Smart City Center of Excellence has launched four pilot projects

Four research intensive ideas have been chosen to be developed and piloted by the Smart City Center of Excellence. These pilot projects are financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Estonian Ministry of Research and Education.

The Smart City Challenge took place in Oct-Dec 2020 and 71 ideas have been proposed. The best four ideas have been chosen by the international evaluation committee and confirmed by the Steering Group of the Smart City Center of Excellence. Now we are preparing the research and innovation plans for these four pilot projects for the review by the Steering Committee on April 7. There are four Estonian urban areas involved: city of Tallinn and Tartu, Lääne-Harju and Rae county and Helsinki from Finland.  The Smart City Center of Excellence will implement these four projects in close cooperation with about 50 researchers from several institutes from TalTech and Aalto. Külle Tärnov is leading this smart city piloting programme and is contributing that these pilot projects would create practical results for the cities and build good ground for the sustainability of the Center.

About the projects:

A conceptual ecosystem solution to transport system management

This project idea is to create an x-road of mobility solutions. People living in rural areas and in need of transportation, can order on demand first mile/last mile self-driving buses or use electric scooters to get conveniently to the bigger transport corridors, where general public transport will service their needs of getting to where they are heading. This system needs several non-existent services and solutions, that have to be developed in collaboration with city and transport people hand in hand with scientists.

Estonian local governments need a substantial number of autonomous vehicles to cover a certain area with such, fast and convenient, on-demand service. This leads us to developing, how it would be locally possible to rebuild used and out of service electrical cars into autonomous vehicles suitable for such service. Self-driving vehicles and autonomous systems research group leader, professor Raivo Sell, who is also leading this pilot project says: "We have built autonomous vehicles and they are rolling on the streets. Now it's time to take them to the next level - integrate into the real traffic, to service people. This project gives useful opportunities in collaboration between scientists and local governments to develop and build these solutions and at the same time solve some bottlenecks for city and county inhabitants to service their transportation need, make the community more sustainable in a longer run and ultimately improve the living standards of all of us."

For the next step, this project needs a solution where any user could easily order an autonomous vehicle to their doorstep. At the same time, this program has to secure a possibility to buy tickets and see the schedules of their full transport needs from home to the end destination (or any stations in between). This project plans to integrate these different means of transport up to buying tickets travelling outside the country boarders with a ship or plane, for example to Finland, if that is needed. But of-course first and foremost to the main transport hubs in the city.

The team has decided, that within this pilot, these crucial mini-hubs will be in (1) Rae County; in (2) Port of Tallinn and in (3) Ülemiste City (where they are also planning the Rail Baltic station). Hence the partners, that have come together for this project. But later, when the pilot has proven successful and the project is done, we will have a whole system with a toolkit, that can be applied to any cities and suburbs around Estonia or in any other country of the world with similar needs.

On top of the main solution, we are finetuning also the public transport traffic between these mini-hubs, so that it will be smoother and faster, by using adaptive traffic control systems. Setting up sensors, embedding AI, using smart traffic signs and traffic lights etc. There is a lot we can still develop to make the traffic work better for both the people and the cities and integrating adaptive traffic control systems will endow the whole project.

The final outcome of the project will be future city model tested in real urban environment and implementation toolkit for cities and urban areas all over the world. Project main partners are City of Tallinn and Rae County, as well as a wide circle of external partners in government, private and non-profit organizations. Jaagup Ainsalu, Mobility Manager in Tallinn says that this project is valuable because in Tallinn they have got the same goals to integrate different kinds of mobility as one service and to build a working MaaS solution for the citizens. Rae County deputy manager Tanel Tammela comments that, "It is extremely valuable for Rae County to participate in this project, as it characterizes exactly the residents of our municipality who have settled in during the last ten years - innovative, forward-looking and supporting/using demand-based services. Transportation options should be available when you need them, not when the schedule says."

This project is led by Prof. Raivo Sell and managed by Krister Kalda at the Smart City Center of Excellence.

Real-time building performance audit

This team aims to improve operational energy performance and indoor climate through digitalization of facility management in large real estate portfolios. Continuous monitoring of energy, ventilation and indoor air quality in hundreds of buildings results in a big data for which performance analytics capable for benchmarking and identification of faults and malfunctions in building technical systems as well as in building operation will be developed. 

Professor Jarek Kurnitski who is the leading researcher in this pilot project comments that, “Cities and other large real estate owners have hundreds of buildings they have to manage to deliver good indoor environment to end users. At the same time buildings have to be highly energy efficient that is possible if all building technical systems operate properly. This is achievable with careful monitoring and maintenance for which new digital tools are to be developed. Real-time building performance audit will offer to buildings owners and building operators an easy and partly automated routines if buildings will be connected to the platform developed in the project. An evidence-based knowledge about the energy use and indoor climate in the building portfolio will enable to prioritize renovations and optimize energy use without compromising indoor climate quality.” 

In total, 45 educational buildings of Tallinn, Tartu and TalTech are planned to be connected to the IoT platform and tools developed in the project. The platform will split performance monitoring functions from maintenance related automated diagnostics. One of the long-term goals for the city of Tartu is to become a climate-neutral city by 2050. Real-time overview of the energy consumption and indoor climate condition of municipal buildings portfolio helps them to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings while maintaining good indoor climate quality.

The user interface of the platform consists of three dashboards with increasing detail level on information provided: Executive, Departmental and Maintenance dashboard. The project focuses to educational buildings because their indoor climate is essential for achieving high learning performance that has implications to national competitiveness. The results can be utilized by any large real estate portfolio owners.

Implementation of real-time building performance audit requires solving research challenges to collect and process the right data about the energy performance and indoor climate with a minimum number of sensors, implementing machine learning applications and new performance analytics tools for benchmarking and for automated maintenance need diagnostics. Group of experienced scientists on the fields of energy performance and indoor climate of buildings, diagnostics and fault-detection of sensor networks, and machine learning applications are involved in the pilot project.

This project is led by Prof. Jarek Kurnitski and managed by Kalle Kuusk at the Smart City Center of Excellence.

Reducing energy supply requirements using microgrids and energy storage

This project aims to reduce requirements for electricity supply through optimized consumption and decrease carbon-intensive electricity production by simplifying the uptake of renewable energy. Instead of consuming electricity based on real-time demand, the use of energy storage and control systems enables to alter the electricity consumption profile and compensate for the intermittent output of generators utilizing renewable energy. The objective is achieved through the use of electric microgrids, which are formed by a digital low voltage substation with an integrated energy storage system and a dedicated software platform.

The project provides municipalities means to solve their energy supply problems, whilst also increasing the uptake of carbon-neutral energy through the simplified formation of electrical microgrids and closed electricity distribution grids. As a result of this project, recommendations for policy makers and a concept of creating microgrids through a scalable product are provided. Additionally, empirical evidence from actual environments is used to carry out high quality research focused on energy storage systems, cyber-security in electricity grids, energy policy and markets. The pilots are planned to be carried out in Lääne-Harju Parish in Paldiski and in the city of Tartu.

The city of Tartu is drafting new energy- and climate action plan, the aim of which is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest. One important element of the plan is the local production of renewable energy as well as its consumption locally on the ground and the creation of energy unions in local communities. The local networks proposed in the project will directly contribute to the achievement of the city's goals and enable the development of a sustainable renewable energy supply system in the long run.

Tarmo Korõtko says that, “We will witness increased integration of renewable energy sources and energy storages into the electricity grid during the next decades. With this project, we intend to make it easier for municipalities, private companies and energy communities to implement such solutions. I strongly believe in forming an environment that is self-sustainable and this project is how we do our part in reaching this goal.”

The extensive use of digital solutions in the electric power system requires increased emphasis on cyber security. One aim of our research is focused on increasing the security of cyber-physical systems through the implementation of secure-by-design principles. Another area of interest is the economic feasibility of energy storage systems for improving power quality in urban electricity distribution systems. Also, matters regarding energy markets and policies are investigated to compose recommendations for policy makers with the aim to simplify the integration of renewable energy into the existing electricity grid.

This project is led by Dr Tarmo Korõtko.


Tallinn-Helsinki dynamic green information model

The GreenTwins project develops a library of green elements for the digital twins of Tallinn and Helsinki and creates a permanent city planning hub in Tallinn centre. The world-class novelty of the project is the dynamic digital modelling of the green environment, a “green information model”.

Today, the green is represented in digital environments by static images. In reality, the green environment is in constant temporal change, which has a major impact on urban comfort and the carbon balance of a city. Green environment is a primary quality factor of urban environment. It has a major impact on micro-climate and particle emissions, heat island effect and soundscape. Green-blue infrastructure is a measure for climate adaptation. Green environments create identity for cities and can offset greenhouse gas emissions towards carbon neutrality.

The project will create a CityGML extension and a 3D-plant model resource library for the target areas in Tallinn and Helsinki. It provides an access to urban digital twins through two applications: a web application for participatory planning and an application utilizing game engines to visualize the temporal changes of urban nature. The library of digital green objects can be extended to serve the needs of other cities in other climate zones – all over the world.

The permanent Smart City Planning HUB in downtown Tallinn will promote the digital advance of the city and facilitate citizen participation in urban planning. The dynamic model of the green-blue infrastructure in urban digital twin makes the visualizations more realistic and the simulations more accurate.

The project partners are the cities of Tallinn and Helsinki, Aalto University and TalTech. Collaboration network includes High Performance Computing Centre Stuttgart, where urban digital twins are used for simulations, analyses and participatory processes. The new TalTech professor of digitized participatory urban planning, Dr. Fabian Dembski, explains: Digital Twin can be best characterised as a container for models, data and simulation. Digital Twins serve as one promising approach for tackling not only the complexity of cities, but also to involve citizens in the planning process.”

The responsible project leader is professor Kimmo Lylykangas from TalTech. “The GreenTwins project is generating top expertise on digitized landscape architecture and planning support tools at TalTech”, Lylykangas says and continues: “The quantification of the carbon sinks of urban greeneries with urban digital twins is something that all cities need for monitoring their development towards climate neutrality.”

The Aalto University researchers in the team have top expertise on participatory planning processes.

Ivari Rannama, the head of the urban planning department in the City of Tallinn, highlights the importance of citizen engagement in urban planning. “The city of Tallinn has been developing the participatory processes. The hub opens new opportunities to facilitate these processes.”

The project partners are the cities of Tallinn and Helsinki, Aalto University and TalTech. The project leader is Prof. Kimmo Lylykangas from TalTech.


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