6Aika CityIoT: agile experiments and the building of a smart Tampere

Photo: Opa Latvala

In the CityIoT project, Tampere distinguished itself, especially, in an agile experimentation of urban environment solutions. At the same time, Tampere created a foundation for a holistic utilisation of data.

Agile experiments arrived in Tampere and in the CityloT project from Forum Virium Helsinki. The purpose of agile experiments is to provide companies with a chance to pilot their solutions in a genuine urban environment and receive feedback from real users, which supports the companies’ development work. The actors in Tampere modified the process experimented by Forum Virium’s Smart Kalasatama for local needs and got the wheels rolling.

In Tampere, when starting the agile experiments, good proposals were received from companies and successful results were implemented by them. For example, the City of Tampere experimented with smart remote monitoring of its pumping stations – which are part of the water infrastructure – together with Steamlane Oy. Steamlane, which is an expert company in the fields of data analytics and artificial intelligence, gained momentum from the experiment for the commercialisation of their solution. In addition, the City of Tampere stepped up the development of predictive maintenance.

At a later project phase, Nokeval Oy – expert in the measuring field – tested, together with the City of Tampere, continuous measuring of stormwaters. The outcome was a package of sensors, the productisation of which Nokeval has continued as part of a larger entity in the field of environmental measuring.

– The experiment provided – quickly and easily – with concrete testing conditions, which is always important in product development. We would definitely be interested in these kinds of activities in the future, as well, says Teemu Lehtonen, Sales Manager of Nokeval.

An agile experiment brings together experts from various fields

Companies that are the most successful in agile experiments are such that participate in the experiment with a strong development approach, i.e. in order to receive feedback from the City of Tampere on their idea, prototype, or product. This is the estimate of Markku Niemi from Business Tampere. Niemi has coordinated the agile experiments of the CityIoT project in Tampere.

Correspondingly, it is important that those City of Tampere employees participate in agile experiments who know the City’s needs and operating methods the best. The project participants create a smooth framework for experiments but, in each project, the professional knowledge should be in the hands of the future users of the solution.

– We adopted this principle and, therefore, Tampere Water employees commented on the plan dealing with the remote monitoring experiment of the pumping stations before anything was done. Together, we discussed what was sensible to do and in which scope, Niemi explains.

This principle also bore good fruit in Nokeval’s experiment. The company talked to the City of Tampere’s stormwater team directly, right at the beginning of the project. According to Lehtonen, it was key to the successful experiment.

– As a measuring device manufacturer, it is our job to listen to professionals who concretely deal with measurements. Thereafter, we can find out how the same measurements could be carried out easier with the help of IoT solutions, Lehtonen says.

In a city organisation, agile experiments are a good way of taking time for the development work. The City of Tampere employees are busy with their daily work, and the experiments have turned out to be a practical way of studying opportunities created by digitalisation together with experts, i.e. representatives of companies. ICT solutions are, in any case, making their way to the City of Tampere’s various functions, and with the help of cooperation, they can be utilised better and quicker.

An IoT platform is the foundation for a smart city

Individual smart solutions are not enough for making a city smart, even though there would be hundreds of such solutions. When planning the CityIoT project, it was already known that there must be a shared platform for the different solutions – the platform was developed by Tampere University, and the City of Tampere’s pilots provided data to the platform.

It is easy to utilise data on the platform. With the help of the platform, it is possible to use the existing infrastructure more efficiently. For example, streetlights can be controlled according to the lighting needs, or those looking for a parking space can be guided to vacant parking spaces. Efficiency saves money and can also reduce emissions, which is important for the meeting of Tampere’s climate objectives.

The work carried out in the CityIoT project laid a foundation for the City of Tampere’s procurement of the IoT platform. The idea is that more sensor solutions will be used by the City of Tampere, so it is worthwhile collecting the data in one place, in a uniform format. This way, it is possible to process the data for various uses, such as for the needs of knowledge-based management in traffic planning, maintenance and decision making.

Know-how accrued by Nokia has new uses

The key lesson learned from the CityIoT project is that IoT solutions have a huge potential, the technology is ripe, competitive, and relatively inexpensive. It is possible to execute smart city solutions right away and, in this way, money is saved and smoother operating methods are taken into use. In addition, technology continues to be developed rapidly and the cutting-edge technology often exists at startup companies. It is worthwhile taking this into account in future development projects and public procurement.

– If only very large purchases or experiments are carried out, small startups won’t be able to participate in them. This way, a large number of innovations are missed, Niemi says.

The timing of the CityIoT 6Aika project was good for the know-how existing in the Tampere region. Many of the pilots were carried out together with local companies, of which roughly one third were startups that had been founded after the structural change of the Nokia company employing the skills released from the company. In many of the agile experiments of the CityIoT project, the top expertise accumulated during Nokia’s heyday was refined for new uses, which is beneficial to the vitality of businesses, the City of Tampere and the Tampere region.

The Future Operator Independent Data Integration Platform (CityIoT) project lasted from 1 September 2017 to 31 May 2020. The main implementer was the University of Oulu. Project Manager Mika Heikkilä from Urban Environment and Infrastructure Services of the City of Tampere oversaw Tampere’s part of the project. The City of Tampere subcontracted the project’s business collaboration to the Business Tampere.

Markku Niemi is the senior business advisor at Business Tampere. He attended to the business collaboration and agile experiments in the CityIoT project.

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