Smart vs Smart

The Northern smart takes community over technology: watch Royal Seaport and Kalasatama battle it out for the title of Scandinavia’s premier Smart District!


Smart Cities are showing the rest of the world the way to the future. We take a look at two Scandinavian Smart City districts – Royal Seaport of Stockholm and Kalasatama of Helsinki, respectively – and stage a friendly duel to find out, which of them is smarter?

The problem here, of course, is telling which contender is which – at a glance, they seem all too similar. After all, both are former harbours by the seashore, with only a short metro ride downtown, and are focused on green energy, traffic and waste management solutions…and are just getting started. Presently, both city districts encompass a couple of thousand residents, but for the future, the bar is set considerably higher.

Visit Helsinki / Jussi Hellsten

Visit Helsinki / Jussi Hellsten

The City of Stockholm is envisioning 25,000 – 30,000 residents for Royal Seaport by 2030; the City of Helsinki is aiming for 20,000 residents by 2030. Both smart districts are keen on championing business and local economy, while creating thousands of new jobs in their respective neighbourhoods.

Nice job with the crystal ball, guys. That’s a tie: Royal Seaport 1 – Kalasatama 1

In addition to shared future visions, Royal Seaport and Kalasatama have a very similar past. The area of Royal Seaport was previously used for gas production and other heavy industry; Kalasatama (which means Fish Harbour) used to be a full-on industrial harbour.

The prized shoreline was off-limits for citizens in both places for decades – and it took a real renaissance in people’s views towards waterfront construction to turn things around.

Thanks for the history lesson…we get it: Royal Seaport 2 – Kalasatama 2

Eventually, the administrators of both cities glanced at these areas with renewed interest – is it possible that there is a hidden pearl here somewhere? And what can we do to polish up that pearl and present it to the world?

Instead of zoning and building yet another “regular” seaside community, the powers that be in the two cities had the wisdom – and patience – to look beyond the obvious solution. Optimal location and connectivity provided an unprecedented opportunity to launch a true Smart City district, a genuine model for tomorrow’s sustainable living – today.

Did somebody clone these two? – Never mind: Royal Seaport 3 – Kalasatama 3 

The energy backbone in both communities is a next-practice Smart Grid system, realised together with (in part) even the same partners. As one links consumption and local production – both districts are big on solar – with the Smart Grid itself, the entire energy infrastructure becomes a lot more sustainable. Co-products, such as real-time energy metering and energy storage, complete the picture.

I mean, really, this is getting ridiculous… Royal Seaport 4 – Kalasatama 4  So there’s no separating the twins at all? – Not so fast. While both communities swear by energy-efficiency, Royal Seaport has a more market-based system. And if you really want to get into it, Royal Seaport’s environmental targets are more concise.

Now we’re talking: Royal Seaport 5 – Kalasatama 4 

Both communities have a golden rule, of sorts. It’s one thing to make it easy for the citizens to do the right thing – to, say, use public transportation or bicycle instead of driving your car; it’s another thing entirely to try and make it difficult to do the wrong thing.

This means, for instance, that even if you’re Kimi Räikkönen and just dying to drive your car around downtown, it’s not worth the time, money or effort. Designing pro pedestrian/bicycle/public transport city centres is changing our sense of mobility – kids today may not even need a driver’s license.

As a matter of fact, the new Mobility as a Service (MaaS) concept – hailed as The Helsinki Model – is hard at work integrating all forms of traffic under one application. This would mean that, finally, the citizens are as mobile as their phones.

“The Helsinki Model,” eh? Royal Seaport 5 – Kalasatama 5

Both districts have taken to heart the notion that Smart City is not about technology as much as it is about community. Finding ways to empower the neighbourhood and get everybody in the community involved has been the forte of Kalasatama from day one; whether it’s pop-up restaurants or open-access graffiti walls, the City of Helsinki has gone out of its way to take the ‘ban’ out of ‘urban’.

But what does all this mean in practice, then? Well, first of all, the Kalasatama projects are user-centric, encourage resident participation and focus on service design. The Kalasatama Living Lab is poised to enhance the wellbeing of the local residents – and then some.

So Kalasatama is sure to win this particular battle, right? Not quite. Royal Seaport is keen on citizen participation and community outlook as well – and is a forerunner in, for instance, using data to get people to adapt to more environmentally acceptable practices. And what’s more, both cities also have working models to bring people with different incomes to the new districts.

So tied we remain… Royal Seaport 6 – Kalasatama 6

But let’s get back to those projects and all that Living Lab buzz for an instant. Both districts are also engines for the economy – there are plenty of opportunities to develop, say, new business models in both places.

Still, one could argue that Kalasatama is quicker on her feet – case in point: under its Agile Piloting initiative, Kalasatama recently announced its first four pilots which will hit ground running in spring 2016. On the super-smart menu, there is a MaaS app for households; opening APIs and data of Smart trash bins; hyperlocal service platform for neighbourhoods service exchange and crowdfunding; and reducing domestic food waste via using IoT technology and sensors.

We do love those pilots: Royal Seaport 6 – Kalasatama 7

One last thing on the list: the automated vacuum waste collection system which you can find both in Royal Seaport and Kalasatama. The system transports waste at high speed through underground pneumatic tubes to a waste collection station.

The “Smart Waste Delivery System” is a novelty in Finland – but, as it turns out, the technology was developed by the Swedes more than 50 years ago. Ouch.

Didn’t see that one coming…the final score: Royal Seaport 7 – Kalasatama 7

Congratulations, you two!


Christina Salmhofer, Sustainability Manager for the Stockholm Royal Seaport, and Veera Mustonen, Programme Manager for Smart Kalasatama, were interviewed for this article.

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