Finnish start-ups have an exceptional competitive advantage – “This is something that should be announced more loudly,” says Harri Koskimäki from Candour Oy


Photo: Candour Candour Oy, which is developing a method of facial recognition, has taken a giant leap towards internationalisation by gaining access to a supercomputer. With Business Finland’s financial support, […]

Photo: Candour

Candour Oy, which is developing a method of facial recognition, has taken a giant leap towards internationalisation by gaining access to a supercomputer. With Business Finland’s financial support, even a start-up does not have to dig too deep.

For start-ups, speed is of the essence. Oulu-based Candour Oy got a boost for its development work with high-performance computing. Initially, with Business Finland’s support, the company was able to go to CSC to use the national supercomputers Puhti and Mahti and finally the most powerful supercomputer in Europe, LUMI. In 2023, the company made great strides forward.

Its main product is a facial recognition-based identification method, which is being developed using machine learning. 

“We have already run almost 100 iterations on the supercomputer. There have been improvements in model accuracy of tens of percent,” says Harri Koskimäki, Candour’s Chief Operating Officer.

This means significantly better facial recognition and fewer errors. The more accurate the technology, the safer but also easier it is to use.

“Time-to-market has been significantly reduced,” says Koskimäki.

With the help of supercomputer super-leaps, Candour Oy is planning to go international and is currently looking for customers abroad.

“The results are promising. We have been able to accelerate development and now have a very high level of model capability and maturity. Going international is no longer just a question of a model’s capabilities.”

Identification must be quick and easy, but still reliable

Candour Oy uses technology that has been undergoing research at the University of Oulu for three decades. But now there is real momentum for the company as mobile devices and NFC powered mobile payments have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Today almost every smartphone has a chip reader, which is also used by the Candour app to verify the authenticity of passports used for identification.

Candour authenticates using a standard smartphone. The user takes a picture of their passport, reads the passport chip with their mobile phone and then takes a selfie picture of themselves. Candour’s technology compares the selfie image sample with the passport photo.

Candour therefore balances speed and reliability. Above all, the application must be nice to use, which means that identification must be sufficiently quick and easy. Few people today have the time to take numerous selfies or videos for an app that ends up shouting ‘error!’ at them. But when it comes to identifying a person, mistakes should not happen. Candour has managed to strike a good balance between easy yet secure identification.

A lottery win for start-ups

The three-year-old company’s customers include 16 Finnish higher education institutions. The identity of thousands of foreign students at these institutions is verified using the Candour mobile app. However, the revenue stream of a young company is small, so external funding is needed for development.

“It’s lousy if a large part of a small company’s workload is just spent chasing different kinds of funding. There’s then less time for doing real work,” says Koskimäki.

That’s why it’s a real lottery win that Candour is a Finnish company.”

According to Koskimäki, even a small start-up, with the support of Business Finland’s and CSC’s infrastructure, has the opportunity to access high-performance computing resources that would otherwise be unimaginable.

“I think the support model is extremely good and I would argue that companies don’t yet know it well enough. Selfishly, you could say that’s good, but really it’s worth being announced more loudly about this,” says Koskimäki.

Business Finland’s computing support is available to Finnish companies aiming to enter international markets, which can be classified as SMEs, and which are applying for Business Finland’s research and development funding, or which are already running a Business Finland-funded product development project, the results of which could be significantly improved with free-of-charge high-performance computing resources. The value of the subsidy can range from €20,000 to €100,000 and is always discussed on a project-by-project basis.

“Computing support complements our product development funding and significantly improves the conditions for companies to develop internationally competitive products and services, especially those based on artificial intelligence,” says Ecosystem Lead Outi Keski-Äijö from Business Finland.

The development of artificial intelligence and the activities of criminals are constantly evolving. Therefore, Candour cannot stay complacent even though Business Finland´s computing support is coming to an end. Their development work continues.

“It’s certain that we’ll need the help of supercomputers in the future,” says Koskimäki.

The cooperation has also been fruitful from CSC’s point of view.

“It has been important for CSC to understand the R&D needs of start-up projects and, in this respect, the Candour project has given us valuable experience for the future,” says Dan Still, Partnerships Manager at CSC.

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