You are viewing 1 of 2 articles without an email address.


All our articles are free to read, but complete your details for free access to full site!

Already a Member?
Login Join us now

City Lights: Hanna Niemi-Hugaerts, Forum Virium Helsinki

Hanna Niemi-Hugaerts, Director of IoT at Forum Virium Helsinki, tells Smart Cities World about her mission to make Helsinki “the most functional smart city in the world”.

LinkedInTwitterFacebook
Hanna Niemi-Hugaerts, Director of IoT at Forum Virium Helsinki,
Hanna Niemi-Hugaerts, Director of IoT at Forum Virium Helsinki,

Finland’s capital city of Helsinki has a population of over 648,000. It is known for its living standards being among the highest in the world.

 

The greater area of Helsinki contributes to one-third of Finland’s GDP and 83 of the 100 largest Finnish companies are located there.

 

Forum Virium Helsinki is the City of Helsinki’s innovation unit. It develops new digital services and urban innovations in collaboration with companies, universities, other public-sector organisations and residents.

 

Forum Virium Helsinki’s mission is to make Helsinki “the most functional smart city in the world”.

 

We talked to Hanna Niemi-Hugaerts, Director of IoT at Forum Virium Helsinki, to find out more.

 

SCW: What does the term "smart city" mean to you?

 

Hugaerts: A citizen-centric and data-enabled city where the ecosystem can leverage technology and other resources for the benefit of its citizens and society at large. Cities where hindrances to creating and piloting new services have been removed, and where data and algorithms are open to ensure transparency and innovation.

 

SCW: What is the main purpose of your role?

 

Hugaerts: Making Helsinki the most functional smart city in the world through open IoT ecosystems. It’s also to maximise the impact of Forum Virium Helsinki’s IoT and data projects by creating synergies, tapping into ecosystems and leading the team of nine experts.

 

SCW: When did you start this job? What was your route to the position?

 

Hugaerts: Forum Virium Helsinki’s IoT programme kicked off in January 2017. Previously I worked as a development manager in Forum Virium Helsinki, running a smaller team focusing on open data and data-driven business.

 

My work history consists of working on everything digital since 2000, providing me with extensive experience in developing digital services – both for the private and public sector.

 

I first got my hands dirty with data in 2009 when I worked at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. There, we created a science-based climate change portal that aimed to drive data-supported behaviour change through visualisations, such as localised future projections of climate change impacts.

SCW: Can you describe a typical day?

 

Hugaerts: Today, my day kicked off with a remote meeting for the Synchronicity project, along with eight European cities. We were discussing suggested solutions for harmonising APIs between cities. We presented our clean air route planner which uses air quality data in route calculations.

 

From there I went to check out our new VekotinVerstas sensor installation where we help the city to measure the number of visitors in a park by counting Wi-Fi-signals. We discuss with the city department how this data could be used for optimising park maintenance and other purposes.

 

Then it was time to go to an event that we organised together with the local tech hub to promote our open call for funding to scale pre-tested IoT solutions between European cities. The day ended at the office where I joined a remote meeting with Antwerp to evaluate tenders we have received for the living lab stage of our joint Select for Cities pre-commercial procurement of an Internet of Everything platform.

 

Throughout the day, I was in touch with my team multiple times via Slack to agree on smaller issues that came up. I can’t really complain about getting bored in this position.

 

SCW: What is your number-one priority right now?

 

Hugaerts: Supporting Helsinki on its mission to become the most functional city in the world by removing hindrances to companies and cities leveraging IoT.

 

To do this, we need to renew the way data is being collected and utilised in cities and ease the learning curve around new technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT.

 

"Cities need to move from using data for monitoring the current state of affairs to using data and algorithms for optimising processes and driving behaviour change."

 

Cities need to move from using data for monitoring the current state of affairs to using data and algorithms for optimising processes and driving behaviour change.

 

SCW: What benefits can new technologies bring to governments around the world?

 

Hugaerts: Take open data as an example – it has created a push for transparency, efficiency and becoming a platform for third-party service development. Why should we aim for less with other technologies?

 

From the citizen side, new technologies that enter the consumer market often create a demand for better services in government as well. To some extent, technologies such as the ones in the field of machine learning create possibilities for increasing efficiency while providing more personalised services.

 

The City-as-a-Platform approach brings not only new services to citizens but also enables the city to utilise other platforms to get data they need or to use these platforms as channels to reach people they otherwise might not reach.

 

The City-as-a-Platform approach brings not only new services to citizens but also enables the city to utilise other platforms to get data they need or to use these platforms as channels to reach people they otherwise might not reach.

 

One clear change for cities is that digitisation can no longer be added as a final layer, as it has an impact on how buildings and vehicles need to be designed and built.

 

SCW: What new problems do emerging technologies create in government?

 

Hugaerts: Technology should be a tool and an enabler, not the driver of development. As digitisation increases the role of technologies in government service delivery and operation, the need for competent procurers and technology experts has grown.

 

The platform economy calls for skills in ecosystem-building and management. Evaluating technologies and their impact on processes and job descriptions should be on the agenda of all parts of governments. Knowing how to scope, run and monitor pilots to find use cases worth piloting is also crucial.

 

SCW: What is your biggest challenge?

 

Hugaerts: Making the benefits of new technologies quantifiable even during the pilot stage – e.g. emissions cuts, improvements in user-experience, time saved for the user and the government, ROI, etc.

 

SCW: What do you see as your biggest achievement since you started the role?

 

Hugaerts: Our team kicked off the Smart City IoT Hacklab VekotinVerstas (known as a “gadget lab” to test out IoT tools) with open technology workshops to provide a welcoming place to get started with sensors and other IoT technologies.

 

One of the biggest achievements has been the feedback from participants who have not only found the workshops useful but have been very happy with the way they were organised.

 

Now, with our new 5G testbed project UrbanSense, we can leverage VekotinVerstas for exploring the possibilities that 5G can offer.

 

SCW: What is the best part of the job:

 

Hugaerts: Getting to work on emerging technologies with both sides: the private and public sector – and, through this collaboration, boosting innovation, ensuring speed and having an opportunity to scale and create an impact at large.

 

Also, being able to see how much our stakeholders value our team’s expertise and mindset.

 

SCW: What keeps you awake at night?

 

Hugaerts: Not counting climate change, poverty and other global challenges?

 

Apart from these things, all the increasing possibilities for new exciting collaborations and the limited resources we have for seizing even more of these opportunities. Also, the question of whether we are doing the things we do in a way that has the most impact, and how we can serve the whole ecosystem even better.

 

SCW: If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

 

Hugaerts: It would be hard to find a place as interesting as Forum Virium. We get the best from both worlds – public and private sector, and through this combination, we can steer the use of technologies to serve the common good.

 

If I had to pick something, it would be interesting to work directly for a city to see how well I could drive change there.

 

LinkedInTwitterFacebook
Add New Comment
LoginRegister