The past year has seen successes in areas such as robotic vehicles, traffic data, drones and the carbon footprint of restaurants.
In 2021, many projects in which Forum Virium Helsinki is involved met their targets and succeeded in their pilots or garnered praise for their work. Pilots around Helsinki showed residents, businesses and other operators how Helsinki is being developed into the most functional city in the world.
Kalasatama became a well-known district for agile pilots
The Smart Kalasatama project, which ended in 2021, showed how a city can be developed through agile piloting. It built Kalasatama into a model area for smart urban development, where everyday life runs smoothly and solutions support climate goals. The vision for smart urban development was one hour more every day.
It was essential for the success of the project that the cooperation between the different parties worked and that the pilots were carried out in a real urban environment. The project brought together City officials, companies, local residents and researchers. During the project, 25 agile pilots were carried out in the Kalasatama area, whose themes, such as sharing economy and green infrastructure, will continue to be part of Helsinki’s development work.
The best lessons learned will be used in the Helsinki Innovation Districts project, which will take the methods and insights of the Smart Kalasatama project to Pasila and the urban renewal areas of Mellunkylä, Malmi and Malminkartano-Kannelmäki. The Helsinki Innovation Districts project tested movable green structures in 2021, and after the turn of the year, experiments on smart lighting and street space analytics will start in Malmi and Malminkartano.
Kalasatama has hosted thousands of visiting city developers, with the international media also making Kalasatama known around the globe. Most recently, The New York Times lauded Kalasatama in a dedicated article. In 2020, the Smart City Index elevated Helsinki to the position of second best smart city in the world.
The outputs of the project are summarised in the publication Smart Kalasatama – a district for experimentation. The methods are compiled for urban developers on the Tools for Urban Innovators page.
Climate meals were served in more than 50 restaurants
The Climate Meal campaign challenged restaurants to fight climate change. During autumn 2021, more than 50 restaurants piloted the blue-and-white Climate Meal label that tells customers which dishes on the menu have a lower than average carbon footprint. The definition of a climate meal was that the total carbon footprint of all its ingredients could not exceed 1.0 kg CO2e.
The campaign was joined by a variety of restaurants, including places serving the general public, as well as staff lunch cafeterias, such as the Palmia chain. The participating restaurants offered at least one option with the Climate Meal label every day.
After the campaign, the label remained in use by the restaurants. New restaurants can obtain the label by registering on the ilmastoannos.fi website. So restaurants will continue to offer climate meals on their menus.
The Climate Meal campaign was one of the participants in the Mission Zero Foodprint project. The project improved the carbon neutrality of restaurants and other catering operators, and developed the smart solutions and tools required to achieve this. It was funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council.
Flying healthcare evolves through drone experiments
As the city densifies and grows, traffic expands from the roads to the air. In 2021, drones were experimented with several times and for several purposes. Successful experiments were carried out with partners in areas such as emergency medical services and healthcare. In September, a pilot by Everdrone AB, in which a defibrillator was transported at Malmi Airport, attracted a great deal of attention. What was special was that the drone carrying a defibrillator was, for the first time, operated from another country. A little earlier, there had been an experiment to fly pharmacy products from Lauttasaari over the sea to Jätkäsaari in order to improve pharmacy services in Jätkäsaari.
The largest of the drone projects is the international AiRMOUR project, which will test the transport of EMS personnel or a test dummy and medical supplies by drone to a fictional accident scene in 2023. In addition to carrying out testing, the project seeks solutions to challenges such as the restrictions of aviation legislation, cyber security and protection of citizens’ privacy.
The projects will improve services and explore how drones can be used to reduce carbon emissions. At the same time, the City of Helsinki will gain information on how to take increasing drone traffic into account in city planning.
Other drone projects in which Forum Virium Helsinki was involved in 2021 include the Carbon Neutral Drone Service Solutions in Southern Finland project and the Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab project. Read more about the benefits of drones in the publication Dronet vähähiilisyyden edistäjinä.
Robots as package couriers and street sweepers
Helsinki is seen globally as a pioneer of smart traffic. This year and the last, traffic-related experiments have been organised in places such as Pasila, Vuosaari and Jätkäsaari. In particular, Jätkäsaari has acted as an urban laboratory, where experimentation and pilot activities have focused on promoting sustainable, smooth and safe transport.
In 2021, a variety of different robots were experimented with in Jätkäsaari. One of the experiments involved an electric delivery robot delivering DB Schenker packages to the residents of Jätkäsaari. The experiment responded to the growing needs of urban logistics. Last-mile deliveries can be challenging in cities, so the experiment explored whether robotics could help with the situation. The results of the experiment were positive. The robot delivered more than 100 packages with no need for manual intervention in the pick-up situations.
In addition to Forum Virium Helsinki, the participants in the pilot project included the startup company LMAD, which was in charge of operating the delivery robot; GIM Robotics; and DB Schenker, which used the delivery robot as its pick-up point.
Another robot tested was related to the maintenance of the street environment. In April, a street sweeping robot operated in Jätkäsaari, sweeping Baana and Välimerenkatu at night. Its quietness allowed it to work without disturbing the residents. With further development, street sweeping robots could facilitate the electrification of street cleaning and create significant emission reductions. The robot was provided by Trombia Technologies, and the Helsinki City Construction Services (Stara) was involved in the pilot.
In addition to these, the electric Callboats connection boat was tested for the second summer in a row. Last summer, the connection boat operated in Vartiosaari. This summer, a bigger boat operated in Helsinki’s Merisatama marina. It transported people to the islands near Helsinki. The pilot project supported the City of Helsinki’s Maritime Strategy, which aims to improve the archipelago’s accessibility and develop services.
Robot buses transported people in Pasila and Vuosaari
The FABULOS project, which ended this spring, successfully tested three different robot bus solutions in Finland, Norway, Estonia, Greece and the Netherlands. All six experiments were very successful.
The project, funded by the European Union, aimed to gain experience with self-driving robot buses as part of existing public transport. A further objective was to verify the scalability of the use of robot buses by testing the buses in five European cities. In Finland, the robot bus line operated in the vicinity of Pasila station in spring and summer 2020.
The FABULOS project was one of the first to test robot buses in real-life conditions and successfully integrate robot bus lines into urban public transport. Indeed, the virtual final conference in February 2021 was attended by more than 300 people from all over the world. The project’s videos have been viewed almost 9,000 times.
A smaller robot bus success was achieved in the Ride2Rail project, when a robot bus moving autonomously in traffic was tested in Vuosaari during the autumn. More than a thousand testers took part in the pilot. The bus travelled at higher average speeds than in previous experiments, approaching the speed of normal public transport.
The aim of the experiment was to develop robot transport and improve the accessibility of Aurinkolahti. As in the FABULOS project, the Auvetech bus operated by Roboride had a safety driver on board.
Shared data promoted the implementation of the situational picture of traffic
Forum Virium Helsinki has been involved in developing the use and sharing of traffic data through several projects. The aim is that open data will facilitate the work of traffic and urban planners, making Helsinki’s transport solutions more effective.
The aim of the Liikenteen datan haltuunotto (LIDO) project is to bring traffic information and data in Helsinki into active use by traffic and urban planners and promote the implementation of the situational picture of traffic. Over the year, all known data sources on transport and mobility from the City of Helsinki and Forum Virium Helsinki were compiled in the LIDO wiki. The wiki site was used to collect information on the sources of traffic data and the information needs of traffic planners, among other things.
LiiDi2 – Liikkumisen digitaalinen kaksonen palvelujen mahdollistajana, which started in 2021, is a new opening in the development of the urban digital twin. The project will develop the twin and promote the production and sharing of traffic data with businesses. The project is being carried out together with the Helsinki City Construction Services (Stara).
Green Kalasatama app involved residents in environmental design
The Green Kalasatama app supported resident participation in green infrastructure planning as part of the Nordic Healthy Cities project. This augmented reality experiment offered city residents the opportunity to participate in the environmental design of Loviseholminpuisto Park in Kalasatama. City residents were able to see the park design in advance and add green elements, such as trees and shrubs. The app showed how the changes would affect the park.
The aim of the experiment was to provide information on current plans for the area and invite residents to envision the urban green spaces of the future. The experiment was well received by users. The B.Green project will continue to test new and participatory methods of environmental design in 2022.
A new space opened up for smart city development
A new smart city innovation hub, Urban3, opened in Helsinki in 2020. It is located in Maria 01, the largest startup hub in the Nordic countries. The activities were launched on a larger scale in early 2021.
Urban3 brings together and mixes networks of different operators and sectors and creates new openings related to the digitalisation of cities. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Urban3’s high-quality setting was used in particular for remote and hybrid events. During 2021, the space hosted more than 120 events for the networks of the partners using the space. Today, the space also serves as a showroom where companies can showcase their solutions. The first video of the showroom is available on YouTube.
The Urban3 community and space is hosted by KIRAHub, a non-profit ecosystem operator in the real estate and construction sector that promotes digitalisation and renewal in the sector. Forum Virium Helsinki’s smart mobility projects Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab and Mobility Launchpad found a natural home for their activities in Urban3.
Urban3 currently provides a space for several operators promoting the digitalisation of the built environment or the diversified and responsible use of data. These include KIRAHub, Geoforum Finland, MyData Global and Urban Tech Helsinki, to name a few. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the network’s cooperation has got off to a great start, and new joint events and other openings are planned for the coming year.
Image: Jussi Hellsten / Helsinki Partners