Interview of Gerttu Pilsas, project manager at Estonian Smart City Cluster (Estonia)
Gerttu Pilsas, you are working for Estonian Smart City Cluster, which was identified as a good practice for support to entrepreneurship and social innovation by PASSAGE project partners. Can you explain what Estonian Smart City Cluster is about?
Estonian Smart City Cluster is designed to support the development of smart city solutions in order to improve the life quality in the cities, and also to accelerate the export of enterprises. We are mainly focusing on possibilities of ICT and new technologies in different actions and processes of the cities and in developing energy saving and sustainable development solutions, as well as developing healthcare and social welfare in an efficient and cost effective way.
Estonia is one of the European countries where the use of new technologies is the most developed. How can it help to support low-carbon development?
Development can be aided by, for example, smoothing many of the bureaucratic processes and efficient governance. Together with the city of Tartu, enterprises and citizens, we are constantly looking for new opportunities to improve the city’s public services, the way they would meet the needs and expectations of the citizens. Those may be different mobile applications, migration and mobility studies based on mobile positioning data that could use in urban planning, modern hands-free public transportation ticketing systems and mobile tools for city officials or any other smart solutions. The city of Tartu is very open towards innovation and is willing to offer possibilities to test and develop smart solutions in real city environment.
We have activities like City Planning Procedure Register, Web solution for Landscaping and Maintenance Works, Urban Planning Application or Public Events Management Portal AKIS all developed for the City of Tallinn. Real-life innovations for low-carbon development could include several of our smart infrastructure initiatives like renovating the old Soviet apartment buildings into energy-efficient and modern houses as well as district cooling system that uses residual heat in Tartu.
Smart street system solutions for instance Tallinn City projects in 2017-2020 will include new Traffic Light System (with motion sensors), Dashboard (weather station), Bike-cycle and Pedestrian Counting System with cameras, the street with variable direction traffic and continuous road signs etc. You can read about our initiatives on Estonian Smart City Cluster webpage smartcitylab.eu.
Tallinn is part of a “Smart City Cluster”: who is part of this cluster and what are its objectives?
Partners in Estonian Smart City Cluster include Tartu City, Tallinn Science Park Tehnopol, Tartu Science Park, Tartu University Hospital, AHHAA Science Center, Rakvere Smart House Competence Center, STACC, Tallinn University of Technology, Mobi Lab, Positium, Reach-U, Jiffi, Microsoft Estonia, Cityntel, Thinnect, GoSwift, PAKRI Science and Industrial Park, Autolevi, Flydog Solutions, Baltic Innovation Agency, Focus Research, Ridango, Hoiame Kokku Grupp, Net Group. The cluster is open to parties interested in the Smart City solutions and we hope to provide a platform where good new ideas can grow and be developed into useful solutions.
According to you, what are the main lessons to be learnt from your experience in cities like Tallinn and, more globally, in Estonia? What can still be improved?
I believe one of the key factors for Estonia’s success is openness to innovation and willingness to try, test and develop new solutions together with the citizens. We have proved that using living lab methodology for different co-creation projects is a good way of engaging citizens to developments in the very early stage, this has also helped us to develop solutions that really meet the needs of the citizens as the end users. I’m sure we could learn from other nations’ and cities’ practices in means of implementing large scale pilots and communicating the best practices and lessons learned from those use cases.