Tallinn And Helsinki – Opening The Borders To Welcome Smart City Development

What Is Cross Border Approach?

Until now we have been talking about what each smart city sitting in the different corners of the globe is doing. We have been watching developments in cities around the world. Each one of them has a different vision and a different goal to reach. Many of them are striving for success in isolation – which might be detrimental for the future in smart cities.

According to smart city scholars, deployment of ICT in cities can effectively bring databases, functions and services together leading to the creation of smart cities. On the contrary, the deployment can also bring adverse consequences if the functions and services emerge legally and technologically as locked-in solutions that lead to the destruction of intercity connections. Isolated APIs and procurement regulations can turn cities into technological islands leading them from interoperable to fragmented services. For instance, public transport payments and mobile parking systems depend on local laws and vary across the borders. So, what happens when people travel from one heterogeneous city to another?

Hence, a new concept is emerging in smart city atmosphere which is termed as ‘cross-border approach’. Experts agree that cities can become truly smart only when they defeat silos and encourage a better flow of data between city functions and services. They agree that ICT does not automatically become a universal element in the services provided across the cities.

Smart city development is an ongoing process which will continue over time. At the same time, it is crucial for cities to collaborate on many layers including political, business and technological.

Therefore, we have come forward to discuss one of the milestone initiatives taking place in two Northern European capitals – Tallinn and Helsinki.

The two smart cities have a high commuting frequency. Millions of people travelling between Tallinn and Helsinki demand for joint cross-border services which the public authorities often fail to meet. In such cases, the smart city development in the mobility sector leads to an adverse effect where citizens receive limited but not advanced solutions.

Here we can see that cities cannot transform into a smart space if they develop in isolation. For the free movement of people and goods, cities need to follow actual mobility patterns. Smart city services can be considered best when they can be scaled. The problem is not confined to a single city, in fact, this is an international issue.

So, let us see how the cities of Tallinn and Helsinki are planning for cross-border approach!

Talsinki Working On Building A Smart And Sustainable Prototype

Tallinn and Helsinki, the cities which are 100 km apart are planning big on embracing the cross-border approach. The vision is being furthered by the two leading universities of the two cities, starting with a pilot project.

Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) in Estonia and Aalto University in Greater Helsinki, Finland have received €32 million funding. The universities will work in partnership with Forum Virium Helsinki, an innovation unit and The Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication. €15 million of funding has been granted by the Horizon 2020 programme whereas €17 million in co-financing from the government of Estonia for the Finest Twins Project.   

The funding is aimed to be used in establishing the Smart Cities Centre of Excellence in Tallinn. It will be the first global centre of excellence that will work on developing top-level research and innovative solutions for cross-border smart cities. The innovative concepts will be tested and first implemented in Tallinn and Helsinki before scaling it across the globe. The universities hope that the Talsinki (Tallinn and Helsinki) project will become a “smart and sustainable” prototype for Europe and the world.

Further On The Finest Twin Project

This project known as the “Finest Twins” is the creative thinking of Dr Ralf-Martin Soe from the Nurkse Department of TalTech. According to him, the project will focus on the vision to create next-generation digital solutions. Finland and Estonia (two cultural twins) will work more closely together and treat the Talsinki region in a synergistic way – instead of seeing them as two different cities from two different countries.

The two cities are part of the Horizon 2020 Finest Twins project which aims at developing a new model of close cooperation on smart city strategies.

The project will continue for seven years and work on strengthening research cooperation between the two universities. The universities will conduct research and create cross-border innovation networks and capabilities in five areas which include data, governance, mobility, energy, and built environment. In addition, it will also focus on improving the joint smart city services between the two cities.   

As per Jaak Aaviksoo, the rector of TalTech, the project is the biggest ever competitive R&D grant in Estonia. The Estonian Research Council has compared the Teaming Grant of the two universities to receiving an R&D Oscar Award. This shows that TalTech and Aalto team of researchers can innovate modern cities that are sustainable and citizen-oriented.

Furthermore, the Centre of Excellence will promote the European Digital Single Market and integration of Estonian and Finnish e-government. Moreover, it will boost university-industry collaboration and private-sector innovation and export potential in the city of Helsinki.

To begin with, Forum Virium Helsinki, TalTech and Aalto, will co-design the ‘Urban Open Platform and Lab’. It will be built on the Centre’s research outputs to design and test joint pilot-projects for the two smart cities. As an example, for smart street lighting, the aim is to enhance not just the sustainability (energy-saving) factor but also the aesthetics and safety of the place.

The Urban Platform will be used to test ideas in real-world environments. For instance, digital micro-payments enable new business models for the IoT, but there is a lack of knowledge about what will be the consumer behaviour in such events. Hence, real-life testing environments will provide space to explore interesting research possibilities.

In addition, the project will also concentrate on research of local renewable energy production and smart electricity distribution solutions. As smart cities utilise an enormous amount of data, the project will require data analysis and data security experts as well.

Ultimately, the aim is to build an open research and development ecosystem that includes research and services and product development for public administration and commercial business activities together.

Besides, the project also welcomes innovation collaborations with many of Estonian and Finnish companies interested in smart city development and innovation projects.

Tallinn As A Smart City

Tallinn As A Smart City

Tallinn envisions to become the world’s best living environments and in the run, it is encouraging its citizens to come forward and have their say on how to achieve the goal. Along the journey, the city of Tallinn is used to comparing itself with Helsinki which already has one of the best living environments in the world.

The government of Tallinn has launched an ideas competition on its website to invite people with the opportunity to contribute to the planning of the future of Tallinn as a smart city.

The joint effort showcased by Tallinn and Helsinki will positively contribute to bolstering the Digital Single Market. This will happen by increasing aggregate supply and decreasing the digital divide while empowering the local communities.