The test lab of a smart city

Artikkelikuva: The test lab of a smart city
Helsinki City Council decided to make the Kalasatama district a model for smart city development. Kalasatama shows what the future of a witty city looks like. 
Veera Mustonen, heading Smart Kalasatama programme, is looking out to the building site through the panoramic windows of Restaurant Vanha Kalasatama. The old dockworkers’ canteen on the top floor has a splendid view over the new city district. So far a few city blocks have been completed, with homes for a couple of thousand people. In just a few years the view will be very different: a bridge connecting the district to downtown Helsinki, 33-floor tower blocks and the population of a small Finnish town.
The new Kalasatama is a Finnish example of a Smart City, an urban environment where both people and the environment thrive. New technology and data are helping to create new sustainable services for the citizens. In the city’s strategy programme Kalasatama has been named the model district for smart city development in Helsinki.
“Now we need to put this theory into practice,” Mustonen says.
This is exactly the goal that Forum Virium Helsinki, the workhorse of the project, has set to achieve together with residents, companies and municipal leadership.
“Besides intelligent infrastructure we need the creativity of residents and companies. We organize events, and challenges to invite different stakeholders and citizens to use Kalasatama to develop their own innovations.”
The City drives innovation
At the Smart Kalasatama seminar the development agents of different city departments together with enterprises are visioning new solutions to be tested in Kalasatama. Architect Salla Hoppu, from the City Planning Department, is presenting the thoughts of the group focused on residents’ energy use. The group has envisioned how a fictive resident, 41-year-old Nina, could live as energy efficiently as possible in Kalasatama.
“Her roof, walls and windows produce solar energy. She will the energy to take her children to day care on an electric cargo bike,” Hoppu envisions.
Similar workshops are held with current and future residents. For example the new social services and health care centre, which will be built next to the Kalasatama metro station, is planned together with its future users.
“Gaining insights of the customers is a good way to get ahead in planning. We are mapping residents’ needs in focus group interviews,” Veera Mustonen says.
When the goals have been set, it’s time to experiment. The Smart Kalasatama programme is focusing on creating intelligent city services. Smart residents are coming up with innovative services, which make clever use of open data sources and the possibilities of new technology.
“The area is being developed through experimentation,” Mustonen explains.
Licence to test
Yesterday’s docklands area and today’s building site is providing an ideal setting for many temporary ventures. “You can really test out everything here, the city is very flexible,” Mustonen promises.
One of the experiments was the smart containers put together by PiggyBaggy, a start-up for crowdsourced logistics.
They worked together with SRV, the City library, Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre, Forum Virium Helsinki and the residents’ local organic food co-op to build a temporary local service center.
“The Kalasatama residents were very active in using the 24/7 self-service library and gave very positive and valuable feedback of how to continue the experiment,“ managing Director Harri Paloheimo from PiggyBaggy says.
The biggest surprise for Paloheimo was the speedy decision- making process of the City. Though often criticized for their slow response, city officials gave the land leasing decision in just two weeks. The pilot use of the container-shaped delivery point started as soon as power lines were up.
“PiggyBaggy is a great example of a new type of city service, which reduces traffic, makes use of new technology and involves residents in development in order to discover the genuine needs for the service,” Veera Mustonen marvels.
Successful business is also permitted in the Kalasatama experiments. “It’s absolutely necessary, in fact. The business cases need to have potential to flourish beyond the initial experiment.”
This is also a prerequisite set by TEKES, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, which chose Kalasatama as the first pilot district for its Witty City Programme. Business tested in Kalasatama has to be viable for other cities, too. Testing new ways of working is easy when building a new district. For example the new online service for Kalasatama residents, (“Fishnet”) has a good chance for taking off. Every household is linked to it. Services like apartment maintenance history, a fault reporting channel and an online flea market are handy for all residents.
“Launching such a service in an old district would be difficult. Here we have a chance to make it a new service to every resident.”
The city is also using Kalasatama as a test district. Helen, a local energy company, is testing a smart grid and smart metering in the area, while the future comprehensive school of Kalasatama is experimenting with new pedagogical models supported by learning technologies. Instead of traditional classrooms the school will have two large spaces, which can be flexibly divided for different kinds of teaching scenarios.
The Finnish version of a smart city is already attracting attention. Mustonen has just said goodbye to a busload of foreign guests after their tour of the Smart Kalasatama.
“We have seen a passionate response to the new district. Companies, officials and future residents are bursting with ideas about how to develop the city. I hope we can translate all this enthusiasm into concrete actions to develop a better city.”
Veera Mustonen, Head of Smart Kalasatama


Text: Petja Partanen, Tarinatakomo
Photos: Jarmo Roiko-Jokela, Helsingin kaupungin aineistopankki; Pekka Salmi

The article is published as part of the Forum Virium Helsinki´s Building an Open City -release. Read more >>


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