Data predicts residents’ needs, increases productivity and makes cities green and attractive.
Helsinki aims to be the best in the world when it comes to utilising urban data. At Forum Virium Helsinki’s Open Forum event, experts explained how data is already improving the lives of the city’s residents.
1) Data predicts the residents’ needs and prevents problems
With data, services can be provided to residents in advance and in person. For example, this year Helsinki used text messages to offer pre-primary education spots to parents of six-year-olds. The message was sent to 5,600 families, and 90% accepted the offered place. In the past, residents had to make their own applications, but now places were instead offered and a confirmation was sent within one minute.
Helsinki has also developed a data-based health benefit analysis. Studies have shown that ten per cent of the population cause 80 per cent of the social welfare and health care costs. Therefore, it makes sense to identify these individuals and provide them with sufficient preventative care. Data can be used to identify those at highest risk. For example, a person suffering from high blood pressure can be invited to try a new medication or join the City’s exercise groups. However, the residents’ permission and trust are always required when using personal data.
2) Using data will become easier and part of expert work
The best person to determine whether data is useful is often an expert of a specific field rather than an IT specialist. The City of Helsinki has hundreds of registers and databases, and experts must be allowed to have an easy and direct access to this data, e.g. environmental experts to environmental data. To achieve this, cities must assess the tools they have available and the type of skills that experts must have in order to become owners of data.
3) A digital twin helps a city with planning and maintenance
Helsinki’s digital twin is one of the best in the world. The twin is Helsinki in a virtual form, and it can be used to simulate urban development before concrete action is taken. The twin will also allow users to measure things in great detail. For example, Helsinki’s Culture and Leisure Division and Forum Virium are testing data collection from a field management tractor equipped with IoT sensors. This data can be used to see, among other things, how much diesel is used while idling or working. In the future, the driver’s log and environmental reports connected to the vehicle’s use can perhaps be created automatically in a specific visual form chosen by an expert. In addition to this, new districts are trying out data more extensively as part of the Smart City project.
4) Data increases productivity
Digitalisation helps us do more for less. Services become automated and are not dependent on time or place. Digital services are being increasingly prioritised. Helsinki aims to have the most useable data in the world by 2025. Data makes platform economy possible, and Helsinki wants to be a digital platform on which businesses can provide their services to the residents, similarly to how a marketplace is a platform for vendors and customers. As a result, the City no longer needs to do everything itself. Instead, it is constantly making its data available to businesses – something that has been tested extensively in Helsinki’s most famous smart district, Kalasatama.
5) Data makes cities green and attractive
Data and a digital twin can be used when designing urban green areas, stormwater run-off areas and green roofs. The B.Green project of Forum Virium Helsinki and the City of Helsinki’s Urban Environment Division has been cataloguing Helsinki’s flora and adding trees and bushes to the digital twin. In addition to that, a mobile application has been tested with businesses to help them plant virtual trees in their surroundings and see what they would look like when fully grown. Once the flora has been catalogued and digitalised, urban development can be steered in a green and climate-friendly direction.
Watch a video recording of the Open Forum:
Photo: City of Helsinki / Jussi Hellsten