19 Helsinki Loves
6 Helsinki makes top
six Smart Cities 30 Test lab of a smart city
37 Smart Helsinki shines
AN OPEN CITY
14 Open data
AN OPEN AND SMART
Forum Virium Helsinki is an innovation unit within the
Helsinki City organization. It develops new digital
services in cooperation with companies, other City of
Helsinki units and residents. Our objective is to build
better city services, create new business opportunities
as well as open up new contacts for international
Forum Virium Helsinki, an innovation cluster for open digital services, was
founded in 2006. During the years, the most significant change in our
operations has been the move from the early technology led development
projects to fully-fledged city development. We have a European-wide
collaboration network. The digital solutions developed in our projects can
be utilised in Helsinki, Amsterdam and Barcelona alike. Cities around the
world will benefit from services built together on shared platforms. We are
an innovation unit developing digital city services, with our home base in
EU-funded CitySDK project, now evolved into a new Connected Smart
Cities Network, has enhanced city-to-city collaboration by opening up
and harmonizing APIs in European cities. The Six City Strategy (6Aika),
a co-operation strategy carried out by the six largest cities in Finland, is
a unique opportunity to continue this work and build interoperable city
services. No wonder the strategy has raised a lot of interest abroad.
At Forum Virium Helsinki, we’ve experienced our greatest successes
when building bridges between the public and the private sector. Our
development projects are based on the same principle: we solve public
sector problems, but the solutions are often developed by private
companies and residents. A good example is the award-winning Helsinki
Region Infoshare. The service has driven the opening up of public sector
data in the municipalities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area since 2011.
The results are impressive. Over 1000 data sets created with public funds
have already been given free, open access. Today, dozens of mobile apps
developed by start-ups and enthusiastic citizens are making the most out
of open data. HRI and the opening up of public sector data progressed so
smoothly that Forum Virium Helsinki has already left its temporary role as
an innovation partner and taken a back seat. At the start of 2014, the HRI
service became part of municipalities’ regular operations.
The operating model of Forum Virium Helsinki is based on user-driven
open innovation. Some talk about agile development, while others call it a
culture of experimentation. Regardless of terminology, it means a significant
paradigm shift in public sector operations. The role of Forum Virium
Helsinki is to drive development towards a seamless service experience
for citizens, which in turn allows the city to benefit from offering digital
During the years, we have also improved at what we do. Today we
have a better understanding of how piloting and experiments can be
transferred into being part of everyday life of city residents. To ensure that
development projects continue beyond short-term pilots, our partners
must benefit from the experiments. When all stakeholders are committed
to a project, they are likely to
end up satisfied, even if goals are
not immediately achieved. What
matters most is the shared journey
of learning. You can find examples
of our successful experiments in
Forum Virium Helsinki
We are an innovation
unit developing digital
city services, with our
home base in Helsinki.
FORUM VIRIUM HELSINKI
BUILDING AN OPEN CITY
Publisher Forum Virium Helsinki, communications
Editor-in-chief Pauliina Smeds, Forum Virium Helsinki
Editors Petja Partanen, Tarinatakomo; Heini Jokinen, p. 26-33
Translations Anna Kurkijärvi-Willans, Ink Tank
Design and layout: Valeria Gasik, Sokeri;
Marko Tanninen, Frendo; Lauri Huusko, laurihuusko.fi
Thanks to Kaisa Eskola, Suvi Kukkonen and all interviewees
Enquiries Pauliina Smeds,
Printed by Lönnberg Print & Promo, 2014
Cover image Rodeo
The building site
for a smart city
waste collection system of
Kalasatama reduces lorry traffic
on residential streets, Hannu
with a travel card
Digital city card as the key
to digital services.
the best of open data
In 2014, City of Helsinki awarded
the Pro Urbe Digitali prize to the
Apps4Finland competition for
driving digital innovation.
Open data to citizens
Helsinki Region Infoshare
was awarded a 100 000
euro innovation prize by the
European Commission in 2013.
makes top six
Thanks to agile
is officially one of
the EU’s smartest
to the city of
take over the
28 Citizen hotline to top political decision makers
30 Kalasatama: Helsinki’s Smart City laboratory
33 Innovation unit of the City of Helsinki
34 The anatomy of a successful development project
37 Smart Helsinki shines bright
38 6Aika: the Six City Strategy for smart and
open urban development
40 Speeding up innovation with public sector procurement
42 First hand insight for companies
43 Contact us!
for the city of
The City of Helsinki Strategy Programme 2013-2016 outlines
an objective: “The documents and other data produced by the
City are available to all residents, easily and without restrictions.
In addition, the information can be utilised in all operations
that are not connected to the City’s operations.”
The Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) project for opening up
public data has taken off quickly. The HRI service already covers
over 1000 open data sets from the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
Opening up data is useful for the owners of the data, too.
When Helsinki Region Transport (HRT) introduced an open
interface to its public transport schedule and route information,
dozens of private mobile services were launched to make use
of its data.
Over half of the world’s population currently
lives in cities and the number is growing. In the
Helsinki Metropolitan Area alone, there will be
100 000 new inhabitants in the next 10 years.
The fast growth of Helsinki and thousands of
other cities in the world brings new problems –
as well as huge opportunities.
The most important tools for building Smart
Helsinki are new technology and open access
to data. However, the building site is not
limited to Helsinki. When cities were primarily
made of bricks and concrete, it was natural to
produce all services locally. In a digital world
this is unwise. The smart practices developed
in one city spread faster than ever, thanks
to technology companies and the internet.
Sharing information costs nothing. This is why
open standards and replicating successful
operating models is particularly worthwhile in
the digital world.
A smart city is like a Lego building. The
important bricks are the electronic services,
which are connected by open data interfaces.
The same bricks work everywhere and they can
be put together in creative ways.
Smart Helsinki is built one brick at a time. In this
publication you can take a closer look at the
brickwork of a smart city, which Forum Virium
Helsinki has helped to put together.
► According to urban strategist Boyd Cohen, a
smart city is made of six components: smart living,
smart mobility, smart environment, smart economy,
smart government, and smart people.
The building site
for a smart city
PHOTO OLLI-PEKKA ORPO GRAPHICS VALERIA GASIK
A SIMPLE GOAL.
A SMART CITY.
When the European Parliament published its research about
468 Smart City projects in Europe in early 2014, Helsinki was
ranked in the top six Smart Cities, together with Amsterdam,
Barcelona, Copenhagen, Manchester and Vienna.
Good education, the opportunity to
participate in decision making and
A well-functioning public transport and
cycling network together with IT systems
will prevent traffic jams.
Helsinki Region Infoshare
Opening up public data
Smart Helsinki shines bright
In today’s cities, IT departments mainly function as procurement
organisations. But what if coding was done in-house instead?
Forum Virium Helsinki’s Code fellowship proved to be very
Code fellow Timo Tuominen has continued his predecessors’
development work on the HRT City Navigator public transport
service. The open source application is easy to roll out in
new cities, too. The City Navigator is already operational in
Tampere, Manchester and Athens.
An SDK (Software Development Kit) refers to a toolkit which
technology companies like Amazon and Google offer free
of charge to application developers. Forum Virium Helsinki’s
CitySDK project has introduced the same operating model to
the urban digital environment.
Within the project, Helsinki has opened up its data systems and
offered support for private developers interested in developing
city services. This collaboration project of eight EU cities has
simultaneously driven the advancement of the copy-paste
culture. City services developed in Helsinki are also in use in
Amsterdam and Rome.
New districts provide an opportunity to renew the city.
Helsinki’s Kalasatama district will have an abundance of smart
city technology: smart sensors, innovative energy stores and
an electricity grid, in which a customer can also be an energy
Forum Virium Helsinki’s Smart Kalasatama project explores
ways to put the new smart technologies to the best possible
use. The aim is to make the most of city officials’ and residents’
creativity, to serve everyone who lives in the area.
A travel card, a library card, a debit card and an ID card. Forum
Virium Helsinki is testing how the dozens of digital city services
could be used with a single card or mobile phone.
A healthy, safe and vibrant
Transparent administration, open data,
smart use of technology
friendly energy system,
clever city planning
Entrepreneurship, innovations and
Helsinki’s Smart City laboratory
Digital City Card
One card for city services
Code for Europe
Open IT development for cities
A toolkit for building a digital city
Building a better
▲ The open API for Helsinki’s decision making system has taken
the transparency of municipal decision-making to a globally
PHOTOS OKKO OINONEN; GRAPHICS VALERIA GASIK
When the European Parliament compared the
Smart City initiatives of 468 European cities,
Helsinki was ranked as one of the top six
[p. 37]. Propelled by agile city development
policies, Helsinki is planning to stay at the
cutting edge in the future [p. 34 - 35].
Jussi Pajunen, the Mayor of Helsinki, is presenting his favourite
app in the lobby of Helsinki City Hall.
“I get all decision-making related information straight to my
mobile phone, with all the attachments,” Pajunen marvels.
Indeed, in just a few clicks, his Lumia smartphone screen
displays the latest council bills, the auditor’s statement, the new
traffic plans and committee verdicts.
Only recently, while shopping on a Saturday, he got a call from
a journalist asking him to comment on a new council bill. The
Mayor was not yet even aware of what the bill entailed.
“I could research and comment on the issue immediately, in
the middle of my grocery shopping,” Mayor Pajunen says.
This story has been heard several times. It has been told at city
seminars, and the Ahjo Explorer app has been demonstrated to
Pajunen’s colleagues around the world.
The Mayor’s favourite app probably wouldn’t exist if Forum
Virium Helsinki hadn’t suggested to Markku Rautio, City
of Helsinki’s IT Manager, that Helsinki participate in a code
fellowship program [p. 19].
These days, cities’ IT departments mainly function as
procurement organisations. In a pilot initiated by Forum Virium
Helsinki, six European cities employed open data professionals
to work as IT procurement experts and drive selected coding
projects. Juha Yrjölä, who worked as a Code fellow for Helsinki
city, was quick to build an open interface for the council’s
decision making system.
User-centric digital city services
Forum Virium Helsinki’s development projects drive the
creation of digital city services. From the very start, ideas
under development are tested as part of users’ everyday
lives. Another goal is to create new business opportunities for
The Smart City Innovation unit for Helsinki City was founded
in 2006. When the CEO of Forum Virium Helsinki, Jarmo
Eskelinen, is asked what has been its most important
achievement to date, he doesn’t hesitate.
“It’s definitely our leap into the world of open data in 2009.
Back then it was still only raved about by a small group of
geeks, but we believed that we should grab hold of the
concept,” Eskelinen states.
Forum Virium Helsinki teamed up with data enthusiasts
to launch the Apps4Finland app competition for utilising
open data sources [p. 22]. This cooperation with open data
proponents has since given birth to the idea about an open
“The city needs to be an enabler. The best way to enable is to
open up processes, data and data systems as well as the city’s
operating models,” Eskelinen says.
The most significant pioneer work for opening up public
data has been done by the Helsinki Region Infoshare service,
involving municipalities in the Helsinki Metropolitan area
[p. 14]. The numbers speak for themselves: the service
already covers over 1000 open data sets.
Towards open interfaces
City of Helsinki’s own Helsinki Development Portal (dev.hel.fi)
is leading by example in opening up interfaces [p. 16].
The most popular open data sets are built into interfaces, from
which it is easy for web and mobile apps to make simple data
queries. This has been utilised by for example Helsinki Region
Transport HRT, which already gave everyone open access to
its public transport timetables and routes in 2009. Dozens of
mobile services developed by both companies and individuals
conduct millions of data searches on the interface every year.
The only investment HRT had to make was to open up the
interface. The cost of making data accessible is usually minimal
compared to the total cost of a data system.
“The building and maintenance of the open interfaces of our
Journey Planner service have cost us 60 000 euro in three
years. Over the years, we have spent a total of approximately
5 million on developing the Journey Planner,” HRT Project
Manager Jari Honkonen confirms.
Ahjo Explorer is the favorite app of Jussi Pajunen, the Mayor
of Helsinki. It shows the latest council bills and committee
verdicts in the screen of a mobile phone.
In few years, Helsinki has become
the pioneer in opening up data
Mayor Pajunen points out that the Ahjo Explorer app has not
cost Helsinki city a penny either. It was born because Jouni
Tiainen, an independent app developer, wanted to build an
easy way for people to access the city’s decision making data.
But clever standalone mobile apps alone have not propelled
Helsinki to the top of the world’s Smart City rankings. The
city owes its success to the underlying basic philosophy, the
transparency of public information. In 2011, the Ahjo decision
making system gave 5000 civil servants and local politicians
access to a paperless office. The system gained international
recognition when the programming interface by Code fellow
Juha Yrjölä expanded its potential user base to millions. Today,
any citizen, journalist or data enthusiast can explore Helsinki
city’s decision making documents from anywhere in the world,
around the clock.
Openness as a philosophy
A discussion in the meeting room of Forum Virium Helsinki
revolves around visiting the local health care centre. The current
users of Kallio health care centre are asked about what services
they would like to find in the wellbeing centres of the future.
Forum Virium Helsinki’s Smart Kalasatama project [p. 30] is
mapping residents’ expectations for their health care services.
The information will be used in planning the new social services
and health care centre of the Kalasatama district. The focus
group quickly gets to the core challenges of any public health
care system. Getting care is the biggest bottleneck. Some
would like to book appointments in the web, while others even
suggest doctor’s appointments via Skype. People are also keen
to access their own health data.
The Smart Kalasatama project is conducted in close
cooperation with the City of Helsinki Department of Social
Services and Health Care. Project Manager Veera Mustonen is
happy that users have been involved from the very beginning.
“The best way forward is service design, planning services that
are based on user needs.”
Building a new city district requires millions in investment. How
do Forum Virium Helsinki’s operating methods, agile piloting
and user engagement fit in with creating city infrastructure?
“Of course you need a basic infrastructure for the city, but it
can have smart elements,” claims Hannu Penttilä, the former
Deputy Mayor of Helsinki.
Rubbish trucks are a rare sight on the streets of Kalasatama
– the bins empty themselves. Sucked by a vacuum into under-
ground pipelines, banana peels whizz into the local waste
management facility at a speed of up to 70 kilometres per hour.
The electricity grid is also intelligent. In the smart grid, energy
and information travel in two directions, meaning that the
grid’s customers can also be energy producers. A huge energy
storage system is being planned for the new Kalasatama
electrical substation, with a capacity equivalent to the peak
output of about 4000 solar panels.
“But in addition to this, what we need is people’s creativity.
When the basic infrastructure works, people can build their
own innovations on top of it. Helsinki’s Restaurant Day is a
great example of this.”
Penttilä believes the new smart city services are an ideal
creative playground for Forum Virium Helsinki. In Kalasatama,
he hopes to witness services that will make people’s everyday
lives easier. As the city’s development unit, Forum Virium
Helsinki has the potential to make a huge difference.
“At best, it can be a bridge between corporate innovations
and the city. And that is exactly what we need.”
The pilot culture bears fruit
The agile pilot culture is suitable for a vast range of projects
“It has been ideal for schools, as well as for personal,
preventative healthcare. And, of course, for any IT services,”
Jarmo Eskelinen lists.
Nowadays, it seems that public sector is alone in conducting
IT procurement focused on large project entities. Eskelinen
highlights the change that Todd Park, the Chief Technology
Officer of the White House, set off on the other side of the
Atlantic. The most important IT decision maker of the United
States administration has revolutionized IT procurement. “All
their IT projects are based on agile development. They are
“When the basic infrastructure of the city functions well, it
gives good support for innovations. As the development unit
of the city, Forum Virium Helsinki can achieve a great deal,”
says Hannu Penttilä, the former Deputy Mayor of Helsinki.
CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE
Let’s build the first version quickly,
launch it and see what kind of
feedback we’re receiving.
led by small teams, which always include outsiders, whether
they’re geeks or developers. Even in the largest projects the first
prototype is out after just a few months,” Eskelinen points out.
According to Eskelinen, small companies’ web service deve-
lopment methods are an apt model for the public sector, too.
“You build the first version quickly, launch it and see what
kind of feedback you get. This method should be embraced
throughout the public sector.”
“The whole paradigm should be turned around, making service
development projects into processes that push out products
as quickly as possible. The development then kicks off and
continues for a couple of years. Now what happens is that you
make specifications for a couple of years, then order the work
and implement it. The project ends just when it would be time
to improve it.”
IT projects’ agile development methods work for other aspects
of city development, too. For example, the city’s decision-
making data was opened up as a consequence of civil servants
and citizen activists meeting up face to face in April 2012. In
a workshop organized by Forum Virium Helsinki, some twenty
officials and app developers got together for the first time.
This three-hour session resulted in a concrete plan to open up
the decision making data stored in the Ahjo system [p. 6]. Just
one year later, the data was open to the general public and the
Digital services are easy to duplicate
The shortest route from Helsinki City Hall to the Kalasatama
building site can be quickly checked from a mobile phone. In
many cities, this is the pinnacle of current service development,
but in Helsinki it’s been part of citizen’s everyday lives for
several years. The HRT City Navigator [p. 14], developed by
Helsinki’s public transport company HRT, can now be used for
navigating in many other European cities, too.
“When cities were primarily made of bricks and concrete, it was
totally natural to produce all services locally,” Jarmo Eskelinen
“But when it comes to electronic services, repeating everything
locally is a big drawback. Cities wind up paying the same
development costs over and over again, hundreds of times.”
“For Forum Virium Helsinki’s CitySDK project, Helsinki
implemented an open issue-reporting API [p. 16]. The
interface is based on the Open311 stardard, which is already
in use in cities like Washington, San Francisco and Bonn. It
enables anyone to report an issue or problem to the city, not
just by calling but also by using an app on their computer or
“This has been pioneering work, not only on a European scale
but in the entire world, too. Cities haven’t yet developed that
many shared operating models.”
“Another novelty was the city’s co-operation with companies
in developing the service. The people from the Sanoma group
and the Helsinki City Board’s ICT Division worked together in
the same room,” Eskelinen says.
Today, the Open311 interface, piloted first with the city
newspaper Metro, is used by multiple web services. The
CitySDK project is spreading the Helsinki-tested interface
to other cities, too. This ensures that the easily duplicated
operating model can one day be used for profitable business.
“A city the size of Helsinki is not a business in itself. Any
new services have to be expandable and scalable, ideally
worldwide,” Eskelinen deliberates.
A group of cities and companies collaborate
in building an open source service platform,
on top of which different stakeholders can
develop their own services.
Each city buys its
“This is okay. When a large company sells a product to
a hundred different places, as the 101st buyer the city
will already get a fairly good product. The downside is
that these are closed source solutions.”
“The great thing about using open source code is
that it enables changing service providers, it lowers
costs and allows small and medium sized companies
get involved in public IT service development.”
“It’s expensive and inefficient. This is how things
are done today, but it’s a short term solution.”
Large companies produce service platforms
and sell them to cities one by one.
Solutions from the community
Forum Virium Helsinki’s development projects solve public
sector problems, but the solutions are created together with
companies and citizens.
“Because it’s so difficult to make everything work together, we
support open and communal ways of doing things,” Eskelinen
City challenges are often tackled as community projects,
but joined in by citizen activists and companies alike. Mayor
Pajunen is full of enthusiasm for the communal operating
“Citizens want to experience and do things together and get
involved in city issues, while the city can open up its data and
become an enabler. It’s a multiple win-win-win situation. Better
co-operation with lower costs,” Pajunen muses.
The evolution of web services has reached the era of free
service platforms. Blogs are written on WordPress, the Airbnb
service brokers accommodation around the world, and
collectables sales are soaring on eBay.
“The same operating model will take over city services, too,”
The short term dream of the CEO of Forum Virium Helsinki
is fluent digital citizenship in Helsinki. City services should be
accessible electronically as well as physically.
A little further into the future he visualizes an international
revolution, a shared digital service toolkit for open cities.
“We hope that more and more cities will join us, adding more
elements into the toolkit,” Eskelinen explains.
The Mayor finds plenty of use for an open-minded
“Forum Virium Helsinki is an ideal partner when you’re looking
for a flexible operating model for applying new technology.
They’re there to talk about radical innovations, which go into
an unknown territory,” Jussi Pajunen says. •
The Open API for the Ahjo decision making system is coded
by Juha Yrjölä (in the left). His work scaled the potential user
group of the Helsinki’s decision making data up to millions of
THREE WAYS TO BUILD A SMART DIGITAL CITY
CEO, Forum Virium Helsinki
CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE
“Forum Virium Helsinki is
an ideal partner for radical
innovations and going into
an unknown territory.”
“The role of Forum Virium
Helsinki is to lead us in the right
direction and help us build
networks in the field of digital
city services and innovation.”
Director, Information Technology
“At its best, Forum Virium
Helsinki can act as a bridge
between private companies’
innovations and the city.”
former Deputy Mayor
“Forum Virium Helsinki speeds
up innovation and enhances
Helsinki’s Smart City image
around the world. The pioneer
work in the field of open data,
smart city development and more
transparent decision-making has
been noticed internationally, too,
and the fresh ideas have created
new business opportunities.”
Director, Economic Development
What does Forum
mean to the city?
PHOTOS JYRKI KOMULAINEN, OKKO OINONEN, OLLI-PEKKA ORPO
What has Forum Virium
Open data to citizens
Opening up public data systems is one of the key
themes of Forum Virium Helsinki. Helsinki Region
Infoshare gives everyone open access to data in the
Helsinki Metropolitan Area. The yearly Apps4Finland
competition awards prizes to developers making the
most of open data.
Events and collaboration
At Forum Virium Helsinki’s events residents, companies
and officials collaborate to build a better city. The aim
is to bounce off ideas and ideologies, while creating
new business relationships.
awarded a 100 000
€euro prize for public
administration by the
Read more on p. 15.
the top six in the
Smart City list.
Read more on p. 37.
Forum Virium Helsinki tackles urban
development challenges in agile
development projects. What have we
PHOTOS OLLI-PEKKA ORPO, SAKKE SOMERMA VISITHELSINKI
600 entries in
Read more on p. 22-23.
“Helsinki, a truly smart city”
A leading British newspaper, the Guardian, has praised Helsinki
on two different occasions as an example of a smart city, which
offers its residents tools and channels for participation and
involvement. The newspaper pointed at the Helsinki pilot of
European cities’ CitySDK project, which has been coordinated
by Forum Virium Helsinki.
“Truly smart cities such as Helsinki are using technology that is
already out on the streets and on the web, enabling residents
to input and update via smartphones, while apps help them to
navigate the city more efficiently,” the Guardian writes.
Funding from the European Union
Forum Virium Helsinki is a non-profit organization. The basic
funding comes from the city of Helsinki and membership fees, but
the development projects are financed from various other sources.
Here’s an example financing between 2006 - 2013.
Forum Virium Helsinki
organises a wide range
of events. Their objective is
to share new information
and involve stakeholders in
building a better city.
To date, over 10 000 people have
participated in events organized by
Forum Virium Helsinki and its partners.
Project funding (EU FP7,
AAL and CIP programs,
Tekes, ERDF, ESF)
Forum Virium Helsinki’s
City of Helsinki
Commissions (cities of
the Helsinki Metropolitan
Corporate membership fees
Sample percentages are calculated from
When the City of Helsinki Real Estate Department added historic aerial
photos from several decades to the www.hri.fi service in summer 2013,
geodata enthusiasts were thrilled. Over just a few days, coding-savvy
citizens had built web apps, which made it possible to explore Helsinki’s
development from during the war in 1943 to present day.
Besides geodata enthusiasts, the historic aerial photos interested others,
too. When the citizens’ web apps were soon showcased on several
newspapers’ websites, the general public was amazed.
This is what opening up data is all about. HRI maps out interesting data sets
from the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and encourages city departments to
give everyone free access to them online.
“We aim to make opening up data a regular activity for the municipalities
of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area,” says Ville Meloni from Forum Virium
When the idea to open up municipal data in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area
first came up in 2009, many saw it as no more than idealistic dabbling.
Today it has become mainstream. The target is set in the government
programme to open up public data sources, and other cities are getting
establishing their own data catalogues. In the summer of 2013, HRI was
awarded a 100 000 euro prize for public administration by the European
Commission. In just a few years, the HRI service has made the Helsinki
Metropolitan Area a pioneer in opening up public data.
Benefits to data owners, too
Opening up public data systems is also useful to the owners of that data.
Helsinki Region Transport HRT, responsible for local public transport, is
already reaping the benefits of having done so. A few tens of thousands
invested in an open API has given everyone access to public transport
routes and timetables. Transport advice is now available not just through
HRT’s own Journey Planner web service, but also dozens of mobile apps
using HRT’s data interface.
Everyone wins in the open data operating model: public transport users get
route information straight to their phones, HRT service is improved and the
developers of the most popular mobile apps make money. “Had we started
to develop the apps ourselves, we’d have easily spent 50 000 euro per
app”, HRT project manager Jari Honkonen estimates.
Now HRI’s operation model, which proved successful in the Metropolitan
region, is being copied around the country. Tampere, Oulu and
Jyväskylä, for example, have opened up their data catalogues. The state
administration has already published a nationwide open data service
(avoindata.ﬁ), which utilizes HRI’s tried and tested technology.
HRI has been such a success story that Forum Virium Helsinki, who first got
the project started, can already take a back seat. From the start of 2014,
responsibility for the HRI data catalogue as well as supporting Helsinki,
Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen officials in the data opening process was
transferred to the City of Helsinki Urban Facts department.
KIRJOITTAJA XXXXX VALOKUVAT PETJA PARTANEN
The Helsinki Region Infoshare web
service already provides free access to
over 1000 open data sets. In the future,
it will contain even more public data
from the municipalities of the Helsinki
PHOTOS PETJA PARTANEN, PERTTI NISONEN
In 2010, Forum Virium Helsinki hired Ville
Meloni as a project manager to launch the HRI
project. From the start of 2014, HRI has been
integrated as part of the regular operations of
Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo and Kauniainen, led by
Tanja Lahti (centre) and Hami Kekkonen from
City of Helsinki Urban Facts department.
One of HRI’s achievements is the opening
up of Helsinki City Group’s administrative
data for everyone to use. The open interface
Open Ahjo, which was unveiled in 2013, gives
any resident the same access to public data
as political decision makers or city officials.
Only personal details are still restricted to
officials. The interface, which started off as
an idea at a Forum Virium Helsinki workshop,
has become reality. The Helsinki City Group’s
administration is now one of the most
transparent decision making systems in the
Several easy-to-use web services are already
exploiting the interface. It’s possible to
browse municipal decisions on the map,
peruse the attachments and blueprints of
decision making documents, and explore the
progress of the decision making process.
The 100 000 euro innovation prize from the
EU is helping open data utilization gain even
more momentum. Some of the prize money
has been spent to finance the Datademo
funding instrument. Coders have been
able to apply for funds from Datademo for
applications and visualizations that make use
of HRI’s open data sources and promote a
vibrant civil society.
The prize also made it possible to hire a new
application developer to the HRI service.
“The cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area
have been delightfully active in opening up
their data systems, but the information is
not yet interlinked,” Forum Virium Helsinki’s
project manager Ville Meloni explains.
One of the new data specialist’s tasks will be
to think about how decision making data from
Helsinki’s Open Ahjo interface, for example,
could work in tandem with the city’s various
statistics, administrative areas, service points
and financial data.
▲ The Mayor of Helsinki Jussi Pajunen gave
his Achievement of the Year award to the HRI
service. “Congratulations. You are pioneers on
a global scale,” Pajunen praised the HRI team
from Forum Virium Helsinki and City of Helsinki
Urban Facts department.
In just a few years, the Helsinki
Metropolitan Area has become a pioneer
in opening up public sector data.”
The 100 000 euro EU
prize speeds up the
utilization of open data.
HRI gathers open data sets from the Helsinki
Metropolitan Area into the www.hri.fi-service and
helps open up the data.
Why it’s done
The aim is to make opening up taxpayer-financed
data sets into a regular activity for officials.
Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, Kauniainen. Forum Virium
Helsinki launched the project in 2010, the City of
Helsinki Urban Facts department took responsibility
at the start of 2014.
Who it serves
Officials willing to open up their data, users of
open data, application developers, journalists,
PHOTO PETJA PARTANEN
The wet winter has eaten gaping holes into Helsinki streets. Now such
problems are easier than ever to report. Metro Fiksaa (‘Metro fix it”)
web service of the city newspaper Metro allows anyone to report issues
and problems in the city.
A sewer lid has come loose. There are potholes in the tarmac or macadam
on the bikeline. A car is parked on a zebra crossing. Most issue reports are
already marked green on the map to signify that they have been fixed. Only
the missing speed limit sign in the Oulunkylä district is still blazing red,
Thanks to the open API built in the CitySDK project, any proficient coder
can now build a similar web service. Mobile and web applications send a
specified feedback message to the city’s open programming interface.
The interface, meanwhile, relays the messages directly into a city database.
“Residents contact the City of Helsinki Public Works Department
120 000 times per year. The open issue reporting API not only provides
new opportunities for the developers of city services, but also makes
officials’ lives easier,” says City of Helsinki project planner Jaakko Rajaniemi
A message about a gaping sewer lid or a fallen traffic sign gets to the right
place quicker via the internet than by telephone call.
Efficient feedback management
Tarja Posti, responsible for the Public Works Department’s customer
service, is happy. Managing feedback via the interface is easier than via
telephone or email.
“For issue reports, for example, we get the location information sent
straight to our operations management system,” Posti says.
The system also reduces duplicate issue reports. The information about a fix
in progress is relayed back to the Metro website via the interface. Anyone
can keep an eye on whether a issue has already been fixed.
The person who has made the issue report doesn’t need to know which
city department is responsible for fixing it either. When a resident who’d
had enough of a traffic light not working sent a issue report via the Metro
newspaper’s web service, things were quick to happen. In the next hour, the
Public Works Department customer services informed that the report had
been passed on to the right person. The query was answered just moments
later. The yellow flashing light was on, because the programming of a new
traffic light machine was being tested.
“The lights will work the moment that the programming is completed,
which will be very soon,” the traffic technician from the Traffic Control
The CitySDK project builds open interfaces, which are interoperable across
city and country borders. First a pilot project was conducted in one city,
after which the experiences and lessons learned were utilized elsewhere.
The CitySDK project develops and
harmonizes open application
programming interfaces (APIs),
which are utilized by digital city
services around Europe. Helsinki’s
issue reporting API has become an
Hanna Niemi-Hugaerts from Forum Virium
Helsinki and Jaakko Rajaniemi from City
of Helsinki Information Technology and
Communications Division are working to make
Helsinki a paradise for software developers.
Open data sets only become assets when
they are put to good use. Since 2012, the City
of Helsinki has organised regular developer
meetings for exploiting HRI data sets and
open interfaces as well as to provide practical
support for coding.
There have been up to three workshops every
month. The attendees focus on a wide range
of issues, from new ways that residents could
use their pocket-sized Helsinki travel cards to
how the city’s open data interfaces could best
serve all residents.
The city’s collaboration with application
developers is also supported by the city’s
developer website dev.hel.fi. Besides
showcasing the data interfaces already
opened by the city, it also allows the app
development community to participate
in specifying and testing the open data
”The website also has information about
upcoming developer meetings and
competitions aimed at developers,” Jaakko
Rajaniemi from City of Helsinki Information
Technology and Communications division
The website was founded by the City
of Helsinki Information Technology and
Communications division and Forum Virium
Helsinki. The logo says it all: Helsinki Loves
“Through the collaboration of different
stakeholders, Helsinki can become the world’s
most developer friendly urban community,”
Hanna Niemi-Hugaerts from Forum Virium
Eight European cities are opening up their interfaces
and harmonizing their processes in three domains:
participation, mobility and tourism. Helsinki pilot
enables citizens to report faults in the city
infrastructure through the issue reporting API
built as part of a Helsinki pilot.
Why it’s done
By standardizing programming interfaces and
leveraging replicating tried and tested services from
city-to-city, the development costs of digital city
services will drop dramatically.
Helsinki, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Istanbul, Lamia,
Lisbon, Manchester and Rome. The pilot in Helsinki
was conducted by Forum Virium Helsinki, City of
Helsinki Public Works department and the city
Who it serves
Citizens in Helsinki and elsewhere. Application
developers around the world.
We have seen how innovatively open data
and interfaces are used. It’s not necessary
for all the apps to be built by the city.
Helsinki’s feedback interface was launched in the summer of 2013 and
soon after it was also introduced in cities like Amsterdam and Barcelona.
Helsinki, meanwhile, has already launched a new tourism interface, which
was originally developed to serve Lisbon’s needs.
There can be excellent business opportunities for application developers,
too, if the same apps work around Europe. “Make an app for Helsinki, use it
in Amsterdam,” project manager Jaakko Rajaniemi explains the basic idea.
This model has already been proven to work. For example the Spot in
Helsinki mobile app, which took part in the Apps4Finland competition and
won the City of Helsinki tourism challenge, also helps out tourists in Lisbon
under the name Spot it Lisbon.
The eyes and ears of the city
Heli Rantanen, the project manager responsible for Helsinki’s feedback
interface, says that the open API gives external app developers the chance
to utilize information produced by the city. This allows them to build
services the city’s IT department wouldn’t imagine possible.
“We have seen how innovatively open interfaces are used. It’s not necessary
for all the apps to be built by the city,” Rantanen states.
There are high hopes that the new open feedback channel will also make
city maintenance more efficient. When it’s easy to send feedback, the
maintenance staff will find out about issues earlier.
“Residents are the eyes and ears of a city. The Public Works Department
won’t know there’s a fallen traffic sign if nobody tells them about it,” says
Pekka Sauri, the Deputy Mayor in charge of public works.
After the completion of the CitySDK project, a new network will be
established to continue the harmonizing efforts.
“Collaboration between cities started off well in the EU project. Next, we
will include more cities and extend the harmonizing to new interfaces,”
development director Pekka Koponen declares. •
CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE
After the completion of the project,
a new network will be established to
continue the harmonizing efforts.
The HRT City Navigator developed by
Helsinki’s Code Fellows grabbed the gold in
the mobile app category in an international
hackathon in Ghent.
Code Fellows as
Since starting their work in 2013, Helsinki’s
Code Fellows have been tirelessly building
the digital city, from an innovative public
transport navigator and new open data
interfaces to a real-time snow plough map.
The next step will be to take the pilot to
City of Helsinki Code Fellow Timo Tuominen is showcasing the prototype
of a brand-new HRT City Navigator on the bustling Esplanadi street.
“Here you can search for the nearest restaurants, for example,” Tuominen
proudly explains the app he has been developing.
A turn by turn navigation app, a familiar concept to drivers, is now available
for public transport users for the first time. Most of the code has been
written by Tuukka Hastrup, who worked as a HRT Code Fellow in 2013,
but anyone can get involved in improving the open source app.
I click on the map of the HRT City Navigator on the touchscreen of my
mobile phone and the service instantly gives me the fastest public transport
connection to my office in the Vallila district. If I start walking within half a
minute, I’ll just make the next tram number 9.
The first Code Fellows in the Code for Europe programme, Juha Yrjölä
and Tuukka Hastrup started working at the start of 2013. The goal of
the programme was to make the development of Helsinki’s IT systems
more open and agile. Yrjölä worked at the City of Helsinki Information
Technology and Communications division, while Hastrup was based at HRT,
the public transport authority for the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. The duo
quickly showed their potential.
Agile IT development
Public sector IT systems have traditionally been large, complex closed
source solutions, which have been uniquely developed to match each
customer’s needs. In today’s connected world, however, everyday services
are increasingly based on open data interfaces and recycled code.
“We want to introduce the culture of the start-up world to the public
sector,” Forum Virium Helsinki’s project manager Marja Mattila describes
the objectives of the Code Fellowship programme.
The Code Fellows’ ways of working are commonplace in small companies
but still rare in the public sector. Everyone has been able to test out the
HRT City Navigator online, for example, ever since the first versions came
out. Development has been based on user feedback.
Jari Honkonen, responsible for HRT’s Journey Planner service, had been
playing with the idea of a new kind of public transport navigator for a
long time. When Forum Virium Helsinki suggested taking part in the
Code Fellowship programme at the end of 2012, he immediately became
When HRT hired the Code Fellow, it was the first time they’d ever
employed an in-house coding expert. Until then they had bought all their
IT solutions from outside.
“We initially thought that we would hire the Code Fellow to mainly work on
the city navigator. But it didn’t take long until his remit started to expand.
Thanks to his work we’ve understood that some things are much easier,
faster and more efficient to do in-house than with an external supplier,”
project manager Honkonen says.
PHOTOS MAIJA ASTIKAINEN, VISIT HELSINKI, MONDO; PETJA PARTANEN
Support from a European network
The result of a year’s work, the public test version of HRT City Navigator
works brilliantly. “The fact that we hired Tuukka Hastrup to work for HRT
shows how satisfied we are,” Jari Honkonen says.
According to Honkonen, another important reason to test out the Code
Fellow programme was the desire to experiment with new methods of
public sector IT procurement.
“During the year we have gained a lot more understanding of open source
coding,” Honkonen claims.
Code Fellows have not been working alone. Help has been at hand from a
network of coders in six other European cities. The HRT City navigator app
currently also works in Manchester, one of the Code for Europe cities.
“We aim to develop solutions that are easy to duplicate and utilize in other
cities, too,” Marja Mattila explains.
The spirit of the programme is that all the Code Fellows’ work will be
published as open source code. This is why you can now navigate with the
HRT app in Tampere, Berlin and Amsterdam, too.
“It has become a software component, which is also useful to others,”
Honkonen says with a smile.
Helsinki opens up decision making
Ahjo Explorer, the favourite app of Jussi Pajunen, the Mayor of Helsinki,
would not have happened without the efforts of Code Fellow Juha Yrjölä.
Yrjölä, who worked as a Code Fellow at City of Helsinki Information
Technology and Communications division in 2013, built an open interface
to Ahjo, the city’s decision making system. The same interface is also used
by the Päätökset (“Decisions”) service, which allows anyone to browse and
search for City Council and committee decisions. Yrjölä has also finalized
the so-called snow plough map, a service that shows the movements of the
city’s snow ploughs in real time.
The work is now continued by Timo Tuominen, sharing an office with Yrjölä.
Both of them have now been hired to work for the City of Helsinki.
His predecessor’s projects keep Tuominen’s hands full. He is busy opening
up the city’s data interfaces and decision making.
“We want to open up the initial stages of municipal decision making,
too. The City Planning Department, for example, has a clear need to hear
residents’ opinions from the very start of the planning process,” Tuominen
Marja Mattila points out how positive experiences are inspiring the
experiment to be extended.
“Our new Code for Finland programme aims to take the operating model
beyond Helsinki, to state administration.”
The HRT City Navigator for the Helsinki
Metropolitan Region leads you by the hand
CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE
THE CODE FOR EUROPE
The programme hires talented web developers, coders and
designers to work for public sector organisations, in different
kinds of departments. The results of their work are shared
freely as open source code, for anyone to continue the
Why it’s done
Change agents drive openness and make cities’ IT
procurement more agile.
Forum Virium Helsinki, the City of Helsinki Information
Technology and Communications division, HRT, Amsterdam,
Barcelona, Berlin, Manchester and Rome.
Who it serves
Public sector IT departments.
Some things are just much easier, faster
and more efficient to do in-house
than with an external supplier.
Together with his colleagues, the Code Fellow
Timo Tuominen has been successful in making
municipal decision-making data accessible to
▼ Ahjo Explorer allows anyone to keep up
to date with the City of Helsinki’s decisions
via a mobile phone. The application fetches
its information from the city’s decision-making
system Ahjo through an open data interface.
A new service map for
the capital region
Another challenge for the Code Fellows is to try to recreate the
service map of the capital region with open source solutions. So far,
their achievements include a new public transport route planner for
people travelling with a pushchair or wheelchair. It includes only the
options and stations that offer easy, stair-free access.
“In the future the service map can be more easily utilised in the city’s
various electronic services. What’s more, it can be replicated in other
cities with minimal effort,” Code Fellows Tuominen and Yrjölä say. •
PHOTO OKKO OINONEN
Apps4Finland rewards the
best open data innovations
The Finnish championship for open
data innovation organized by Forum
Virium Helsinki, Apps4Finland, has been
rewarding the best open data apps,
ideas and visualizations since 2009. The
competition has brought the City of
Helsinki international renown for opening
up its data systems.
“Home, a hundred meters to one o’clock,” says the synthetic voice from the
The 2012 winner of Apps4Finland, BlindSquare, is an indispensable help
for people with the white cane. The mobile app, which helps the visually
impaired to move in urban environments, provides voice guidance and
walking directions to the selected destination.
Recognition in the Apps4Finland competition has kick-started the
commercial success of many applications based on open data. The
Parkman app, a 2011 winner, now allows parking fees to be paid on the
mobile phone in dozens of Nordic cities. The second version of BlindSquare
knows over 20 languages. The app is in use in more than 50 countries.
The next high-flyer may well be the Apps4Finland winner from 2013,
Stormwind Simulator for boats. The demo of the simulator was received
with heartfelt admiration in the awards ceremony. When the wooden open
boat changed to a Yamarin 68C motorboat, the rocky shores of the Gulf of
Finland just sped by.
The panel of judges led by city councillor and open data proponent Otso
Kivekäs was full of praise: ”A stunning simulator, which combines open
data from various sources. It’s a great example of how apps can use open
data in ways that the original data collectors would never even have
The competition concept launched by Forum Virium Helsinki and other
open data proponents has proven to be popular. Over the years more than
600 apps have already taken part, and in 2014 the combined prize money
exceeded 40 000 euros.
“With the Apps4Finland competition we want to attract attention to
developers and encourage new innovation. The competition has been an
excellent way to strengthen our cooperation with both developers and
companies,” says Pauliina Smeds from Forum Virium Helsinki.
Today Apps4Finland is much more than just an app developers’ Finnish
championship. The aim is to attract talent beyond the technology field.
“We want to create problem solving communities than are unfazed by any
challenge that companies or the public sector throw at them,” Joonas
Pekkanen, the project manager for the 2014 competition adds.
Thumbs up for Helsinki’s data sets
The City of Helsinki has been successful in Apps4Finland, not just as an
organizing partner, but also as a contestant. The Open Ahjo data interface
won the Enable award for opening up data, created by Code Fellow Juha
Yrjölä and the leading expert of the Ahjo system, Katja Räisänen.
The open access to information within the municipal decision-making and
document management system Ahjo, provided by the duo, is unique in the
whole world. The system, which was originally meant for the city’s internal
use only, can now be accessed by anyone interested in decision-making.
▼ Open Ahjo, the open data interface to City
of Helsinki’s decision making system Ahjo, was
given the Apps4Finland award for opening up
data in 2013.
Photo: The creators of the Open Ahjo interface,
Juha Yrjölä and Katja Räisänen.
PHOTOS OLLI-PERKKA ORPO, JYRKI KOMULAINEN
Today all the public data from Ahjo is copied automatically to the Open
Ahjo programming interface.
Many of the Apps4Finland applications rely on Helsinki’s open data
systems. For example the Porottaa terrace spotter, which was awarded as
the audience’s favourite, is a tool for finding the sunniest terrace. It fetches
location data from a Public Works Department’s document that lists terraces
in the public areas of Helsinki. The information is published as open data in
the HRI service.
One of the most widely used data sets is the first open interface ever
published by the City of Helsinki, the service point register of the Helsinki
Metropolitan Area. The register, which was initially created to serve
municipal directors, contains the data about over 10 000 service points in
Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. The data interface to the register
was opened in 2011. Today it’s already utilized by dozens of applications,
including the 2012 Apps4Finland winner, BlindSquare, which guides the
visually impaired on the streets of the capital region. Millions of queries are
made to the interface every year. No wonder that its creator, City of Helsinki
project manager Mirjam Heikkinen, won the 2011 Apps4Finland award for
the best open data initiative in the public sector.
In 2014, The City of Helsinki gave Apps4Finland the Pro Urbe Digitali
Award for promoting digital innovation.
Recognition in the Apps4Finland
competition has kick-started the
commercial success of many
applications based on open data.
▲The project manager of Apps4Finland
2014, Joonas Pekkanen.
A yearly Finnish championship for open data,
with awards for both opening up data and
making the most of it.
Why it’s done
The competition promotes open data
systems and their innovative utilization.
Organizers: Forum Virium Helsinki and Open
Knowledge Finland. The competition has also
been supported by a large group of partners
from the private and public sectors every year.
Who it serves
The owners of public data, application
to conquer the world
One of Forum Virium Helsinki’s success stories has been Growth Coaching
which has funded experts and consultants and accelerated the growth of nearly
300 companies between 2006 and 2014. Despite the economic downturn,
the companies that have participated the Growth Coaching have collected 30
million in private and public financing and employed 4500 people.
Starting from 2015, the Growth Coaching has been produced by the
Enterprise Helsinki, which offers advice for start-up businesses and growth
businesses. Forum Virium Helsinki was the producer between 2006-2014.
“The key principle of Growth Coaching was customer orientation. The
application process was made as easy and undemanding as possible, also
selections were made quickly”, the project manager Kaisa Sibelius explains.
The chosen applicants picked which coaches’ services they wanted to use
and only paid a pre-agreed share of the consultant fee.
“Growth Coaching had a flexible and handy format. It definitely accelerated
our internationalization and we could validate attractive markets quickly and
cost effectively,” Mikael Lauharanta from Smarp Ltd describes his experience.
Smarp’s tool enables companies to encourage employees to easily share web
content produced by their employer, such as blog posts, job advertisements
and videos, on their own social media channels.
The no-nonsense operating model of the Growth Coaching has proven
productive. Financial media has been actively showcasing the participating
companies, like Kiosked, Nosto Solutions and Bitbar, all collecting large
capital investments. Not long ago, Wired UK listed Helsinki as one of the
world’s hottest start-up capitals, and spotted out Holvi (also a Growth
Coaching company), as a company to watch out.
“The Growth Coaching gave companies a chance to get help from people
who are actively involved in business life themselves. Companies could
decide whom to have as their expert coach. The most important thing in
coaching start-ups is that companies feel they genuinely benefit from it,” says
Mika Malin, a long-term entrepreneur and advisor for the Growth Coaching.
Global financing and contacts
Partnerships in three EU projects bring new financing opportunities for
“The European Union offers more flexible financial tools and growth
programmes for SMEs than ever. Our aim is to help the Helsinki-based
start-ups that we know well to grasp these new opportunities,” Kaisa Sibelius
CreatiFI gives out funding to SMEs in the creative industry to develop digital
services and innovations. ACE accelerates the growth and internationalization
of ICT companies, while GET is targeted at eHealth companies.
“With these initiatives, we can open doors around Europe for companies,
while also providing funding through CreatiFI,” project manager Jaakko
Ikävalko from Forum Virium Helsinki explains.
Funding for creative start-ups
CreatiFI offers funding for SMEs, web entrepreneurs and ICT developers to
create new applications for the creative industries with open source FIWARE
“Forum Virium Helsinki offers support and
funding for growth companies via several
EU-funded projects, targeting for creative
industries, ICT and eHealth.
“We also act as a matchmaker between
companies, experts and consultants,” project
manager Kaisa Sibelius elaborates.
PHOTOS PIA MÄSSELI, ARCTIK
Forum Virium Helsinki’s CreatiFI, ACE
and GET projects provide small and
medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with
tools to facilitate growth and innovation,
from financing to contact networks. And
for nine years already, SMEs have been
able to enjoy the support of the praised
technologies. Altogether, CreatiFI will distribute 4.8 million euros in
The first open call chose 60 start-ups around Europe to receive money. In
the upcoming year, these companies get help for business development
and up to 50,000 euros grant for a prototype development.
The first round brought CreatiFI over 300 applications representing a wide
variety of business ideas in creative industry. The selected candidates
develop internet and smart phone applications related e.g. for gaming,
tourism, and smart city services.
“The Finnish start-ups ruled the statistics: almost 100 applications were sent
from Finland. Now the selected companies turn their business idea into a
minimum viable product or a prototype”, Kaisa Sibelius explains.
In September 2015, CreatiFI will open its second call. This time the
money goes into commercialization of a prototype. The grant provided
is up to 100,000 euros. The Call 2 is open to all European start-ups and
SMEs in creative industry. For those selected in the first round, it supports
developing the work further. However, also completely new companies can
participate and be selected.
All the applications funded by CreatiFI need to utilize FIWARE technology.
FIWARE is a new open source technology platform developed by the
European Union. Its components are free-to-use when developing new
services and products. CreatiFI is only one of the 16 programmes that
promote the utilization of FIWARE technologies.
Opening doors to Europe
ACE is a project opening doors and contacts for businesses to new markets
in Europe. It targets the innovative start-ups and entrepreneurs in the IT
sector who are looking to grow or take their business abroad. The project
is taking ten Finnish companies abroad, either to Great Britain, Germany,
France, Italy, Belgium, Portugal, Ireland, Luxembourg or Czech Republic.
All in all, a maximum of 120 European companies are taking part. Forum
Virium Helsinki’s task is to help companies that are interested in Finland.
The project is also developing common selection processes and operating
methods for European acceleration and internationalization programmes.
Forum Virium Helsinki is eager to share its experiences from the Growth
The GET project spars eHealth start-ups in developing their business
models. It also helps to find investors, establishes contacts with
international partners and recognizes unfulfilled user needs in the health
care industry. Besides Forum Virium Helsinki, the project involves partners
from Spain, the Netherlands and Great Britain.
“We’re hoping that the processes and lessons learned in our domestic
Growth Coaching will be adopted internationally, too,” Kaisa Sibelius says.
The European Union offers more
flexible financial tools and growth
programmes for SMEs than ever.
EU projects CreatiFI, ACE and GET
as well as Growth Coaching.
Why it’s done
Helsinki wants to be Finland’s most welcoming
city for entrepreneurs and support the birth of
new companies and jobs.
CreatiFI, ACE and GET have international project
Growth Coaching has since 2015 been organised
by the EnterpriseHelsinki. Between 2006-2014
it was produced by Forum Virium Helsinki and
financed by the city of Helsinki’s innovation fund
Who it serves
Start-ups or grown up companies.
The test group of about 100 people borrowed books with a travel card
in the Kallio district and in Library 10. The experiment was surprisingly
popular: places filled quickly and many more people would have liked to
“Customers are happy when they don’t need to carry so many cards. For
us library staff, too, the benefits clearly outweighed any inconvenience,”
specialist librarian Janne Palander from Kallio library says.
The travel card is based on chip technology. The unique serial number
of the card can be read with any other device that supports the same
technology, such as a smartphone. This enables the card to be compatible
with libraries’ customer databases or small and larger shops’ loyalty card
schemes, for example.
“It took no more than a couple of weeks to set up the equipment and
databases. We were quick to move from the initial ideas stage into practice,”
Kalle Riiheläinen, the Service Administrator of Kallio library describes.
Behind the project there’s a vision of a digital city card. In the future it could
be possible to ride a tram, borrow books from the library and for example
pay for museum and swimming pool visits with a single card.
“It is important that we can conduct these experiments on a lighter scale.
This means that we’ve been able to test functionalities and practicalities
without a major initial investment,” says Development Director Pekka
Koponen from Forum Virium Helsinki.
The test use of the combination card was later expanded to Suomenlinna
library where you could use the travel card to access the library out of
hours. Other pilots were conducted in the Tapiola and Sello libraries
in Espoo. Tester feedback has been collected during and after the
experiment. The users praised the way public services had taken a step
toward the digital age and hoped to see more payment functionalities
developed in the future. One of the testers is already looking further ahead:
“It would be great if the library card, the debit card, the swimming pool
card, the social security card, the driving license and all the other cards
could be integrated into the mobile phone. That would help get rid of so
much unnecessary plastic.”
In the future a digital city card may be the
key to all Helsinki services. Visits to the
swimming pool, bus journeys, library loans
and appointments at the health care centre
would all be managed with a single card.
Library books with
a travel card
DIGITAL CITY CARD
Vision: One digital city card for all Helsinki services.
HRT travel card is being tested for this purpose and
pilots have been run with libraries, among others.
Why it’s done
People want to get rid of too many cards.
Tomorrow’s residents will carry their city cards
on their mobile devices.
Helsinki City Library, HRT and
Forum Virium Helsinki.
Who it serves
PHOTO JOEL PEKARI
The public transport
travel card has worked
well in the pilot project,
but tomorrow’s digital
city card may work in
the mobile phone.
It would be great if all cards could be
integrated into the mobile phone. That would
help get rid of so much unnecessary plastic.
Digital and interactive screens are an increasingly visible part of the urban
landscape. In tomorrow’s Helsinki they will be used as city guides and
information channels. The interactive screens are ideal for integrated,
participatory campaigns as well as for media art and visualizations.
Forum Virium Helsinki has been testing different kinds of wayfinding and
interactive services on Clear Channel’s city screens. In the pilot projects
conducted together with several city departments, the advertising screens
have been used for diverse communications purposes.
The development work for creating interactive services for Helsinki’s digital
media channels started from the needs of tourist guidance around three
years ago. Since then, city screens both outdoors and indoors have been
tested for delivering interactive map and information services for tourists
and residents. This interactive service at customer service points utilize
open data, and city departments have also produced their own information
content to the screens.
“The digital wayfinding service for touchscreens fetches information from
the city’s open data sources, which are also accessible for other service
providers. The sources include news from the Metro newspaper and the
City of Helsinki, the Linked events interface as well as public transport stop
and route information from HRT,” Pekka Koponen from Forum Virium
“A useful idea, particularly with the map services and events info being
available in different languages,” the users applaud.
Besides wayfinding, Forum Virium Helsinki is exploring opportunities with
a broader range of interactive content. “We have produced and tested
several interactive campaigns together with the city – from questionnaires
to polls and participatory campaigns that activate the strollers on the
streets,” project manager Kaisa Spilling says.
The first interactive experiment was conducted during the Ice Hockey
World Championship in 2012. Passers-by had the chance to compete
in light-hearted ice-hockey themed quizzes. Later on the screens have
enabled people to test their animal expertise in a quiz at Helsinki Zoo,
explore the e-book services offered by the Helsinki City Library and vote in
the architectural contest for the design of Helsinki Central Library.
Forum Virium Helsinki and city departments are continuing their
development work with media screens for both services and content. The
idea is that in the future, the screens will provide residents with contextual
information, serve as a feedback channel, and even offer customized
information about current city events.
The interactive city screens of the future
might serve as a feedback channel and
offer real-time personalized information
about what’s happening in the city.
complement digital wayfinding
Digital media screens offer information
based on time, place, event and audience.
Why it’s done
The screens provide residents and tourists digital
wayfinding and interactive services, and also a
chance to communicate with the City of Helsinki.
The City of Helsinki Public Works Department,
HRT, Helsinki Marketing Ltd, Helsinki City Library,
the City of Helsinki Information Technology and
Communications division, Clear Channel and
Forum Virium Helsinki.
Who it serves
Locals and tourists, city departments.
PHOTO SUVI KUKKONEN
The city screens in central
Helsinki encouraged residents
to explore the e-book
services of Helsinki City
Library. Electronic reading
recommendations were also
It’s the day after European elections. Before choosing their advocates,
Helsinki voters would have been keen to know the attitudes of the
parliament’s different political groups to issues like emission cuts for coal
fired power stations.
Until now taxpayers haven’t had the chance to grill candidates across
country borders. In the next European elections it is already likely that the
panel discussion will take place online and votes will be cast on the home
The D-CENT platform combines social media and digital tools. Its
Facebook style profile pages for people and organizations allow documents
to be shared and edited online. Calendars can be shared between users.
In addition to this, the platform can be used for questionnaires and
Instead of different organizations, city districts, ministries and states having
their own platforms, D-CENT unites all engagement into a single network.
The City of Helsinki budget, for example, could be planned together with
the entire city.
”An active citizen can participate in everything from housing company
issues to European-wide environmental movements, as well as propose bills
to both the local municipal council and the European parliament. D-CENT
brings the active citizens and organizations of different countries together,”
Mia Marttiini from Forum Virium Helsinki marvels.
The D-CENT platform is currently being developed in ten organizations
around Europe. The partners from Finland are Open Ministry and Forum
Virium Helsinki. The project builds on existing user bases in Spain,
Finland and Iceland, all countries already using the tools for direct online
“The crucial thing is that the platform is not commercial but based on
open source code. Developers can participate in writing code, building
applications and more. The service will be decentralized with data spread
on several servers across Europe. User data is not collected for advertisers
or any other external registers,” says Joonas Pekkanen, an expert on open
The aim is that the simplicity of the platform will draw more people than
ever to actively engage in decision-making.
“It is now possible to connect with people beyond neighbours and villagers
to influence the community. You don’t have to participate in everything, but
through D-CENT you can further your own interests and find others who
share them,” Mia Marttiini distils the idea.
D-CENT offers active citizens tools for
direct online democracy, which enable
them to reach decision makers both in
their home city and in Europe.
Citizen hotline to top
political decision makers
Decentralized Citizens’ Engagement Technologies.
Digital tools for civil society groups to organize
their activities and participate in decision-making.
Why it’s done
D-CENT enables a genuine global democracy.
Ten organizations from Spain, the Netherlands,
Iceland, Great Britain, France and Finland (Open
Ministry and Forum Virium Helsinki).
Who it serves
Citizens and organizations in Europe.
PHOTO LAURI ROTKO, THE CITY OF HELSINKI MEDIA BANK
D-CENT gathers European
citizens around the same virtual
table to influence shared issues.
You can now connect with
people beyond neighbours
and villagers to influence
The test lab of
a smart city
Helsinki City Council decided to make the
Kalasatama district a model for smart city
development. Kalasatama shows what the
future of a witty city looks like.
The new Kalasatama district will be built as the “Smart City” of Hel-
sinki. It will be a worldwide model district for testing and developing
new urban services for residents.
Why it’s done
Smart Kalasatama is exploring new ways to build a sustainable city
and develop services that improve residents’ quality of life. The vision
of Smart Kalasatama is to be so smart that it saves one hour of each
resident’s time every day. In the future the solutions following this
vision can be launched Helsinki-wide as well as become successful
exports for companies.
City of Helsinki Economic and Planning Centre, Forum Virium Helsinki
and TEKES, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation. Dozens of
large and small companies are participating in the development of
Smart Kalasatama together with research groups and citizens.
Who it serves
All citizens, the participating companies, city administration.
Project planning 2013-2014.
PHOTO JARMO ROIKO-JOKELA, THE CITY OF HELSINKI MEDIA BANK
They worked together with SRV, the City library, Helsinki
Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre, Forum Virium Helsinki and the
residents’ local organic food co-op to build a temporary local
“The Kalasatama residents were very active in using the
24/7 self-service library and gave very positive and valuable
feedback of how to continue the experiment,“ managing
Director Harri Paloheimo from PiggyBaggy says.
“Kalasatama will become our pilot district. Together with
Aalto University, we are introducing the intelligent PiggyBox
delivery container for packages to be picked up and dropped
off for delivery. We are also looking for a partner who’d like to
test an environmentally sound way to organize home delivery
to customers,” Managing Director Harri Paloheimo from
PiggyBaggy says. The biggest surprise for Paloheimo was the
speedy decision-making process of the City. Though often
criticized for their slow response, city officials gave the land
leasing decision in just two weeks. The pilot use of the container-
shaped delivery point started as soon as power lines were up.
“PiggyBaggy is a great example of a new type of city service,
which reduces traffic, makes use of new technology and
involves residents in development in order to discover the
genuine needs for the service,” Veera Mustonen marvels.
Successful business is also permitted in the Kalasatama
experiments. “It’s absolutely necessary, in fact. The business cases
need to have potential to flourish beyond the initial experiment.”
This is also a prerequisite set by TEKES, the Finnish Funding
Agency for Innovation, which chose Kalasatama as the first
pilot district for its Witty City Programme. Business tested
in Kalasatama has to be viable for other cities, too. Testing
new ways of working is easy when building a new district.
For example the new online service for Kalasatama residents,
fisuverkko.fi (“Fishnet”) has a good chance for taking off.
Every household is linked to it. Services like apartment
maintenance history, a fault reporting channel and an online
flea market are handy for all residents.
“Launching such a service in an old district would be difficult. Here
we have a chance to make it a new service to every resident.”
The city is also using Kalasatama as a test district. Helsingin
Energia, a local energy company, is testing a smart grid and
smart metering in the area, while the future comprehensive
school of Kalasatama is experimenting with new pedagogical
models supported by learning technologies. Instead of traditional
classrooms the school will have two large spaces, which can be
flexibly divided for different kinds of teaching scenarios.
The Finnish version of a smart city is already attracting
attention. Mustonen has just said goodbye to a busload of
foreign guests after their tour of the smart Kalasatama.
“We have seen a passionate response to the new district.
Companies, officials and future residents are bursting with
ideas about how to develop the city. I hope we can translate all
this enthusiasm into concrete actions to develop a better city.”
Veera Mustonen, heading Smart Kalasatama programme,
is looking out to the building site through the panoramic
windows of Restaurant Vanha Kalasatama. The old
dockworkers’ canteen on the top floor has a splendid view
over the new city district. So far a few city blocks have been
completed, with homes for a couple of thousand people. In just
a few years the view will be very different: a bridge connecting
the district to downtown Helsinki, 33-floor tower blocks and the
population of a small Finnish town.
The new Kalasatama is a Finnish example of a Smart City, an
urban environment where both people and the environment
thrive. New technology and data are helping to create new
sustainable services for the citizens. In the city’s strategy
programme Kalasatama has been named the model district for
smart city development in Helsinki.
“Now we need to put this theory into practice,” Mustonen
This is exactly the goal that Forum Virium Helsinki, the
workhorse of the project, has set to achieve together with
residents, companies and municipal leadership.
“Besides intelligent infrastructure we need the creativity of
residents and companies. We organize events, and challenges
to invite different stakeholders and citizens to use Kalasatama
to develop their own innovations.”
The City drives innovation
At the Smart Kalasatama seminar the development agents
of different city departments together with enterprises are
visioning new solutions to be tested in Kalasatama. Architect
Salla Hoppu, from the City Planning Department, is presenting
the thoughts of the group focused on residents’ energy use.
The group has envisioned how a fictive resident, 41-year-old
Nina, could live as energy efficiently as possible in Kalasatama.
“Her roof, walls and windows produce solar energy. She will
the energy to take her children to day care on an electric cargo
bike,” Hoppu envisions.
Similar workshops are held with current and future residents.
For example the new social services and health care centre,
which will be built next to the Kalasatama metro station, is
planned together with its future users.
“Gaining insights of the customers is a good way to get ahead
in planning. We are mapping residents’ needs in focus group
interviews,” Veera Mustonen says.
When the goals have been set, it’s time to experiment.
The Smart Kalasatama programme is focusing on creating
intelligent city services. Smart residents are coming up with
innovative services, which make clever use of open data
sources and the possibilities of new technology.
“The area is being developed through experimentation,”
Licence to test
Yesterday’s docklands area and today’s building site is
providing an ideal setting for many temporary ventures. “You
can really test out everything here, the city is very flexible,”
One of the experiments was the smart containers put together by
PiggyBaggy, a start-up for crowdsourced logistics.
Companies, officials and future
residents are bursting with
ideas for developing the city.
CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS PAGE
ILLUSTRATION JARMO ROIKO-JOKELA, CITY OF HELSINKI MEDIA BANK; VILLE
PELTOLA’S PICTURE IBM
Smart city life
Head of Smart Kalasatama Programme Veera
Mustonen would like to see the following
five ideas from residents become reality in
Kalasatama by 2020.
Shared (electric) vehicles
Pick up an electric car, e-bike or
electrically assisted walker or a normal
bike from the metro station. After you’ve
parked it, it’s free for the next user.
A solar panel cooperative
Residents can buy shares in the
production capacity of solar
panels. The panels on rooftops or
balconies are easy to connect to
the intelligent grid. Residents can
either use the electricity themselves
or sell it to their neighbours.
Boat share and ride
Many leisure boats stand parked at the harbour
for most of the summer. When these boats are
shared and used for group island trips or fishing
excursions, maintenance costs can be divided
and more people get to enjoy maritime Helsinki.
Restaurant Day every day
People looking for new
acquaintances could invite
people to dine with them.
Flexible space service
Companies and residents can
advertise any space for rent, from
the common room of their housing
company to their own living room,
the school sports hall or a car
repair workshop. Free spaces can
be easily rented by the hour, day
or month, for example as a home
The in-house start-up
of the City of Helsinki
As a member of Forum Virium Helsinki, IBM chose Helsinki as
one of the participants in its Smarter Cities Challenge project,
which aimed to improve cities’ operations with the help of
open data. Director of Innovation Ville Peltola thinks that there
is room for much closer collaboration between IBM and the
city. “We could still do much more together.”
IBM is one of the member companies of Forum Virium Helsinki.
The global IT giant is taking research and development very
seriously. Their Director of Innovation for Finland, Ville Peltola,
claims that the company already became interested in smart
city development five years ago.
“A couple of years ahead of its time,” Peltola says, laughing.
Thanks to pioneers like Peltola, today’s smart city events by
Forum Virium Helsinki and other seminar organizers are full
to the brim. The Innovation Director of IBM is a familiar face
in discussions about open data or the smart city. Everyone
who’s met Peltola has probably heard him talk about in-house
entrepreneurship within organizations. It’s essential to drive
start-up culture within both large corporations and the public
sector, Peltola argues.
“I like to call Forum Virium Helsinki the in-house start-up of the
city,” Ville Peltola says.
A development unit like Forum Virium Helsinki can solve
problems such as the compartmentalization of the city. When
all the city’s operations from IT to water supply are organized in
totally separate compartments, the big picture is often ignored
“It is quite eye-opening to think about how few cities in the
world have a control room in charge of the whole city, a
nerve centre aware of all operations and developments. Rio
de Janeiro is probably the place where this has been taken
furthest so far. In Helsinki, too, we have one control room for
traffic, another one for the city’s energy company and another
one for public works.Peltola’s ideal city would be a single
system rather than a group of compartments. “Transparency
and information flow between offices would play a central role
The in-house start-up of the City of Helsinki has been particularly
effective in opening up public data, Peltola thinks. These days
many associate open data with the handy apps emerging from
the Apps4Finland competitions, but Peltola believes the open
data movement has potential for a whole lot more.
“At its best it will initiate a huge cultural transformation,”
Forum Virium Helsinki brings a culture of
experimentation to the public sector,
Ville Peltola says.
Creating a culture of
The product developers of large corporations often look
enviously at the agility with which small companies grasp new
ideas and try them out in practice.
“We need fast experimentation in the public sector, too,”
According to Peltola, the Code Fellows of Forum Virium
Helsinki who have worked in the IT departments of HRT and
the City of Helsinki provide a fine example of this.
“These guys can make fast tests in a few hours, for example on
what a certain digital service could look like. It is considerably
easier to sell an idea when you have something concrete to
show, rather than just a thought.”
Besides Forum Virium Helsinki, many officials are also engaged
in open-minded city development.
“There are agile organizations within the city, too, which just
decide to do things in a new way.”
Peltola praises the libraries of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area,
for example, for their smooth electronic services and the rapid
introduction of new services to accompany traditional lending.
“Quite some time ago, at the Apps4Finland gala, we got the
idea that libraries could purchase 3D-printers for customers’
use. Now anyone can come to the library to print out a 3D
design. The Kutsuplus on-demand service of the Helsinki
Region Transport is another world-class venture.”
The Helsinki Loves Developers meeting for developers gets the
thumbs up from Peltola, too.
“Just opening up the data is not enough. Building a developer
community is really important. This is where Helsinki is leading
Forum Virium Helsinki is developing the
city in a new way. But what do agility and
user-led development mean in practice?
The anatomy of a successful
PHOTOS: PERTTI NISONEN THE CITY OF HELSINKI MEDIA BANK; OLLI-PEKKA ORPO
Developing the city operations is a challenging task. It is easy to gauge the
success from how committed city officials and service users are to it.
Forum Virium Helsinki, the development unit of the City of Helsinki, has
gained plenty of skills and experience from its projects.
“Forum Virium Helsinki has introduced the operating models of small
software companies to development of city services,” says Development
Director Pekka Koponen.
The Helsinki Region Infoshare project is a good example of this. Ville
Meloni, who used to work as the managing director of a start-up, was hired
to launch and run the project.
Development work can only succeed when it’s linked to the everyday work
in the city organisation. The leader of the HRI project was rarely seen at the
office of Forum Virium Helsinki.
“Ville would usually work at the premises of City of Helsinki Urban Facts,
together with city employees,” Koponen explains.
Another sign of a good development project is that it’s not indefinite. When
the time is right, it can be handed over.
“The Helsinki Region Infoshare open data project is now looked after by
City of Helsinki Urban Facts, as part of the city’s everyday operations,”
Many people who work in the public sector are averse to new development
projects, because they think they slow down real work. Are there any
grounds for such fears about Forum Virium Helsinki’s projects?
“I hope not,” CEO Jarmo Eskelinen laughs.
“To us, our projects are more than just projects. We want to build a thriving,
well-functioning city, and any project is a means to that end.”
OF A SUCCESSFUL
Forum Virium Helsinki’s projects are experimentation
in nature. New ideas are tested together and lessons
are learnt along the way. The first version of any
service is released to the public as quickly as possible,
after which it is developed according to user feedback.
This is exactly how the Open Ahjo API was born.
The Ahjo document management
system, launched in the summer of 2011,
introduced the paperless office to 5 000
City of Helsinki officials and municipal
politicians. The decision-making data
collected in Ahjo was all labelled as public, but
the information was not accessible to citizens.
Would it be possible to create an open API to the
city’s document management system, in order to
provide free and easy access to the data?
People working for the Helsinki Region Infoshare
project of Forum Virium Helsinki decided to
facilitate opening up Ahjo’s data.
2. COMMIT KEY PARTNERS
A shared goal is the key to a successful development project. In the case of Ahjo, it was
different people who were responsible for the technology, and content of the system.
The leader of the HRI project gathered all the stakeholders together. Everyone around
the negotiating table agreed that an open data interface would be worth the effort. An
investment of few tens of thousands would create an open data interface to Ahjo, already a
data system worth three million euros. At its best, the data content of Ahjo could be used in
totally new ways.
3. INVOLVE USERS
The aim was to launch a small project for
opening up data, which would be quick
to implement and as useful as possible to
applications developers. The project started
with an open invitation shared on social media,
bringing a full house of curious people to Forum
Virium Helsinki’s workshop.
The three-hour session attracted a mixed
crowd of officials, citizen democracy activists
and IT enthusiasts. The discussion was fruitful.
City officials discovered the opportunities that
open municipal data would provide to data
proponents. Citizen activists, on the other
hand, understood why city officials
couldn’t just open up public
data by the click of a button.
results. The session
resulted in a
concrete plan for
opening up the city’s
In Forum Virium Helsinki’s
projects, the goal is to make
the first version of any service
public as quickly as possible.
This is why the interface was
ordered from Tieto, who had
originally created the entire
With the HRI team working
tirelessly behind the scenes, the
key stakeholders of the Ahjo system
were overjoyed. The agendas and
minutes of the municipal council, board and
committees were about to become open
“The information is now available around the
clock through the interface. It is no longer
necessary to call or visit the registry of the
City Hall,” says Katja Räisänen, the leading
expert of the Ahjo system.
Project implementation rarely happens
without challenges. The biggest task was to
ensure that confidential material, including
residents’ personal information, would still
remain private. Finally, in March 2013, the
transparency of City of Helsinki governance
took a great leap forward.
The first version of the interface coded
into the Ahjo system was added to the
HRI data catalogue.
5. IMPROVE AND GATHER FEEDBACK
Many development projects end when they actually should begin. User feedback
revealed that application developers needed advanced search features to the Ahjo’s
data content. The Code Fellow of the City of Helsinki, Juha Yrjölä, got down to work.
His improvements changed the data interface into a more developer-friendly REST
interface, which enabled searching for specific information. Yrjölä also spurred application
developers on with the Päätökset.fi (‘Decisions’) web service, which made it easy to
search for decisions per home district.
Now municipal decisions were in a machine-readable format that was accessible
via any online service. Application developers were excited by the possibilities. Soon
several mobile and online applications were making use of the data content offered by
the city. One of those was Ahjo Explorer, the favourite app of Mayor Jussi Pajunen.
Forum Virium Helsinki’s activities and
vision for city development are highly
international. Cities around the world will
benefit from services built together on
shared platforms. The Six City Strategy,
co-operation strategy carried out by the
six largest cities in Finland, raises a lot of
Interoperability means savings
and business opportunities
If a software company develops an effective digital service for the residents
of a city, it’s still small business. If a hundred cities use the same service,
however, it becomes a success story. The prerequisite for duplicability is
that it isn’t overwhelmingly difficult to replicate the service from one city to
“Cities have not yet developed too many shared operating models,”
Jarmo Eskelinen argues.
In order to reverse this trend, Forum Virium Helsinki is strongly focused
on international collaboration. The open data interface of Helsinki’s Ahjo
decision-making system, for example, is an impressive achievement. It
would be even more impressive if the same interface and the same mobile
services worked in cities around Europe. This means amazing business
“There are only 500 000 inhabitants in Helsinki and 1.5 million in Finland’s
six largest cities combined,” Eskelinen points out.
For developers of digital city services, such user numbers are still small.
However, once more headway is made in standardising interfaces in
Helsinki’s international projects, those numbers scale up enormously.
Cities have predominantly similar needs. When the most important data
sets are opened in harmonized way, the same apps will work everywhere.
Helsinki’s Open Ahjo decision-making interface could be replicated around
the world. Open Knowledge Finland, an association that aims to make the
decision-making data interface for cities into an export, shares this opinion.
“It could become the standard way to share city decision-making data
anywhere in the world,” Antti Poikola from Open Knowledge Finland
The Helsinki Region Infoshare service
(HRI) was awarded 100 000 euro in
a EU competition for public services
innovation. The prize money is being
used to develop the service further and
enhance citizens’ access to information
about municipal decision-making.
PHOTOS EUROPEAN UNION 2014; SAKKE SOMERMA, VISITHELSINKI
Thanks to its open data credentials,
Helsinki fared well in the European
Parliament’s Smart City research.
Smart Helsinki shines bright
Forum Virium Helsinki’s international networks
When the European Parliament published its research about 468
Smart City projects in Europe in early 2014, Helsinki was ranked
in the top six Smart Cities, together with Amsterdam, Barcelona,
Copenhagen, Manchester and Vienna.
For city management, though, the result didn’t come as a
surprise. Mayor Jussi Pajunen had understood it ever since he’d
first presented Helsinki’s documents to his European colleagues
with the Ahjo Explorer app.
“Helsinki is a well functioning and smart city,” former Deputy
Mayor Hannu Penttilä confirms.
Forum Virium Helsinki’s CEO Jarmo Eskelinen agrees. “It’s easy
to forget how well we’re doing on quite a few counts in Helsinki.
Every city in the world is criticized for having an inflexible,
bureaucratic and rigid organization. But there are some that are a
little less rigid,” Eskelinen muses.
What exactly propelled Helsinki to the top of Smart Cities? The
research praised several of Forum Virium Helsinki’s projects. The
Helsinki Region Infoshare (HRI) was called a pioneering service in
the field of open municipal data. Applauds were also given to the
opening up of municipal decision-making data (Open Ahjo) and
the community portal for developers (dev.hel.fi).
European Network of
European Network of Living Labs
(ENoLL) gathers the innovation
communities of different
countries under one roof. It’s a
network promoting user-driven
methods and international co-
operation between living labs
around the world.
Since 2006, more than 300
living labs around the world
have joined ENoLL, Originally
European network has nowadays
spread over Africa, South
America and Asia. ENoLL aims
to support co-creative, human-
centric and user-driven research
and innovation in order to better
cater for people’s needs.
Forum Virium Helsinki is one of
the founding members of ENoLL.
CEO Jarmo Eskelinen has been
leading the network since 2012.
EBN is a European network of
business and innovation centres,
which support innovative
entrepreneurs. Forum Virium
Helsinki joined the network in
2013. Founded in 1984, EBN
has over 200 members.
EBN provides information
about international projects
and programmes. It helps
companies in the early stages
of international cooperation
and in project implementation.
It also acts as a lobbyist for
companies. It organizes events
and promotes benchmarking
amongst the members.
EIT ICT Labs
European Institute of Innovation
and Technology (EIT) is the EU’s
leading technology research
institution. The EIT ICT Labs
operate in seven European
cities. Their aim is to give rise to
a dynamic European ecosystem
for the ICT field and a Silicon
Valley style marketplace and
testing ground for new ideas.
In Helsinki, the founding
members of the EIT ICT Labs
are Nokia, VTT and the Aalto
University. Helsinki’s focus areas
are intelligent spaces, service
design, Green ICT & sustainable
development, and wellbeing.
Forum Virium Helsinki is an
affiliate partner of the network.
The Open Knowledge network,
a civic organization founded in
2004, is an advocate for open
access to information and data
sources. Open Knowledge is the
organizer of the annual Open
Knowledge Festival, the world’s
largest festival in its field, which
was staged in Helsinki in 2012.
Forum Virium Helsinki’s
projects are conducted in close
cooperation with the Finnish
unit of the network, Open
Knowledge Finland (OKFFI).
The 100 000 euro prize money
awarded to Helsinki Region
Infoshare in an EU innovation
competition 2013 was given
out to open data related ideas
and projects via the DataDemo
funding coordinated by OKFFI.