Futuristic Life in Finland – the Smart City Kalasatama
Finland has already been named the happiest country in the world four times. It is ahead of most countries in the areas of education, technology and social security. Finnish smart cities also fit into this concept. These are modern cities that are fully focused on efficiency, sustainability and social inclusion.
What does smart city actually mean?
In Finland the new era of smart cities has already begun – and they don’t look anything like the slick futuristic versions of cities from science fiction movies.
The Scandinavian countries are considered pioneers of smart and sustainable cities in Europe. The term “smart city” evokes utopias – elegant skyscrapers, polite robots, hologram advertising and self-driving hover cars. At least at first glance, however, real modern cities are far removed from this idea.
In Finland, the development of smart cities focuses on the role of citizens and their needs. And sure, some projects are definitely full of technology and artificial intelligence. The main question, however, is how daily life can be improved with the help of innovative services and technologies.
Exemplary projects include making it easier to get around town or optimizing traffic and energy consumption.
Kalasatama – from fishing port to smart city
In the Kalasatama district of Helsinki, the Nordic city of the future is already a reality. Kalasatama, by the way, roughly translates to “fish port.” However, the attractive location directly on a Baltic Sea bay no longer functions as a port facility today, but as a residential and office area.
Since fall 2013, the district has been considered a model area for smart urban development. Residents, business owners and the city will be involved in the planning process. The projects serve to contribute to the development of the city and apply the findings to urban planning nationally and internationally.
The main goal is to find solutions that simplify daily life and support climate goals. This involves experimentation and development. District residents are testing out what supports a smooth daily life and what may need to be adjusted.
For example, some residents signed up for a planned neighborhood watch, but since Finns tend to be reluctant to ask for help, the offer was hardly used in reality.
From self-driving buses to automatic garbage collection
The projects in Kalasatama are integrated into all areas of life. Residents can control the technology in their apartment via an app. For example, the house sauna can be turned on on the way home, so that it is immediately ready for use when entering the apartment.
On the other hand, when leaving the house, the power in the apartment can then also be turned off with a simple push of a button to save energy. Another very popular application is automatic underground vacuuming of garbage to a collection point.
But the outer cityscape also benefits from the development into a smart city. Thus, much emphasis is placed on green infrastructure, that is, natural areas that protect biodiversity but also ensure other services. This concept for urban nature is demonstrated, for example, in a pilot project for intelligent and environmentally conscious streetcar stops. Here, green infrastructure and urban mobility are to be combined.
Other methods include stormwater management or green mini-parks consisting of seating areas and planter boxes. And the first autonomous buses are already in operation. By the way, the whole of Helsinki is to be made car-free by 2025.
The goal: gain an hour a day
The main focus in the Smart City Kalasatama is on smart living, smart infrastructure, green infrastructure and everyday well-being. The motto is to give the current 3,000 residents “an extra hour a day.” By 2035, additional housing for a total of 25,000 residents and jobs for 10,000 people will be created.
In 2018, the model area already won the first prize as the best smart neighborhood in the “Building Automation” category and took fifth place in the “Smart City Municipality” category of the international KNX Award competition.
But Finland is just getting started. Also in Tampere, Vantaa and Espoo are already developing smart cities, and the new Jätäsaari district in Helsinki is a construction project specifically for smart city developments.
Finland is successfully demonstrating what is still far in the future in most countries. Finnish smart cities are not only about technological progress, but also about sustainability and quality of life.
Residents are allowed to have a say in the redesign of their neighborhoods, and so real-life conditions are used to test whether change is necessary at all. The people of Finland are probably known for being so happy for a reason!
The most frequent questions from travelers
Why do we need smart cities?
Concepts for urban spaces such as the smart city model can make city life more modern, efficient and climate-friendly. At the same time, the quality of life of the residents can improve.
Are smart cities actually sustainable?
Smart cities have the potential to promote urban sustainability. Indeed, environmentally friendly practices implemented in a smart city can grant other services at the same time. One example is the use of rainwater for toilet flushing.
What are examples of urban green infrastructure?
Examples include rain barrels, landscaped alleys, unsealing in yards, or green spaces with shade trees.