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In the last 12 months Vivent has made some remarkable breakthroughs in decoding plant biosignals thanks to our collaboration, through an Innosuisse project, with scientists and engineers from HEIG-VD, the University of Engineering and Management of the Canton of Vaud in Yverdon-les-Bains.

Preliminary work by research engineer and lecturer Fabien Dutoit has been instrumental in this success and we recently chatted with him about his work and about fostering innovation in Swiss businesses.

Following Bachelor and Masters degrees in Communication Systems at EPFL, Fabien joined HEIG-VD as a research engineer. He was keen to work on practical applications of state of the art theory and he has had plenty of opportunity in his 8 years at HEIG-VD, where he is a member of the Institute for Information and Communication Technologies. Fabien works closely with Prof Dr Laura Elena Raileanu, Head of the Transversal Health, Engineering and Economics group on a range of communications and data science projects.

Fabien lectures in Mobile Systems and shares his passion, with HEIG-VD’s students, for keeping up to date with the fast-moving technology that makes mobiles devices, like smart phones, so important in our day to day lives. During his course, he covers all aspects of mobility from wireless connectivity and infrastructure to Apps development, connected health and his real interest in network architecture and system protocols. He’s delighted to point out that today in “3 clicks” you can accomplish something that would have taken more than half a day a few years ago.

 

Data science is another key area where Fabien applies leading edge knowledge to real-world issues. For Vivent he completed preliminary studies on how plant biosignals could be analysed using machine learning so that the plant stressors can be identified early enough to give growers a chance to eradicate diseases sustainably and maintain crop yields. Fabien’s early results were very compelling and encouraged Vivent to invest further effort in machine learning and other sophisticated data analysis techniques.

Whilst Vivent has always been clear on the importance of really “knowing” our plant signal data, Fabien has wisely counselled us to ensure that the data we are using to generate machine learning algorithms is really clean. He tells his students (and us) that we should be spending 80% of the time cleaning and 20% of the time working with our data. It’s tough to listen because analyzing and classifying is much more interesting than cleaning but we take his advice seriously.

Fabien says he really enjoys working with Vivent on our highly innovative approach to understanding plants’ responses to their environment through signal analysis and to seeing biosensors applied in commercial and research settings with some of Vivent’s other collaborators. It’s been fascinating for him to see plants growing in sophisticated greenhouses and to realise how active they are in responding to their environments.

Creating bridges between businesses and academics is very rewarding for Fabien and he loves the fact that HEIG-VD, as an applied sciences university in Switzerland, is able to work on such a wide range of projects with SMEs and start-ups. Government support and great cost control means HEIG-VD collaborates with more than 250 businesses each year. The variety of projects and the demands for quick results ensure Fabien is always learning.

Fabien and his collaborators at HEIG-VD will be sharing some insights from working with Vivent at the 31st Conference of the International Biometric Society of the Austro-Swiss Region that will take place in Lausanne from the 9th till the 12th of September 2019. We hope you can join us.

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