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Smart cities – what could we learn from the metropolises?

5 min

A district with its own microclimate. A playground with a location designed according to the path of the sun and the shadows cast on the playground. A happiness meter that measures customer satisfaction at the police station and district court. Telia Development Director Marko Lepola took the audience couch surfing to smart cities in an event organised by the City of Turku.

“Singapore has entire districts that have been designed to be smart. For example, a new district was simulated and designed in such a way that the flows of air there create a comfortable microclimate,” Marko Lepola explains. “The 24,000 lifts in the city undergo proactive maintenance while people sleep. And the taxis in Singapore continuously broadcast their position data, allowing for better development of traffic and traffic route infrastructure and improvement of public transport. Even the movement of delivery vehicles is co-ordinated, meaning that goods deliveries to stores are not random in the city.”

The city strongly focuses on energy production and rainwater treatment, as there is a lot of rainfall in the country during the rainy season. The master architect behind the project is Cheong Koon Hean who has harnessed the urban architecture to support the smart city development.

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Dubai aims to be the happiest city in the world, and customer satisfaction is measured in the city in every conceivable context—for example when dealing with the police or local court. Happiness meters are used in all public services, producing up to 8,000 votes daily. Services are modified and improved based on this data. The citizens can also use an application that covers public transport services, driving licence, permits and issues related to education and healthcare.

“A corresponding project related to data use can hardly be found elsewhere,” Lepola said. “An extensive specification was carried out in Dubai on what data the city has. The Dubai Data Law was enacted in 2015, setting out the rules for opening the data for use by all, the format in which it must be saved, what the access rights to it are and how non-public data is processed. The aim is to keep the amount of non-public data at a minimum because the premise is that data should be open to businesses and residents.”


Smart cities have been studied in, for example, the Mapping Smart Cities in the EU study, which is one of the most extensive projects on the topic in Europe. It focused on the living environment and administration as well as the development of the economic activity of the cities. In the study, 240 cities stated they are smart cities or have started a related project.

“The study indicates that results are connected to a clear vision of what is being done. Residents must be included in the project and must be able to influence matters, meaning, for example, the implementation of projects based on the ideas of the city’s residents. Successful smart city projects include also the local companies, creating more business for them,” Lepola explained. “In addition, leadership must be visible at all levels. It starts at the top level but flows to all levels, taking also the employees into account using, for example, IoT sensors at the office.”

Lepola’s last example can be found close to Finland, in Stockholm.

“Using the Crowd Insights method, the City of Stockholm works together with Telia to study how people travel to and from work. In addition, bus movements are monitored closely,” Lepola said. “The method has also been experimented with in Tampere where data was obtained in connection with a Robbie Williams concert on what localities people came to the concert from and how people left the event.”

The data used in the Crowd Insights method cannot be used to identify anyone’s personal information or track the movements of individual people; rather, the point is to look at larger groups. With a better understanding of the movements of the masses, public transport, for example, can be improved based on the data.

The wisdom learned abroad can be summed up in that it is worthwhile collecting and utilising data in as versatile a way as possible. In the real property business, the use of IoT and building intelligence has gone hand in hand with the development in the rest of society. Data must also be available to all interest groups in as open a way as possible. A clear vision known to the management, employees, residents and businesses alike will take a smart city project forward. It also ensures that the interest groups are committed, particularly if their thoughts and ideas are listened to and implemented. 

Read more:

Scandic improved its market understanding by using Crowd Insights data.

The Imatra Motorcycle Road Races event measured the event's impact using Crowd Insights analytics. 


Insights from anonymized data can help you to understand the citizens. From public transport to urban planning, ensure that your services and facilities are based on real needs rather than guesswork.

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