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Smart City Mindtrek 2020, held in Tampere in late January, brought together experts from smart cities around the world. One of the main topics of discussion was artificial intelligence, which many companies also in Tampere Region are currently exploring.

Photo: Mirella Mellonmaa

Intelligent traffic solutions, robot police that communicate, and ads based on past purchase behaviours are already commonplace. Properly utilising available data and technology creates unprecedented opportunities for artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, across industries. Is there even any limit to what is possible? What are some of the challenges in developing AI solutions?

New jobs and business opportunities

Many of Smart City Mindtrek’s speakers pointed to the promise of AI solutions creating jobs. When routine tasks are handled by intelligent systems and robots, people free their time to focus on complex problem solving, as well as on issues that require empathy and social skills.

AI solutions also create completely new business opportunities. Elin Allison, Head of New Product and Strategy for Telia, used the automotive industry as an example.

When passenger cars first became popular a century ago, new space opened up for the manufacture of peripherals such as tires and complementary services including insurance and after-sales. In the same way, new products and services will also be needed to ensure the development and maintenance of AI applications.

Consider the car…

Cars also featured in the presentation given by Petri Kalske, Director of Operations at Unikie. He noted that cars can now be thought of as a software platform. As a growing company focused on environmental awareness and the development of self-driving cars, Unikie has to take a lot of factors into consideration, Kalske says. AI solutions, after all, are still their infancy. Exploring AI solutions has also led to surprising alliances with traditional companies, such as BMW and Daimler to develop autonomous cars. Unikie will discuss the topic also at the AI ​​Finland 2020 event in April in Tampere.

Soon, self-driving vehicles will be cruising in Tampere Region outside the Unikie test campus. The SHOW project (Shared Automation Operating Models for Worldwide Adoption) is working on integrating automated transport into the urban transport system. The aim of the City of Tampere project is to launch an automatic feeder powered by autonomous electric vehicles in Hervanta and the Kauppi hospital area once the tram starts operations in the fall of 2021.

Society 3.0 – Proactive services to improve life

How can data be used best to improve public services? Is it possible to identify what people require before they need them? Pasi Lehtimäki, Principal Consultant specialising in data and analytics at Gofore, spoke of a future society where systems would be able to provide services proactively, instead of using the current model based on the customer’s past activities. For example, would it be possible to intervene at the earliest signs of a crisis and offer pre-emptive assistance to families – thus improving their wellbeing – by using data to identify critical life stages? Like many of the speakers, Lehtimäki emphasised that for such a vision to be implemented, cooperation among different actors, which can be achieved by knocking down silos, is crucial.

AI: a tool, not a complete solution

When will AI solutions be widely deployed? When will every city be transformed into a smart city?  At Smart City Mindtrek, participants were reminded to recognise that utilising and benefitting from AI was our choice.  Professor Albrecht Schmidt of Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich compared life supplemented by AI to the difference between using spectacles and binoculars. The best AI implementations, he points out, help us seamlessly, but are under user control. Schmidt also raised an important question:

Can a city be made happier and, if so, should that kind of city be created?

AI can improve services and life in cities, but it can also be misused. Ethical issues, security and privacy are some of the major challenges smart cities have to navigate. Where is the line between monitoring conditions and privacy? How much can we point to sustainable and justifiable solutions as reasons to step into people’s private lives?

These and other questions are being considered by the Tampere AI ​​Hub’s Human-Centred Artificial Intelligence (KITE) project. The hub is developing AI applications and design methods in cooperation with companies in Tampere Region, with the aim of applying human-centric technology research, to create artificial intelligence applications that are relevant, understandable, and ethically sustainable.

 

Smart City Mindtrek is an International Conference and Business Expo held annually in Tampere, Finland. The event is produced jointly by COSS association and Smart Tampere.

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