Helsinki Business Hub shares opportunities in smart city tech

By Amy Tan
/ EdgeProp Singapore |
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Over the years, Finland has been developing smart technologies and has been a testbed for social innovation. In 2017, it was ranked top five in Bloomberg’s Innovative Index which scores economies using factors such as research and development spending and the concentration of high-tech public companies.
Now, Finland’s international trade and investment promotion agency Helsinki Business Hub (HBH) for the Finnish capital region is looking to help companies overseas to find solutions and business partners in the Greater Helsinki region.
“Greater Helsinki puts in a lot of effort when it comes to developing itself into a smart city and there are several opportunities for partnerships and business solutions matching,” says Irma Ylikangas, senior business advisor at HBH.

Smart Kalasatama

She cites the example of Smart Kalasatama to illustrate Finland’s smart city capabilities. In the early 2000s, Kalasatama – an old harbour district on the eastern edge of Helsinki – was a barren landscape. Now, it serves as an innovation platform where various smart city solutions can be tested and developed in an urban environment.
Irma Ylikangas - Irma Ylikangas, HBH's senior business advisor (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
Irma Ylikangas, HBH's senior business advisor (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/The Edge Singapore)
“Finland is very focused on smart technologies for example, smart buildings and clean tech In the Kalasatama district, technologies that have been rolled out include advanced smart metering, smart mobility solutions. There is also an emphasis on resource-wise use of energy,” says Ylikangas, who lives in the district.
To be sure, smart metering has already been implemented throughout Finland in all buildings. But in the Kalasatama district, a more advanced version is adopted. This technology calculates energy consumption in greater detail and provides a breakdown of energy usage per device or function of the household.
Perhaps one of the technologies Ylikangas appreciates the most is an automated pipe collecting system that encourages people to recycle. These inlets are located in the courtyard or the corridor of the building. Users can drop their waste into the right inlets: mixed, bio, paper and cardboard.
The waste then travels at 70km/h to the right container in a central collection station. Disposal trucks then pick up the full containers and transport the waste for further handling. HBH estimates that the piping system decreases garbage truck traffic by 80-90%. “The housing area becomes more pleasant and the noise and smell are reduced,” she notes.
Automated pipe collecting system - Kalasatama's automated pipe collecting system encourages recycling (Photos: City of Helsinki)
Kalasatama's automated pipe collecting system encourages recycling (Photos: City of Helsinki)
The way she tells it, the success of the district stems from the close co-operation of residents, companies, city officials and other stakeholders. According to her, all of them work towards the vision of making the Kalasatama district so “resource-wise that residents will gain one hour of extra free time from these efficiencies”.
Apart from smart building and cleantech solutions, the district is also a testbed for bio-materials and autonomous solutions. “There’s an autonomous bus going around Kalasatama and you see people, even senior citizens, being excited and testing it out,” Ylikanga adds.
When it comes to usability of technology, she concedes that it takes a bit of time for some people to try it out. She states: “Finnish people are practical. If the technology eases your life, then you start using it. And if a technology does not exist, it will be invented.”
At the same time, projects piloted in the district focuses on service design and encourages resident participation. Finland is also at the forefront when it comes to utilisation of public data.
The city provides real-time access to data that is typically limited to internal decision-makers. Coupled with citizen engagement, Ylikangas reckons that projects piloted are able to adapt to user needs much faster.
A result of this engagement is Helsinki’s concept of a unified infrastructure for residents including services, logistics, transport and parking. This reduces the construction cost of buildings and public spaces.

Collaboration with Singapore businesses

Ylinkangas sees opportunities for Finland, especially the Greater Helsinki region to share some of these technologies and learnings with businesses and institutions in Singapore. In addition to smart cities, which include the built environment, smart mobility and smart energy, HBH also focuses on business matching solutions for ICT and healthtech.
Kalasatama - A result of citizen engagement is Helsinki's concept of a unified infrastructure for residents including services, logistics, transport and parking
A result of citizen engagement is Helsinki's concept of a unified infrastructure for residents including services, logistics, transport and parking
In mid-November, HBH showcased some of the latest smart solutions for construction and built environment at the Singapore Week of Innovation & Technology (SWITCH).
The visit is part of a long-term cooperation between HBH, KIRAHub (a Finnish association aimed to boost sustainable digitalisation of the built environment) and Enterprise Singapore affiliate Intellectual Property Intermediary (IPI).
HBH and IPI have been working closely together in organising technology matching events where innovative Finnish start-ups in the building and construction space pitch and seek partners from Singapore.
The aim is to strengthen the business relationship between the two countries and to spark new joint business opportunities and innovation projects in the built environment sector.
During the showcase, Smartwatcher – a Finnish company specialising in monitoring the cleanliness and safety of indoor air – signed a strategic partnership agreement with Orison QEHS LLP, a quality management consultancy and environmental impact assessment service provider in Singapore.
At the same time, the delegation from Finland also attended seminars hosted by HDB, Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Singapore Management University and Singapore Airlines’ digital innovation lab KrisLab.
“We have been maintaining good collaboration with our Singapore partners and we want to continue the discussion because both Finland and Singapore are known for their technological know-how, have many high-tech companies and we can arrive at a win-win solution exploring the opportunities together,” she says.
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