In the future a digital city card may be the key to all Helsinki services. Visits to the swimming pool, bus journeys, library loans and appointments at the health care centre would all be managed with a single card.
 
The test group of about 100 people borrowed books with a travel card in the Kallio district and in Library 10. The experiment was surprisingly popular: places filled quickly and many more people would have liked to take part.
 
“Customers are happy when they don’t need to carry so many cards. For us library staff, too, the benefits clearly outweighed any inconvenience,” specialist librarian Janne Palander from Kallio library says.
 
The travel card is based on chip technology. The unique serial number of the card can be read with any other device that supports the same technology, such as a smartphone. This enables the card to be compatible with libraries’ customer databases or small and larger shops’ loyalty card schemes, for example.
 
“It took no more than a couple of weeks to set up the equipment and databases. We were quick to move from the initial ideas stage into practice,” Kalle Riiheläinen, the Service Administrator of Kallio library describes.
 
Behind the project there’s a vision of a digital city card. In the future it could be possible to ride a tram, borrow books from the library and for example pay for museum and swimming pool visits with a single card.
 
“It is important that we can conduct these experiments on a lighter scale. This means that we’ve been able to test functionalities and practicalities without a major initial investment,” says Development Director Pekka Koponen from Forum Virium Helsinki.
 
The test use of the combination card was later expanded to Suomenlinna library where you could use the travel card to access the library out of hours. Other pilots were conducted in the Tapiola and Sello libraries in Espoo. Tester feedback has been collected during and after the experiment. The users praised the way public services had taken a step toward the digital age and hoped to see more payment functionalities developed in the future. One of the testers is already looking further ahead:
 
“It would be great if the library card, the debit card, the swimming pool card, the social security card, the driving license and all the other cards could be integrated into the mobile phone. That would help get rid of so much unnecessary plastic.”
 
The public transport travel card has worked well in the pilot project,
but tomorrow´s digital city card may work in the mobile phone.
 
Text: Heini Jokinen, Tarinatakomo
Photo: Joel Pekari
 
The article is published as part of the Forum Virium Helsinki´s Building an Open City -release. Read more >>