The Helsinki city bikes, the Varaamo space booking service, the Respa space booking API and the Whim mobility service app are examples of services utilizing digitalization that make urban living easier and more fun.

The first Helsinki Smart City Awards were handed out in September 2016 by the City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki. The four award-winning innovations were:

– The Helsinki City Bikes
Varaamo: a pilot service for booking the city’s public spaces for various uses
– Respa: Varaamo’s application programme interface (API) Respa
Whim: a Mobility as a Service app allowing users to use public transport services, taxis and rental cars in the Helsinki metropolitan area for a fixed monthly charge

“The all awarded services utilize digitalization in ways that ease the everyday lives of Helsinki residents. The tangible vision of Smart Helsinki is to give residents one extra hour per day, and the awarded acts are good examples of services that can make the vision come true,” says the chairman of the jury, Managing Director Mika Malin of Forum Virium Helsinki.

When the Helsinki City Bikes appeared in the city in May 2016, they immediately became a great success. The users can pay to use the bike for a day, a week or the full season. There were 50 docking stations in the 2016 season. Helsinki residents embraced the system in large numbers: one bike was used six times a day on average. In 2017, the system will expand into a network of 150 stations and 1,500 bikes.

The data on bike availability is published as open data that can be used by anybody. Only a week after the bike-share programme was launched, three mobile services had been published by outside developers and were in use, allowing users to locate the nearest available bike.

“The Helsinki City Bikes are an excellent example of a smart city service implemented through cooperation by the City of Helsinki and a number of private actors in a manner that represents high quality, perseverance and a powerful vision, despite many twists and turns in the project,” Malin says.

Varaamo, which was launched into pilot use in December 2015, is a web service for booking rooms, work spaces and equipment from Helsinki City Library, the City of Helsinki Youth Department and the City of Helsinki Department of Early Education and Care. The user interface of the system was built by City Library in cooperation with the Youth Department and Department of Early Education and Care, and the underlying system was built by the city’s in-house Open Software Development team: the team developed the Respa space booking API for Varaamo. Varaamo enhances the use of all public city spaces and facilitates the booking of those spaces.

The development of Varaamo originated from a real customer need, and City Library was not alone with the problem.

“City Library often had to announce to customers looking for meeting rooms that there were none available, while similar rooms in the adjacent day care centre were unused. It can’t be right to expect residents to know what city department to contact for available space,” says data administration manager Jussi Vehviläinen of Helsinki City Library, who put the project in motion.

The booking system implemented with the open API serves not only Helsinki but other cities, too.

“Espoo’s new Iso Omena Service Centre is included in our system, and Oulu City Library is about to introduce the system in the near future,” Vehviläinen says.

The Whim mobile app finds for its users the best transport solutions to reach their desired destinations and purchases the required tickets. The users of the service can choose their modes of transport from public transport services, taxis and rental cars. The service was launched in 2016. The pilot users of the service can subscribe to a comprehensive monthly package that provides all their daily journeys, or they can try out Whim with a single ticket.

“Many people have heard about the Mobility as a Service concept, MaaS for short, but this is one of the first applications of the concept. We wanted to award this bold move and fine new solution. Whim gives Helsinki region residents an opportunity to test the new solution as the first users in the world,” says jury member Veera Mustonen of Forum Virium Helsinki.

Awards for the Smart City Acts were conferred by the City of Helsinki and its Smart City innovation unit Forum Virium Helsinki, which is a subsidiary of the Helsinki City Group. Forum Virium Helsinki develops new digital services in collaboration with enterprises, the City of Helsinki, other public sector actors and citizens.

Smart City Acts 2016

Helsinki City Bikes

Produced by:
Helsinki City Transport HKL – procurement
Helsinki Region Transport HSL – marketing
Clear Channel Finland – advertising media and partnerships
HOK-Elanto – main partner

Varaamo public space booking service, Respa space booking API

Produced by:
Helsinki City Library
City of Helsinki Department of Early Education and Care
City of Helsinki Youth Department
City of Helsinki Open Software Development team – development of Respa space booking API (site only in Finnish)

WHIM Mobility as a Service app

Produced by:
MaaS Global

Text: Petja Partanen / Tarinatakomo communications agency
Photos: Antti Kokkola

Contact for further information:
Pauliina Smeds, jury member
Communication & Events, Forum Virium Helsinki
Tel: +358 40 7173269