A robot courier that allows for automated food logistics between the Kustaankartano food centre and the senior centre is being tested in Helsinki. The purpose of the pilot carried out in co-operation between City of Helsinki Service Centre, City of Helsinki Social Services and Health Care Division and Forum Virium Helsinki is to make it easier to deliver meals to the senior centre’s wards.
In practice, the robot courier Polle, named after the Finnish word for a workhorse, is a service trolley that can deliver meals and dishes and, potentially, mail, cardboard waste and laundry. The robot courier autonomously navigating the service tunnels, lifts and ramps of Kustaankartano service centre can be recognised by a sound that resembles the clopping of hoofs and equine stickers to make it easier to detect. Polle can also detect hazards and potential obstacles in its path.
“In Kustaankartano, for example, it takes a lot of time to deliver meals as the area is so large and the distances between the wards are long. New technologies are expected to help with this situation. In order for the meal deliveries to be successful, it is essential that customers get their meals on schedule and, in the event of malfunctions, an immediate notification is provided so that the deliveries can be made in another manner,” says Katriina Bernoulli, Development Manager of the City of Helsinki Service Centre’s multiservices.
Robots are a new phenomenon in the food service industry
In the robot experiment, carried out as part of the Kustis Goes Digi! project and the Co-created Health and Wellbeing (CoHeWe) 6aika project, close collaboration between different parties throughout the project has been vitally important to ensure that all viewpoints are considered thoroughly. The technology company Dimalog Oy, which specialises in mobile and collaborative robotics, was selected as the partner of the robot experiment, and the service design of Muotohiomo Oy is also used in the pilot.
“The Polle robot is a fine example of the City of Helsinki developing innovations together with companies. Kustaankartano is a test platform where companies can test their products in a real user environment. If the innovations work, the City can save money, time and resources,” says Peeter Lange, Project Manager of Forum Virium Helsinki’s CoHeWe project.
Based on the success of the pilot, robotics can be considered a possibility in other food services of the City of Helsinki Service Centre, especially in treatment services and elsewhere. It is hoped that the experiment will yield new information.
“The utilisation of robotics in the food service industry is relatively new, but it is sure to become more common in the near future. The Polle experiment will give us information on how robots work in making food deliveries and, hopefully, ideas on the potential of robotics troughout the entire industry. This is an interesting learning process for us,” says Bernoulli.
Robots help the social welfare and health care sector
In addition to meal deliveries, robotics is considered to have potential in meeting other needs of the social services and health care sector.
“Experimenting with and utilising robotics has been a goal of different services for a long time. We hope that the results of the experiment can be utilised, in addition to meal deliveries, in meeting other needs of the social services and health care sector,” says Mikael Neuvonen, Project Lead and Director of the City of Helsinki Service Centre’s Development Services Unit.
The potential of robotics and digital services in the social services and health care sector is believed in at the Kustaankartano senior centre, where new experiments are embraced.
“In the context of the Kustis Goes Digi project, we have carried out different digital experiments in Kustaankartano to develop new ways of working and freeing up the resources of our staff to allow them to focus on taking care of our residents and spending time with them. This pilot is part of the project. Digitalisation is the future, and we are eager to see the possibilities it brings, along with robotics, and we want to be involved in this development,” emphasises Tarja Sainio, Head of the Kustaankartano Senior Centre.
During the tests started this week, feedback and observations about the robot courier are being collected to determine what still needs to be done.
Photos and video: Teemu Kytömäki/Dimalog