No one enjoys overcrowded streets or sitting in a traffic jam. Not least the Finnish city of Vantaa which has turned to smart mobility pilots to find innovative ways to better understand and manage traffic flows.
All cities have the need to understand how, when and where traffic flows in their region. It can help identify pain points and improve traffic planning, particularly for new areas. A case example is Vantaa’s new business, shopping and residential hub Aviapolis where fast growth has led to new challenges.
“Our business development unit told us companies in the area are complaining about traffic jams complicating the life of their customers,” says Suvi Rytkönen-Halonen, Traffic Data Specialist at the City of Vantaa.
In response the city has launched a smart mobility pilot project, brainstormed by Vantaa’s business development unit and the regional development agency Helsinki Business Hub (HBH), to learn how data can be used to tackle these challenges. The goal is to trial innovative ways to analyse and monitor traffic in real-time and create a model for piloting various smart mobility services in the city.
Learning how we move
The project was kickstarted in early 2016 and with the help of HBH the City of Vantaa planned a new kind of a procurement process for traffic analysis pilots. This process culminated in a market dialogue event in June last year where companies were invited to present their solutions for the city’s traffic challenges in one-on-one meetings.
HBH supported the whole process by providing market information and expert views on the proposed solutions as well as using its networks to spread the word to relevant companies.
“I am not sure if we would have ever started this project without the existing relationship between HBH and our business development unit,” Rytkönen-Halonen says.
In the end four companies were chosen to trial their solutions at Aviapolis and the first pilots were launched in early 2017 by Esri Finland and Flou Analytics.
Esri’s traffic monitoring service harnesses GPS data directly from commercial car navigators. In the Aviapolis pilot, Vantaa wanted to examine the suitability of this data in measuring traffic volumes and fluency. To achieve this Esri has analysed seven years worth of GPS data in the area and created a way to visualise the information on an interactive map.
But it is not only cars Vantaa is interested in. In its pilot project Flou Analytics, together with another Finnish startup Seneqo, used a smartphone app to identify the moving patterns of people in the greater Aviapolis area. This offers previously unattainable information on how people walk and bike around the area and potential future insight on how they choose their routes.
The final results of all the pilots will be revealed in early summer after two further pilots have been completed. These will be executed by Nodeon Finland and Vionice, which are both trialling the use of machine vision in gathering traffic information.
The City of Vantaa’s wider goal for the smart mobility pilots is to eventually replace its legacy system for traffic monitoring with modern, flexible solutions. Vantaa is now planning its next steps after the current pilots, but the project has already helped its traffic department gain insight into new technologies as well as tools to create a platform model for future piloting projects.
“This has helped us to think what we should trial in future and the direction we would like to take in traffic measuring,” explains Rytkönen-Halonen. “These pilots were done in a small area, but we are also considering how to expand some of the pilots to the whole city.”
Local residents and businesses will hope this is just the first of many green lights for Vantaa’s busy commuters.