Working together is one of the hallmarks of a smart city. Tampere is introducing new ways to involve residents, businesses, universities and other communities in joint development and experimentation. Hackathons, for example, fit well with the new operating culture.
People arrive gradually at Talent Space in the Finlayson area on Friday evening. The event about to start is a weekend-long indoor positioning hackathon where a group comprising company representatives, students and other local experts will develop solutions to a challenge set for them.
Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company which owns the properties in the Finlayson area and Himmelblau Printmaking Studio that operates in the area have challenged the participants to brainstorm mobile guidance ideas for the Finlayson Art Area event.
"Our traditional solution is this paper map, but the showrooms for the event are located in different buildings and on different floors in the area, so a working mobile application would be a better option for the audience", says Pertti Ketonen, CEO of Himmelblau.
"We thought that a hackathon would be the perfect opportunity to get creative ideas for assistance in moving in the Finlayson area. Of course, we cannot know in advance what will be created here, but we are ready for further development if a suitable idea is found", continues Real Estate Manager Kai Niinimäki from Varma.
The hackathon challenge is clear: the participants must place five pieces of art in a specified area and consider what kind of a mobile application could be used to attract visitors to the pieces, give them more information and possibly other benefits and experiences. The participants are provided with the necessary positioning technology and free access to the test area throughout the hackathon so that they can try out the ideas in practice.
"As a result each team produces a short video of their solutions to be used to demonstrate them further on", says the hackathon’s facilitator Kimmo Rouhiainen.
Various hackathons are being held in Tampere more and more, and increasingly they are organised by the city or another public operator that wants to introduce a culture of experimentation to its own activities and involve residents, businesses and communities. ICT Manager Eero Kaappa from the City of Tampere points out that the purpose of the experiments is first and foremost to understand what is worth investing in.
"When something is piloted, it is already on its way to production. However, with experimentation, the best one or nothing at all can be selected based on the results. Investing in experimentation can, therefore, save you multiple times the amount of money at a later stage", Kaappa says.
Hackathons are a natural part of the culture of experimentation, and they can be organised from various starting points: the common goal in one can be code, applications and solutions, whereas in another it can be ideas, perspectives or understanding of the whole. In February, the City of Tampere and the Tampere Region Economic Development Agency Tredea invited students and businesses to create concepts for public transport information systems.
"There, for example, young people expressed refreshing and concrete points of view which may not necessarily come up in traditional dialogue", Kaappa says.
When the operator is a city, everything eventually comes back to the residents and taxpayers. The aim of the City of Tampere is to develop its activities so that by 2025 everyone would primarily use digital services. This way, an increasing number of people can be served with the existing resources.
"Taxpayers benefit from digitalisation when their taxes are used to produce services as rationally as possible", Kaappa says.
A hackathon is a structured event which, at its best, is beneficial to all the parties involved. The organisers get answers for their questions and the participants are able to demonstrate their skills. One of the teams that participated in the indoor positioning hackathon was Citynomadi. According to CEO Merja Taipaleenmäki, for a small company such as Citynomadi, a hackathon is a good way to come up with ideas for wider use of your own product and to explore new applications.
"Hackathons usually involve an assignment and a challenge that should be solved, for example, during one weekend. It is interesting to try whether we can provide a new and fresh perspective on the challenge and to see how our ideas are received", Taipaleenmäki says.
Citynomadi also welcomes the development of hackathons. If, in the past, it was thought that, in a hackathon, you blaze through a challenge and find a solution by programming for a few days, day and night, participants may nowadays be expected to clearly present the solution to the challenge in a video.
And what happens after a hackathon? The results of the public transportation hackathon were brought as initial data to the design of the new information and payment system. In time, we shall see how they are reflected in the new system and everyday lives of the users of public transportation.
In the indoor positioning hackathon, during the weekend, the teams were able to create demos of mobile applications that can be used to apply indoor positioning to an art event. According to facilitator Kimmo Rouhiainen, the hackathon was an eye-opening experience.
"We really managed to go from words to practice; that is, we demonstrated in concrete terms what indoor positioning looks, feels and sounds like as part of the Finlayson Art Area. How a visitor can score a new experience or service through technology and, on the other hand, how the producers of the event could gain new data and information to develop the event", Rouhiainen says.
"From the hackathon, we found an application whose development will be continued with the team that presented it. The goal is that Finlayson Art Area visitors would be able to use it by the summer of 2018 at the latest. All in all, this was a good and effective way to bring ‘innovators’ and those in need of a service together", say Niinimäki from Varma and Ketonen from Himmelblau.