A Living Lab means using the urban environment as a laboratory for the city, its residents and businesses to test ideas, concepts and service prototypes. Why take the risk of not testing an idea before putting it into action on a bigger and more permanent scale? A real environment with real people gives you feedback on every step of the way and develops the city to look like its inhabitants.
In Helsinki, digital solutions uncover invisible spaces in the city. Imagine reserving an office space for a day of remote work to be as easy and quick as reserving online movie tickets! In Flexi Spaces project, all kinds of spaces are opened through digital solutions such as Flextila-booking service. Anyone can rent a space for example for one or two hours for their own projects, gatherings and hobbies. In increasingly urbanized Helsinki, we live in smaller and smaller apartments. At the same time, most spaces in private, public and residential buildings are underutilized – or even empty. Why not see the whole city as your living room, working space and event venue? We need flexibility from our surroundings and digitalism can provide it.
The networks of easy access spaces, equipped with smart locks, could itself work as a living lab to support e.g. pop-up events and agile piloting. It is an open, transparent and easy way to open up resources for everyone’s use.
Testing in a living lab produces scalable ideas to be put into use somewhere else. These experiments can be done by citizens, startups or the municipality itself. The key idea is light experimentation without risk. Through experimentation and living labbing, the new ideas of space sharing can be developed in a low-threshold and affordable way. In the long run, the experiences gained can lead up to more permanent use or changes in the space, or scalable service prototypes.
When spaces are opened for reservation, it forms a chain of places, where new ideas can be tested e.g. in form of event. The system works both ways: the spaces offer possibilities to quickly implement an idea, but the real life context also gives birth to new, local solutions.
The physical place itself is a good way to allure new types of people and desired functions to the area. When you are testing with the physical space in interaction with the residents, you get a concrete idea of what the strengths of the area are.
In one of the earliest demo spaces of Flexi Spaces project, “Capella citizen space” (Capellan kansalaistila) the flexibility led to testing space sharing also in the context of parking, demonstrating new features for fresh mobility services. The space has also served Agile piloting programme, e.g. for KuntoKaverit pilot, that developed peer coaching for seniors. A variety of available spaces help choosing the best context for a workshop or pilot.
Bottom-up experiments are challenging local government and finding new ways of solving urban issues. The living lab activities build on top of the network of spaces can bring positive change to neighbourhoods and bring along new opportunities for the whole community.
In Kalasatama Smart City, more efficient and flexible use of various premises is one corner stone of the Smart City concept. Kalasatama Flexi Space service system is developed as an essential part Kalasatama Smart City project and it’s Living Lab activities.