Helsinki is a perfect testbed for piloting new tech solutions as support, technology and active citizens are in place.
In summer 2019, Viziblezone dreamt about piloting their solution in Europe. The startup develops an app, which protects pedestrians near roads. Let’s take a look at some examples. The pedestrian safety solution can be deployed in the car’s onboard system or downloaded into a mobile app to alert the driver about visible or non-visible pedestrians nearby. In a mobile phone, the app can alert the pedestrian about a car getting closer or turn down the voice level in a headset, when crossing a road.
Things started rolling, when Viziblezone participated in a business event at the Finnish Embassy in Tel Aviv. It was the launch of the Smart Mobility Track of a pilot program between Finland and Israel that aims to bring leading innovation ecosystems together. The program provides funding and free-of-charge matching services for startups looking for a piloting partner and piloting opportunity in the respective country. The program is led by the Israel Innovation Authority and Helsinki Business Hub with the support of the Embassy of Finland in Tel Aviv.
When Helsinki Business Hub had presented the Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab piloting possibilities in Helsinki, Shmulik Barel, COO and Co-founder of Viziblezone, wanted to hear more. With Helsinki Business Hub’s Senior Business Advisor Marko Tamminen‘s help he soon learned that the Greater Helsinki region has a vivid startup ecosystem and is technologically advanced.
“I started to talk and exchange emails with Helsinki Business Hub experts to understand how fast we could move forward with the pilot and test our technology. I also learned that pedestrian safety is high on the agenda of Helsinki, which is important to us,” says Barel.
Alisa Mick from The North Mix, a partner of Helsinki Business Hub, also helped in the negotiations, which ended up in a positive decision.
A lot of help for piloting the solution
The partner of Viziblezone, the Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab, boosts the development of smart mobility solutions in Jätkäsaari, a new urban neighbourhood next to the West Harbour. The growing district hosts already 12,000 people. The lab in itself has a group of active Jätkäsaarians, who test and give feedback on various solutions.
The Viziblezone pilot started in February 2020, and the first phase included beta-testing with users. The Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab also helped Viziblezone to find local open data including crossroad and traffic light locations, and some adjustments to the AI-driven app were done to better determine the accident risk.
”We have learned, for example, about the places people use to cross the roads and habits people have, for example, how many people watch their phones when they cross the roads and how many wait in the in crosswalks until the light turns green. We also make safety profiles of pedestrian behaviour, which the city officers can see in real-time in a dashboard. This kind of information is very valuable to any city wanting to improve the infrastructure and traffic safety,” says Barel.
As part of Viziblezone’s efforts to customize the solution to fit the needs of Helsinki, the experts of the Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab have helped the company to translate the app into Finnish and prepare Finnish marketing materials to recruit more people to the pilot.
”They are very responsible and proactive people, and really want our pilot to succeed,” says Barel.
New market to enter for startups
The cooperation of Viziblezone and the Jätkäsaari Mobility Lab is first of its kind in Smart Mobility Track of the Pilot Program, which focuses also on digital health and information and communication technologies. Both Finland and Israel have put technology and innovation at the core of their economy.
”This is a win-win-situation as both countries get opportunities to enter a new market. We have some startups in the pipeline looking for the smart mobility piloting opportunities in Helsinki and digital health opportunities in R&D in Tel Aviv,” says Alon Gold, Special Advisor on Economic and Trade Policy at the Embassy of Finland in Tel Aviv.
He adds that recently nine Israeli startups had an online pitching event with HUS Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki Business Hub and Health Capital Helsinki. The HUS clinicians and experts are interested in innovative solutions to develop their daily work.
He tells that the Embassy of Finland in Tel Aviv brought the idea of cooperation to the table, when Anne-Mari Virolainen, the Minister of Trade from Finland, visited Israel in 2018. This was followed by negotiations between the Israel Innovation Authority and Helsinki Business Hub with support from the embassy.
Gold highlights that the common factor is that both countries have very developed ecosystems. This provides many opportunities – when potential technology-based startups are supported, they have a chance to develop into ready-to-market solutions.
”Our Helsinki pilot is an important reference to us when we approach other cities with piloting wishes. In the long term, we hope to transform the pilot into a business. We will have both the data and solution,” says Barel.