Year of innovation 2023: piloting drones and social innovations

Artikkelikuva: Year of innovation 2023: piloting drones and social innovations

In 2023, Forum Virium Helsinki and its partners piloted both social and technological innovations in almost ten city districts. We also shared our learnings with other European cities.

In 2023, Forum Virium Helsinki brought both social and technological innovations to Helsinki for experimentation. NASA technology, worksite robots, sharing services and other smart solutions contributed to the development of a more functional city. Pilots helped businesses develop their operations, residents get a glimpse of the future and Helsinki’s operators find directions in which the city should be developed. Together with our partners, we developed a smoother everyday life in more diverse areas than before.

Here are ten success stories for 2023.

1. Smart city solutions for districts in need of regeneration

The three-year Helsinki Innovation Districts project brought innovation activities and smart everyday solutions to Pasila, Malmi, Malminkartano and Mellunkylä. It turned these areas into living labs where residents are involved in the development work.

A key element of the Helsinki Innovation Districts project was that, this time, the urban living labs were existing areas in need of regeneration, rather than new, emerging neighbourhoods. The city of the future is being built for an ever-increasing number of residents, renewing the old urban infrastructure, so it is important that innovation work extends beyond new neighbourhoods. 

Residents were able to influence the themes of the pilots, with many of the pilots being related to community and social solutions. In total, the project brought more than 20 pilots to the urban space, providing businesses with practical experiences and feedback on their implementation and feasibility, submitted by Helsinki residents and the City’s experts alike. Some of the solutions, such as the smart lighting in Malmi (page in Finnish) and the green oases in Malminkartano, were continued. 

Five projects continued their work in the Helsinki Innovation Districts innovation labs. One of them was Circular Green Blocks, which ended in August and focused on the sharing economy in housing companies. 

Learn about smart urban development through methods and examples!

2. Drones carried tissue samples and emergency medical supplies

Urban air mobility is a growing sector. Drones and other craft can be used for a wide range of activities in the city, and in 2023 they were tested in emergency medical services. In Stavanger, Norway, a drone delivered a cardiac pacemaker to a remote location, while in Kassel, Germany, a drone delivered a tissue sample from an operating room to a laboratory, and in Helsinki an EpiPen was flown from the mainland to an island (see a video of the flights). All flights were part of the EU-funded AiRMOUR project. In all of these test flight situations, the drone could have saved a life.

“It is our responsibility to support cities in general and Helsinki in particular in introducing urban air mobility in the most sustainable and responsible way possible. We are therefore very pleased that the results and lessons learned from the project have been so warmly received in the city,” says Project Manager Renske Martijnse-Hartikka.

Explore the possibilities of urban air mobility!


3. Laakso Hospital received space technology

Laakso Hospital trialled the state-of-the-art care robot Välkky, which utilises NASA space technology. The aim was to test what the remote-controlled robot can be used for in a hospital environment and how it can support the work of nurses. Välkky has the advantage that it is controlled by healthcare professionals, so it is safe for patients even during the trial period. The robot was commended by nurses and patients alike. 

The trial started in spring 2023 and was extended until the end of 2023. The Välkky trial in the summer was carried out as part of the FinEst Twins project. Additional funding for the continuation of the trial was secured from the City of Helsinki Economic Development Department and digital funding managed by Forum Virium Helsinki. Top robotics experts are currently setting up a new project around Välkky. Laakso Hospital is also included in the new plans. 

In addition to Välkky, we were also busy testing other technologies designed for health and social services, such as a weighing toilet seat, remote rehabilitation via television (page in Finnish) and a map application to help employees during orientations (page in Finnish). Together with the City of Helsinki’s health and social services, we prepared a pilot in which sensors help predict the risk of falls and the deterioration of the physical fitness of people in home care.

4. A robot delivered Christmas parcels

In December, the last mile of deliveries in logistics was streamlined with an autonomous robot that can accurately deliver parcels to your doorstep within an hour.

You could get your order home-delivered by the endearing HeRo robot until the end of the year in the area of Ruoholahti or North Jätkäsaari. HeRo (Helsinki Robot) is an electric, talking and autonomously moving delivery robot developed by LMAD. We first tested the robot in May and June for transporting tools to worksites. The robot was well-received at the worksites, and international innovation operators in the smart development sector came to see it all the way from Asia. 

5. Digital services for long-term unemployed people

Helsinki carried out a pilot project on a digital learning environment that would increase the inclusion and wellbeing of long-term unemployed people. Today’s world requires digital skills, so if you cannot navigate the digital world, you are likely to be left out. The objective of the DOT – Developing Digital Skills as Part of Work Activities project was to strengthen the digital skills of the clients and staff of rehabilitative work activities in Helsinki. 

In the year-long pilot project, rehabilitees participated in remote work activity days that supported digital skills, working life skills and social inclusion. The experience gained from the pilot was a success and informed the actual procurement. Based on the trial runs, the City of Helsinki procured an ongoing service providing an easy-to-use digital learning environment that supports knowledge management. The new learning environment will be further developed as part of the From Work Activities to Employment project. In the future, the platform can be used for activities such as completing parts of qualifications to promote employment and study opportunities.

Read more about the topic on the City of Helsinki website.

6. Hakaniemi Market Hall tried out a stall with a changing selection

In September, a new type of stall, the Local Food Stall, opened in Hakaniemi Market Hall, offering a different selection every couple of weeks. Local food producers and sellers got the chance to see how their products sell and gain experience in market hall entrepreneurship. Hakaniemi Market Hall, for its part, gained insight into the effectiveness of a short-term sales venue. The Local Food Stall received praise from both the entrepreneurs and customers.

The pilot was part of the Urban&Local project, which develops innovative solutions, practices, products and services in the local food and restaurant sector, and creates a framework for cooperation and sustainable business in the sector. The Local Food Stall was open until the end of 2023.

7. Tourism companies encouraged to use data

In 2023, small and medium-sized tourism companies received guidance on the use of data in three pilots (page in Finnish). Operators in the industry got the opportunity to test new services as part of their everyday activities. An earlier study had shown that tourism companies still make relatively little use of data to support their business, so the encouragement was welcome.

The pilots included the use of AI to go through textual customer reviews; a cloud service to collect, track and utilise feedback; and a new user interface to determine product emissions. The test periods stimulated the creation of new services and ideas for development.

The pilots were part of the Sustainable Growth for Tourism: Southern Finland project, which supported the recovery and competitiveness of tourism industry SMEs by developing new tourism products for the international market. At the same time, the project developed the cyber security, sustainability and knowledge management know-how of companies. 

Have a look at the data guide for companies! (in Finnish) 

8. World’s first on-demand boat received recognition

Callboats is the world’s first autonomous on-demand boat solution provided by a commercial operator. The boats are electric and available on demand via a mobile app, similarly to ride-hailing services such as Uber and Bolt.

The solution saves on salary costs, as the autonomy allows one captain to steer up to five boats. At the same time, it keeps ticket prices affordable.

Helsinki aims to promote the accessibility of its archipelago and reduce emissions from water transport as a part of the City’s maritime strategy, and Forum Virium Helsinki has been involved in the practical piloting of on-demand boats since 2020. 

TIME magazine selected Callboats for its Best Inventions of 2023 list

9. AI helps reduce electricity bills

Housing companies are undergoing a green transition, and to meet their carbon neutrality targets, they should make housing more energy efficient. To this end, during 2020–2023, we tested how machine learning could improve energy efficiency, reduce consumption and anticipate renovations in residential buildings. The results of the pilots were promising, so the development work will continue. 

The tools tested were designed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The pilots were part of the BEYOND project funded by the European Union.

10. Radio wave technology harnessed to prevent falls among older people

In Finland, 80% of accidents among people aged 65 and over are the result of falling from a standing position or from a low height. The City of Helsinki is actively seeking new technologies to tackle this challenge and improve the safety of home care clients. 

The radio wave technology was tested in collaboration with Palvelukeskus Helsinki in the FinEst project in spring 2023 and in the CommuniCity project in autumn 2023. The technology was able to identify different types of falls, from fast to slow, and detect situations such as a client staying in the bathroom longer than usual. The incidents detected generated alerts in Palvelukeskus Helsinki’s round-the-clock security telephone service, which contacted the client and provided assistance when necessary.

Learning from other videos and publications publishen in 2023

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