In a pilot project coordinated by the innovation company Forum Virium, a robot moving about independently receives gifts for the Joulupuu holiday charity in Kansalaistori Square. At the same time, the robot is also collecting data on the challenges and opportunities of autonomous deliveries.
For the next few weeks, a slightly different elf will be bustling about in the centre of Helsinki. An autonomously moving delivery robot will carry packages from the distribution point at Maria Hospital to nearby residents.
However, on two days, the robot is on a very special mission.
“The delivery robot is helping Santa by receiving gifts for the charity Joulupuu in Kansalaistori Square. Helsinki residents can bring their gifts straight to the robot who will deliver them onwards,” says Joulupuu Project Manager Henri Haapsamo from JCI Central Park Helsinki.
Joulupuu is a charity campaign to collect gifts for children who receive child welfare services or special support and who have limited opportunities to celebrate the holidays. There are over 10,000 such children living in Helsinki Metropolitan Area alone. Anyone can participate in the gift collection.
The robot will receive gifts for the children by the Kansalaistori-side main entrance of Central Library Oodi on Thursday 10 December and Friday 11 December from 11:00 to 17:00.
You can have the robot deliver gifts weighing under 5 kilograms and sized 30 cm x 30 cm, at the maximum. A gift card is an excellent option, for example.
The robot will deliver the gifts for the charity campaign to Helsinki social services, who will in turn deliver the gifts to the families. The robot allows the gifts to be collected safely outdoors, in keeping with the pandemic instructions. Lehtipiste is also involved in the collection: the company is donating a readable product to the collection for each gift donated.
Could robots solve last-mile delivery challenges?
The robot pilot project for the duration of December is coordinated by the City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium.
“Testing the delivery robot in a real urban environment provides us with valuable information on the problems and opportunities of autonomous deliveries. We’re especially interested in how autonomously moving logistics robots can solve last-mile delivery challenges,” says Project Manager Pete Pättiniemi from Forum Virium and states that the project’s final goal is developing better and more environmentally sustainable services for residents.
The delivery robot is similar to the parcel lockers in public spaces. The robot is loaded at the local distribution point as the packages are placed in its locker. After loading, the robot moves to the customer. The customer opens the correct locker on the robot by entering a PIN they have received earlier and takes out their package.
The robot pilot is a part of the Last Mile Autonomous Delivery innovation project funded by EIT Digital. This project aims to develop and bring to market a software platform for controlling and optimising autonomously moving delivery robots. The practical operations are handled by LMAD.
“This test period where the robot delivers real packages from DB Schenker to real customers already proves that delivery robots are a flexible and environmentally-friendly alternative for package deliveries in densely built urban environments, such as Helsinki city centre,” says Gergely Horváth from LMAD.