays as agreed.”
Pelican Self Storage offers storage room of four different sizes, the smallest being 1 m² and largest 30 m², which fits easily the contents of a detached house when cleverly packed. The storage rooms are rented out with flexible contracts, one month being the minimum length. From then on, the contract lasts as agreed for a defined time period or as open-ended. Insurance is also included.
“Our longest contracts here in Kilo are still ongoing from the year of opening, 2012. We have a lot of companies as customers, and they make generally more long-term contracts. The payments are done one month in advance and there’s no deposit or any additional payment.”
All the packing material from boxes to bubble wrap and tape can be provided by Pelican Self Storage, and they also co-operate with Kuljetus Frisk that helps with removal of the items, if needed.


Pelican Self Storage has teamed up with one of their customers, Seppo Frisk, in co-operation over moving houses and items.

“We are very flexible with our contracts, different kind of deals can be made and everything is negotiable,” Rautelin clarifies.
“The co-operation with Kuljetus Frisk means that our customers get a discount if they use the services of them. We also have a trailer here that customers can borrow free of charge.”
Simple service, easy access
The founder of Kuljetus Frisk, Seppo Frisk, was originally a customer at Pelican Self Storage himself.
“I was behind the door the same week the first store opened.”
From being a customer to Pelican Self Storage, Frisk moved on to be a cooperation partner. Now his moving company regularly transports other customers’ items.


Pelican Self Storage offers storage rooms in four different sizes, with the largest easily fitting in the contents of a detached house.

“We do moving abroad as well as nationally. For example, next week I’ll drive down to Rome for work,” Frisk says.
He also still has his own storage room at Pelican Self Storage.
“I come here on a daily basis. I specifically appreciate the flexibility in access to the area. This kind of service was really needed here, before this company only random storage rooms surrounded by chicken wire were available for renting.”
The originally Danish company has expanded so far to Finland and Sweden. The first Pelican Self Storage in Finland was opened in 2010 in Vallila, Helsinki. Now there are 17 of them around the Metropolitan area and Turku.
“There is no clear customer prototype: we have everything here from those moving abroad for a while to those who are renovating their homes or just need an additional storage room permanently for example for seasonal items,” Rautelin says.


Coming and going is easy at Pelican Self Storage as each customer is given a code with which they can access the building and their own storage room.

“We have customers who work as entrepreneurs and store for example their tools here – it’s much safer than keeping expensive items at the back of a van somewhere. Every year on Christmas Eve we see people coming to get the Christmas presents from storage as they find this a handy place to hide them from the kids. Small companies might not even have an office so this kind of service is perfect for them, too. We also take in deliveries for companies if they’re not able to make it here just then.”
Coming and going is easy at Pelican Self Storage as each customer is given a code with which they can access the building and their own storage room every day of the week from 6am to 10pm.
“The whole idea is to make using Pelican Self Storage as easy as possible. The concept is customer-oriented, flexible, simple. People tend to think that finding large storage room is something painstaking and complicated, a big thing to organise. We want to bring the solution close to the customer. This can be part of their everyday life, just an extra storage room with easy access, if they like.”

Hanging around

Published in SixDegrees 22.5.2014

Aerial yoga is a new member of the growing yoga-inspired exercise family. What sets it apart from the more traditional types of yoga is doing exercise while you’re literally hanging up in the air, – not due to fierce meditation, but by a piece of material.

In short, doing aerial yoga involves stretching and muscle strengthening exercises while balancing on a fabric loop hanging from the ceiling. The first aerial yoga lessons were held in New York in 2006, and recently, the acrobatic yoga form arrived to Finland, too. The first place to offer aerial yoga lessons was Vertical Club in Helsinki.

“Aerial yoga suits active people who might find traditional yoga a bit too slow or boring. Those who look for more variety in yoga exercises usually find this suitable for them,” explains Vilja Eskelinen, an instructor at Vertical Club.

Aerial yoga combines traditional yoga with acrobatics and provides an efficient exercise for the whole body. An essential part of it is a fabric loop, a so-called hammock, that hangs from the ceiling supporting one’s weight and balance, enabling even an un-experienced beginner to try some pretty impressive tricks.

Aerial yoga offers a shortcut to the feeling of levitating. (Jukka Lintinen)

Aerial yoga offers a shortcut to the feeling of levitating. (Jukka Lintinen)

“Anyone is welcome to try, previous experience is not needed. Aerial yoga is a bit less demanding than traditional yoga in a sense. For example, those with problems with their balance or joints can do this as the hammock supports all the movements. We have pregnant customers, too, who adjust the exercises to suit their bodies.”

Vertical Club offers lessons of four different stages of aerial yoga: intro, soft, beginners and intermediate. Lessons of all the stages, apart from intro, are held several times a week.

“It’s a really good form of exercise, for the back specifically. It stretches out the vertebra on your back and strengthens the muscles, and therefore improves your posture,” Eskelinen adds.

“And it’s fun! As an instructor, it is really rewarding to see how surprised people get over what they are able to do with their bodies even as beginners.”

For those not interested in yoga, Vertical Club also offers other options to do exercise with the hammock: aerial stretching, aerial tricks, and as the latest addition, aerial dance.

See more on Vertical Club on their website http://www.verticalclub.fi.

Annual Flea Market for Cleaning

Published in SixDegrees 22.5.2014

It is soon time for another Siivouspäivä (Cleaning Day), with Helsinki transformed into one big flea market.

The event is a celebration of urban culture as well as an opportunity for citizens to sell their unwanted items on streets, parks, and other public spaces without any rental fee. It is a unique day when Helsinki does not require permit for selling something in public areas, as long as the selling location has been registered on the Siivouspäivä website.

Based on the registrations, a map on the website develops and shows what kind of items are going to be sold and where. Using the map people can then plan their routes around town if they are searching for something specific, for example furniture.

Siivouspäivä in Karhupuisto, Kallio.

Siivouspäivä in Karhupuisto, Kallio.

On Siivouspäivä, there are also recycling points provided for example for scrap metal and old electronic devices, and a point for donating unwanted items for charity. The locations and times for these can also be found on the website.

This communal event brings citizens together to enjoy the day out – or in, as it is also possible to have a place of sales in your own home. The main purpose is to be good for the environment, benefit yourself while benefiting others, and result in having a cleaner house.

“In order for us to be able to have Siivouspäivä also in future, it is important that everyone selling their items registers on the website and cleans after themselves,” reminds Pauliina Seppälä, one of the event organisers.

Seriously Funny

Published in Helsinki Times 15.5.2014

Arctic Laughs is all about show time, laughter, and great talent. It is a unique festival in Finland and, in fact, in the world.

”This is the first-ever English stand up comedy festival in Finland, as well as the first-ever English stand up comedy festival in that world where English is not a native language,” says Ali Jahangiri, one of the comedians and organisers of the event.

There are 30 comedians performing, with 12 different nationalities. Some of them live in Finland, and some have been invited to join in from different countries.

”Our aim is to break into the international market,” Jahangiri continues. The top stand up crew here in Finland is super talented. For example Ismo Leikola, who’s in the verge of a breakthrough, has been invited to perform in Just for Laughs festival in Canada, which is a huge deal. André Wickström, on the other hand, gigs regularly around the Nordic countries. The thing is, in Finland people don’t seem to realise how good stand up comedians we have here, and with the help of this festival we would like change that.”

Organiser Ali Jahangiri is one of 30 international comedians on the bill.

Organiser Ali Jahangiri is one of 30 international comedians on the bill. (Robert Lindström)

As well as making the Finns appreciate their professionals of fun, Arctic Laughs provides a platform for the comedians to make a name for themselves.

”We have producers coming over from England to check out the talent, who will be then promoting the biggest names in the British market.”

On the bill, there are also some world-class comedians who are way past the making a name for themselves stage. Greg Proops from the US, whose podcast takes place at On the Rocks 16 May, is one of them.

”Rolling Stone magazine ranked his podcast as 8th best comedy podcast in the world. It is a unique opportunity to see stand up comedy where the audience can participate in the show.”

Even though nowadays there is a lot of English stand up comedy on offer in various towns of Finland, it is still a relatively new scene.

”I, together with Nickolay Antonov, established the first English language stand up comedy club in Finland in 2005. Now I would like to wish everyone welcome to come and witness how developed and competent that scene is today,” Jahangiri concludes.

Formally speaking, spoken Finnish poses a challenge

Published in Helsinki Times 17.4.2014

Finnish language is notoriously challenging to learn. One of the biggest difficulties in learning is that spoken Finnish is almost unrecognisable from the formal Finnish language that is normally taught. Therefore, after getting some kind of grasp of the language on the lessons, the students go out to use what they have learned only to discover that they have been taught a language no one out there actually speaks. Does this sound familiar?

Finnish is said to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn. The words can be very long and the pronunciation takes time as every single letter in a word is to be pronounced. Nowadays, people have abandoned the formal Finnish when speaking to make communication quicker – Finland is, after all, a nation very fond of efficiency. This, however, makes the learning of the language yet more challenging as there are two parallel languages, sometimes almost apparently unrelated to each other.

”Learning Finnish has been a nightmare to me,” admits Jimmy Landsberg from Sweden.

“It’s been nearly ten years since I moved here and I’m still stuck at the beginner’s level. It’s difficult to find the motivation to study as you get by here so easily with English and even Swedish. I’m better at spoken Finnish as I just copy short phrases what people tend to say instead of sitting down and studying. When I attended a language course earlier the focus was mainly on written Finnish and I soon realised it didn’t help me much in real life situations as I didn’t understand anything of people’s replies to my poor attempts at communicating in the local language.”

However, simultaneously with the growing interest towards the Finnish language, the teaching methods have altered.

“On the courses of Kielipalvelut both spoken and written Finnish are taught right from the start,” says Seija Korhonen, the manager at Kielipalvelut (Language Services) at the University of Helsinki.

“The key to being able to distinguish the two language varieties is to practise each in their usual using context: written Finnish by reading and writing, spoken Finnish by listening and talking. Our aim is to provide students with language skills that enable them to be fully part of the Finnish society. Generally, we have received really good feedback. Most of our students are educated and able to speak English, and they actually regard the Finns’ excellent English skills the biggest problem as the conversation so easily slips into English when they are trying to practise their Finnish.”

Despite the lessened need of using Finnish in Finland, the number of people studying Finnish as a foreign language is growing rapidly. On the website Infopankki, there are currently over 100 Finnish courses listed for the season of spring 2014. The growing number of courses reflects the growing numbers of foreigners living in Finland: according to Tilastokeskus (Statistics Finland), in 2013 there were 207 511 of foreigners living in Finland, which is over ten thousand more than only in 2012.

One of them is Jesica Kaboel from Indonesia who attended a Finnish language course at Työvoimatoimisto (Job Centre) after moving to Finland nine years ago. For her, it was a good experience. She found learning a new language with all its varieties as an interesting opportunity to test one’s limits rather than as a deflating struggle.

“I found the course really useful. We were taught spoken and written Finnish in equal measure so I was able to practise my Finnish in different kind of situations right from the beginning. I would also listen to radio and watch TV in Finnish on a daily basis to speed up and intensify my learning. It seemed to work, as after just 18 months I started actively using the language. But it has got to be said that languages generally come quite easily to me. Some others found the learning a lot harder than I did.”

Bag organiser – a saviour for busy women

Published in Helsinki Times 27.3.2014 

There’s a new brand in town. Insjö is the result of Chinese-Finnish cooperation and their first product, bagINbag, has just come out. The purpose of it is to make women’s lives easier by helping them keep their handbags better organised – a simple, yet challenging task.

bagINbag is a so called inside bag. It is to be kept inside your actual handbag, with all the everyday essentials in it. The idea is to make finding a certain item easier and quicker: there are several small pockets helping to keep the contents in order, and its brightly coloured lining makes spotting the desired item easier. With the help of bagINbag, switching bags in seconds without forgetting anything important is also easy.

Chinese May Huang is the founder of Insjö. She also designs the bags, with a part-time designer helping her. The final outcome of a product is, however, a result of cooperation with a testing group who try out the products.

“I would rather call it co-creational co-design.”

Huang became a bag designer almost accidentally. Her educational background is in chemical engineering.

“Before this bag business, I had a very good job in China. I was employed by an international corporation, dealing with consumer gadgets. It was pretty cool to play with high-tech devices, and I was the only girl in the team at R&D, too. But in the end, the high-tech world wasn’t really for me. Six months before deciding to quit my job in China and come back to Finland I got the idea of starting to make these bags. I like the fact that I can help ordinary people make their life a little bit easier with handy solutions.”

The inside bag comes in three different colours: brown, yellow and Nordic blue (pictured).

The inside bag comes in three different colours: brown, yellow and Nordic blue (pictured). (Insjö)

Nordic calm in hectic lives

The idea stemmed from Huang’s own struggle with the combination of disorganised bags and busy lifestyle.

“My job in China involved a lot of travelling between the factories. I would always have to carry with me samples, computer, personal items, and got frustrated with constantly wasting time rummaging in my bag for something. Switching between bags was also a pain in a hurry. I would always need to double-check that I had moved all the important items from the bag I previously used to the one I was taking with me.”

Eventually, Huang gave up her high-flying career at R&D to become a bag designer. She says that the most common reaction from women testing bagINbag has been that they didn’t realise how much they needed something like this before using it.

“I like the practical approach we have at Insjö. I thought: if we can make women happier and their life easier, why not do it.”

The whole process started only nine months ago, and the company was officially founded in December 2013.

“It took about four months to design the products and build a team around me. With luck in finding two co-founders and an in-house designer, Insjö’s bagINbag started its journey. Recently, we secured a seed investment from two star-investors from the IT sector. As a result, the Insjö website store was opened earlier this month.”

Despite being originally founded by a Chinese person, the brand, as well as the products, has been named after Nordic nature.

“Insjö means lake in Swedish. The idea behind the name is us wanting to bring a bit of that beauty and calm of Nordic lakes into people’s hectic everyday lives. To follow the theme, the larger bag from our collection was named Saimaa, and the smaller Inari.”

With the help of an inside bag life will be a tad more organised.

With the help of an inside bag life will be a tad more organised. (Insjö)

Global brand in the making

The bags come in two different sizes, and in three different colours: brown, yellow and Nordic blue.

“The fabric used in these bags is really good quality. In Finland, people really value that. They don’t want cheap materials that will be worn out after six months.”

If the business really takes off, next step would be expanding to retail business.

“Our focus during the first year is on Finland. Later on, we would like to expand to the rest of the Northern Europe, and further. We would also like to see the collection growing.”

The inspiration for making bagINbag, Huang says, is purely practical.

“I’m not a designer, I’m an engineer. My inspiration comes from the data and information that I gather from our panel. So to me it’s not as much a creative process but a solution to a problem.”

Contrary to the common belief, Huang says, Finnish people like bright colours.

“Marimekko is a good example of that. Finns might generally dress in quite dark colours but I find that they want to add some colour too, to add the fun factor to their style. I guess it reflects the typical Finnish personality: although people might first seem quiet and shy, after a few drinks they open up and reveal that they’ve actually got a really funny side to them, too.”

In their future plans, the sky is the limit.

“Our aim is to make Insjö a global brand. But it all started in Finland and we would be very happy to represent this country all over the world.”