28/06/2019 Webmaster

Speaker interview with Maarit Vehviläinen, City of Tampere and Markku Niemi, Business Tampere

talare2019_gatubelysning5talare2019_gatubelysning4Learn why the City of Tampere took the decision to acquire an IoT platform, with outdoor lighting control as the first use case.

Check our interview with speakers Maarit Vehviläinen, City of Tampere and Markku Niemi, Business Tampere.


Can you describe your roles in Tampere in a few words?

Maarit Vehviläinen, City of Tampere: I started working for the City of Tampere about two years ago, when I was selected as a project manager for the project called STARDUST. STARDUST is part of Smart Tampere. The 5-year project is targeting to energy efficient solutions in the fields of mobility, building and street lighting. Decreasing carbon dioxide levels is also a main theme. Project is funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and Innovation programme. More info about the project can be found online: http://stardustproject.eu.

Markku Niemi, Business Tampere: Markku Niemi has over 20 years of experience from international ICT industry. He has been one of the key persons in WLAN and Wi-Fi standardization, development of the technical specifications and optimization of the WLAN technology for mobile devices. He was part of the team that defined and founded the Wi-Fi Alliance and acted as a secretary for the ETSI BRAN standardization forum for several years. He has long experience in leading international multi-party telecommunications R&D projects. Currently Markku forks for Business Tampere as Senior Business advisor and  he focuses on capitalizing on the opportunities that digitalization, AI, IoT and wireless technologies offer for the enterprises, cities and citizens in the Tampere region. Markku also works actively for the 6Aika CityIoT project.

What does Smart city mean to Tampere?

The City of Tampere wants to be a forerunner in smart and sustainable city development. For us a smart city is an innovative city that uses information and communication technologies (ICTs) and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness. A smart city ensures that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, environmental, as well as cultural aspects.

Do you have a smart city strategy or plan in place?

Yes, we do. Smart Tampere is the strategic development programme of the City of Tampere for years 2017–2021. The programme is building a sustainable and smart Tampere region in which housing, living and mobility are carbon neutral and in which services are user-oriented and work digitally and flexibly. We also boost Tampere as an internationally recognised hub of expertise, an attractive place for talent, students, companies and new business initiatives.

Smart Tampere programme consists of three parts: 1) Digitalization programme that develops digital services for the citizens. Target is that major part of the city services are digitally available by 2025, 2) Ecosystem programme that concentrates on platforms and ecosystems and targets to connect city needs to private sector technologies and competencies 3) Sustainable Tampere 2030 that helps city to reach target to become carbon neutral Tampere by 2030.

How will you measure or evaluate its results?

We have indicators in many levels. For example, Sustainable Tampere is following over 20 indicators related to energy efficiency, mobility, planning and living. This area is constantly evolving as we get or start to collect more and more data that are useful for evaluation. Smart Tampere has also used external evaluations.

Which are the main challenges Tampere faces in the transition to a smarter city?

We have quite high unemployment rate that the city tries to tackle. What comes to environmental issues, traffic is causing problems because many citizens choose to drive their own car rather than taking the bus or driving their bike. Downtown Tampere is located between two big lakes, which makes travelling around the City especially challenging. The new tram will improve the situation when it starts to operate in 2021.

Challenging is also the change management inside the city. Technology itself does not make you smart; also, attitudes and ways of working need to change also. We need to move from the “This can be seen only by”- mindset towards “Who this could be shared with”-mindset. The hoarding of data and knowledge is not power.

The City of Tampere is a pioneer when acquiring an IoT platform, with outdoor lighting control as the first use case. How come the city took this brave decision?

This was a good phase as street lighting controlling system was due to change. We have a need for a common platform where city can build a base for pilots and city infrastructure services. Also, the EU projects like 6Aika CityIoT and EU Horizon2020 STARDUST have implemented some IoT and smart street lighting pilots where we gained good results.

City’s role is changing from service provider to enabler, and we see this IoT platform as one of the tools in enabler’s role, when street lighting controlling system is attached as one use case providing the possibility to add also third party sensoring.

You are conducting agile pilots as a way to seek solutions for the city challenges from the market. Could you mention a single pilot so far that you feel proud of and would like to share with us?

It seems really hard to choose just one pilot, as there have been over 20 so far. Our agile experiments are mostly about guidance and city infrastructure, such as street maintenance, since the concept has been used by the 6Aika projects Smart City Guidance and City IoT.

There is one good case where imaging and machine learning were used to create better situation awareness of city’s street network. Cameras attached to cars provide images of the street environment; images are then processed to identify potential problems and humans can be alerted to consider further actions, like fixing a hole in a road sooner than was planned.

We also like to mention our Smart Lighting pilot in Viinikka where we have worked closely with Swedish company Capelon. There we have gathered and will collect useful information to our IoT platform procurement.

What is the role of the citizens? How are you involving them in this effort?

Every pilot, eventually, targets to improve the citizen’s everyday life. When we select the pilots, we make sure that there is a counter party in the city organization and the city employees are citizens too. When planning new services to the citizens, service design process is often used and events are organized where also citizens are invited. But we feel that overall in Smart Tampere citizen engagement is an area that still needs more effort.

What kind of smart city products and services can be foreseen when 5G technology is implemented in Tampere and other cities in Finland?

Autonomous traffic and drone traffic will benefit from 5G that offers very low latency and possibility to do network slicing. With these themes the City of Tampere is already making pilots together with other cities in Finland. We think that 5G will bring also more to virtual reality world with new applications and this brings possibilities also to city planning and taking care of the city infrastructure.