September 28, 2017

Innovation tourists seek everything smart

Veera Mustonen

Head of Smart Kalasatama at Forum Virium Helsinki

There is a new species of tourists, the innovation tourists, who are globehopping to seek new ideas, technologies, solutions and business. In Helsinki, one of their favorite destinations is Smart Kalasatama. Some 1 400 innovation tourists from all over the world have walked through the new centrally located district over the past two years. Among them have been representatives from the Taiwanese innovation ecosystem, French high tech companies, German politicians and Signaporean smart nation programme managers.

I have met more than 1 000 innovation tourists from governments, cities, tech companies and universities, seeking new solutions to take home. They all belong to the elite of the information era: they know all current trends, tech cycles and business hypes. Their primary interest is to find something novel that will help them to solve their urban challenges better and foster economic growth. The volume of this kind of tourism is likely to increase. Digitalisation pushes states and cities to look for new ways and deploy solutions fast.

Smart Kalasatama attracts these innovation tourists with its unique approach to Smart City development. It promises one more hour a day every day for each resident. Whilst Smart City projects are too often tech driven, here the citizen is at the centre. All smart solutions, for example robot buses, smart parking, space sharing and smart energy grids, should help people to manage their lives better, thus save time. The visitors are inspired to learn that one-third of Kalasatama’s 3 000 residents today have already participated in smart city pilots and co-creation.

Most smart city projects resemble each other around the world. A common issue is the slowness of implementation, as integrating new solutions in old infrastructure and ICT systems takes time. Even more time consuming is changing people’s habits. So, Smart Kalasatama fulfills the curiosity of the innovation tourists by showing how to engage people and how to quickly concretise future solutions by piloting with people.

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