Sign In
Information about science based innovations, solid facts to support decision-making, performance and business development for VTT’s partners, customers and anyone interested in high technology and its applications.
A magazine on science, technology and business

Technology enables good urban living

Text: Petja Partanen | Photos: Timo Porthan | 26.10.2018

The smart city of the future will be crammed with technology harnessed for a single purpose: to make us happy. Technology will also be needed to solve urban environmental problems and halt climate change.

Over half of the world's population already lives in cities. The figure will be over 70% by 2050.

 – People come to cities to realise their dreams, to live a good life, says Antti Ruuska, a Co-creation Manager at VTT.

 The theme of the VTT Growth Lab held for stakeholders in August 2018 was 'Good Life'. This is one of the five societal challenges that VTT is tackling through its activities.

 The attractiveness of cities is based on the opportunities they provide. Cities offer the best opportunities for work, hobbies and starting a family. However, with their difficult environmental problems, many of the world's cities are far from what might be called a good living environment. Rapid growth is not easing the problem.

– My two-year-old son will be my age in 2050, when the world's cities are home to 2.5 billion more people than now, says Ruuska at the Growth Lab event.

– They need homes, schools, hospitals and services. The building of infrastructure is a major challenge, given the world's finite resources and the simultaneous need to halt climate change.

The Smart City will change everything

The term Smart City refers to a change in which people's quality of life in the cities improves while the environmental burden is lightened – thanks to new technology.

Antti Ruuska believes that many Smart City development projects should be much more ambitious. New technology alone will not suffice. If urban waterways are contaminated and air quality poor, residents will have little use for the data in question. Not even if a technically advanced sensor network generates data and transmits it in real time to a mobile application.

 – The genuinely smart approach is to tackle the causes of problems and use technology to help solve them.

A range of challenges is involved when the needs of a growing urban population must be met sustainably. How do we break industrial waste cycles, switch to bio-based products, make food production sustainable, clean up the air and waterways, and make urban nature flourish?

Partial solutions towards a great goal

Technology is a tool for solving these problems, but the main objective should be to guarantee a good life.

– Of course, not everything can be changed at once. But even small, partial solutions should be part of achieving this great goal. For example, in the long run a robotic bus experiment could be the first step towards making public transport zero-emission, clean and automated.

A variety of smart city projects involving the testing of new technologies are being launched in urban environments around the world. Ruuska points out that many pilots are hampered by not including service users in the development process.

Smart Otaniemi for energy business of the future

A different approach to the issue is being taken by the Smart Otaniemi project underway on VTT's home campus.

– This involves a large number of companies with which we are working to create an energy business of the future. In the next phase of the project, together with residents we will explore the role energy plays in their daily lives.

The traditional product development cycle involves the development of one or two products a year. Only then are demand for the product and the opinions of users assessed. The idea behind the Smart Otaniemi project is to develop future energy services alongside users from the outset.

– By seeking feedback at the conceptual stage and experimenting together, we can direct product development towards products and services that are relevant to customers.

Antti Ruuska-6848.jpg

Wit respect to smart cities, we need to discuss solutions that foster a good life. The technology is a secondary issue. It is there to solve problems and make us happy, says Antti Ruuska.

Revision of good life indicators

To many people, a good life means many spacious houses, fine cars and delicious dinners.

– But, in the long run, this is not possible for everyone in the world. To create a good life sustainably, we have to take account of the scarcity of resources, says Antti Ruuska.

The great challenge for the cities of the future lies in using scarce resources more efficiently. At the Growth Lab customer event, Ruuska presented an illustrative example from Espoo. This city of 272,000 inhabitants is growing by almost 5,000 residents a year. New homes will be needed for nearly 50,000 inhabitants in just ten years – or will they?

What if we gave up a few square metres of space and returned to, say, the 1990s level of 31 square metres per resident? In such a case, Espoo would get through the next 10 years with its current building stock, without a single new home.

– Is floor space a good measure of the good life? I think that it is not. If a lot of functions could be outsourced, homes would not need to be so large.

There is a range of services in cities, from goods storage to communal saunas. In addition, more floor space is expensive. Is it worth investing EUR 5,000/m2 in a hobby room or home theatre, when you can access them as services whenever you want?

– There is enormous potential for enhancing the use of floorspace, says Ruuska.

His own workstation is a live example of this. Ruuska spends his working hours in meetings and on customers' premises.

– I probably spend less than 10% of my working time at my own workstation.

A good example of the new thinking is the SSA-Hotel on Mannerheimintie street in Helsinki, where you can buy a room of your own and rent it out to others when you don't need it.

Antti Ruuska is particularly fond of the hotel's solution for using space.

– The rooms are offices during the day and hotel rooms at night. In principle, only one building is needed instead of a separate hotel and office complex.

The same kind of unconventional thinking is represented by Espoo's award-winning 'School as a Service' concept, based on which Espoo upper secondary schools move onto the Otaniemi Aalto University campus while their own buildings are being renovated.

At best, resource-wise urban life benefits both individuals and society. For example, well-functioning public transport could free people from the need to own cars.

– It is often thought that people leave their cars at home because they are ready to make sacrifices. But the choice is easy when a more sustainable solution is also more convenient and cheaper, says Ruuska.

Data at the core

Data and its clever use lie at the heart of the smart and resource-efficient city of the future. Ruuska points out that a thoroughgoing, value-based discussion lies ahead with regard to the limits on data use.

Some of the cleverest people in the world work for companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Alibaba – gathering information about us. This information is mainly used to sell more goods to consumers. We have already opened up our personal data to advertisers. However, to achieve a good life, a more meaningful use of such data would be in robotic preventive healthcare, for example.

– Would we be prepared to lose a little privacy if technology could reveal and treat a hidden disease in one of us, or a relative? Ruuska wonders.

Tackling the fundamentals

Antti Ruuska already has a career of almost ten years behind him at VTT, as a researcher and then a business developer. His current title is Co-creation Manager.

– Problems such as climate change are also great opportunities, but no one can solve such problems alone. My job involves enabling cooperation between businesses, research organisations and service users, and ensuring that this creates value for everyone.

Antti Ruuska is particularly enthusiastic about VTT's new slogan "Beyond the obvious". That is just what he is aiming at in his own work.

– It's about wondering together what we could achieve if we tackle the fundamentals of a problem rather than doing what is most obvious.

 

 

VTT Impulsehttps://www.vttresearch.com/ImpulseVTT Impulse
Digital societyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Digital-society.aspxDigital society
Business developmenthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Business-development.aspxBusiness development
Smart Citieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Smart-Cities.aspxSmart Cities
Low carbon energyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Low-carbon-energy.aspxLow carbon energy
Smart industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Smart-industry.aspxSmart industry
Health and wellbeinghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Health-and-wellbeing.aspxHealth and wellbeing
Converting rags to design clotheshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Converting-rags-to-design-clothes.aspxConverting rags to design clothes
Developers of the futurehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Developers-of-the-future.aspxDevelopers of the future
What's going on in Australia?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Whats-going-on-in-Australia.aspxWhat's going on in Australia?
Intelligence for machineshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Intelligence-for-machines.aspxIntelligence for machines
All sights on generationhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/All-sights-on-generation.aspxAll sights on generation
S Group believes in a multi-channel modelhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/S-Group-believes-in-a-multi-channel-model.aspxS Group believes in a multi-channel model
More speed to network services with 5Ghttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/More-speed-to-network-services-with-5G.aspxMore speed to network services with 5G
The FinnCERES competence centre will take the materials bioeconomy to a new levelhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-FinnCERES-competence-centre-will-take-the-materials-bioeconomy-to-a-new-level.aspxThe FinnCERES competence centre will take the materials bioeconomy to a new level
Global demand for oats is increasing stronglyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Global-demand-for-oats-is-increasing-strongly.aspxGlobal demand for oats is increasing strongly
Impulse 2/2014https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-2-2014.aspxImpulse 2/2014
Towards bioeconomy with the power of woodhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Towards-bioeconomy-with-the-power-of-wood.aspxTowards bioeconomy with the power of wood
VTT’s spin-off GrainSense puts a laboratory in farmers’ handshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/VTTs-spin-off-GrainSense-puts-a-laboratory-in-farmers-hands.aspxVTT’s spin-off GrainSense puts a laboratory in farmers’ hands
Bioeconomy and circular economyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Bioeconomy-and-circular-economy.aspxBioeconomy and circular economy
Impulse 1/2015https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-1-2015.aspxImpulse 1/2015
The new agenda enhances the use of research infrastructurehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-new-agenda-enhances-the-use-of-research-infrastructure.aspxThe new agenda enhances the use of research infrastructure
Turbine blades bring millions in savingshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Turbine-blades-bring-millions-in-savings.aspxTurbine blades bring millions in savings
Impulse 1/2014https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Impulse-1-2014.aspxImpulse 1/2014
Raw material for fuels, chemicals and food from atmospheric carbon dioxidehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Raw-material-for-fuels-chemicals-and-food-from-atmospheric-carbon-dioxide.aspxRaw material for fuels, chemicals and food from atmospheric carbon dioxide
Pilot plants forge innovative ideas into business activitieshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Pilot-plants-forge-innovative-ideas-into-business-activities.aspxPilot plants forge innovative ideas into business activities
Minister of Economic Affairs Olli Rehn: Renewal of economy will bring new growthhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Renewal-of-economy-will-bring-new-growth.aspxMinister of Economic Affairs Olli Rehn: Renewal of economy will bring new growth
Matti Apunen: A problem called excellencehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Matti-Apunen-A-problem-called-excellence.aspxMatti Apunen: A problem called excellence
New materials developed from plantshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/New-materials-developed-from-plants.aspxNew materials developed from plants
New power for the electronics industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/New-power-for-the-electronics-industry.aspxNew power for the electronics industry
Finland is aiming towards smart transporthttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finland-is-aiming-towards smart-transport.aspxFinland is aiming towards smart transport
Sensor of tomorrowhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Sensor-of-tomorrow.aspxSensor of tomorrow
Can a phone help you achieve peace of mind?https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Can-a-phone-help-you-achieve-peace-of-mind.aspxCan a phone help you achieve peace of mind?
More than siliconhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/More-than-just-Silicon.aspxMore than silicon
An export product tougher than nailshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/An-export-product-tougher-than-nails.aspxAn export product tougher than nails
Robotics – technology with multi-faceted potentialhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Robotics-technology-with-multi-faceted-potential.aspxRobotics – technology with multi-faceted potential
Taking the bioeconomy to a new level through digitalisationhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Taking-the-bioeconomy-to-a-new-level-through-digitalisation.aspxTaking the bioeconomy to a new level through digitalisation
Sustainability and acceptability for mining operationshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Sustainability-and-acceptability-for-mining-operations.aspxSustainability and acceptability for mining operations
The autonomous world is already herehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-autonomous-world-is-already-here.aspxThe autonomous world is already here
Multifunctional polysaccharides open up new opportunities for the food processing industryhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Multifunctional-polysaccharides-open-up-new-opportunities-for-the-food-processing-industry.aspxMultifunctional polysaccharides open up new opportunities for the food processing industry
Digitalization in RTOs: Speeding up the development of bio-based technologies with digitalizationhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Digitalisation-in-RTOs-Speeding-up-the-development-of-bio-based-technologies-with-digitalization.aspxDigitalization in RTOs: Speeding up the development of bio-based technologies with digitalization
Finland’s old nuclear research reactor to be decommissioned – New Centre for Nuclear Safety under constructionhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Finlands-old-nuclear-research-reactor-to-be-decommissioned-new-centre-for-nuclear-safety-under-construction.aspxFinland’s old nuclear research reactor to be decommissioned – New Centre for Nuclear Safety under construction
The story of Finlandhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/The-story-of-Finland.aspxThe story of Finland
Artificial intelligence reveals cardiac patients’ risk of complicationshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Artificial-intelligence-reveals-cardiac-patients-risk-of-complications.aspxArtificial intelligence reveals cardiac patients’ risk of complications
Simon Kos, Microsoft: AI is forcing its way into patient carehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Simon-Kos-Microsoft-AI-is-forcing-its-way-into-patient-care.aspxSimon Kos, Microsoft: AI is forcing its way into patient care
Why do so many women feel chilly indoorshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Why-do-so-many-women-feel-chilly-indoors.aspxWhy do so many women feel chilly indoors
Artificial intelligence is being taught to identify who will benefit from chemotherapyhttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Artificial-intelligence-is-being-taught-to-identify-who-will-benefit-from-chemotherapy.aspxArtificial intelligence is being taught to identify who will benefit from chemotherapy
Biomaterials can be turned into almost anything – including designer headphones https://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Biomaterials-can-be-turned-into-almost-anything-–-including-designer-headphones-.aspxBiomaterials can be turned into almost anything – including designer headphones
Combinostics: Faster diagnoses with artificial intelligencehttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Combinostics-Faster-diagnoses-with-artificial-intelligence.aspxCombinostics: Faster diagnoses with artificial intelligence
Could smartglasses replace smartphones? VTT spin-off Dispelix to commercialise a virtual display for glasseshttps://www.vttresearch.com/Impulse/Pages/Could-smartglasses-replace-smartphones-VTT-spin-off-Dispelix-to-commercialise-a-virtual-display-for-glasses.aspxCould smartglasses replace smartphones? VTT spin-off Dispelix to commercialise a virtual display for glasses