Smart Urban Furniture showcase offers a sneak peek into the future of cities

In close collaboration with several LuxTurrim5G partners, the Aalto Design Factory (ADF) team has developed four comprehensive collections of Smart Urban Furniture that not only fit into various cities’ requirements but also provide different infrastructures designed to equip the smart cities of the future. Based on a human-centric approach, the team developed a product-service ecosystem, where technology is used to enhance citizens’ wellbeing. The results of the extensive work of the design team were presented in a showcase in mid-December 2020.
Kalevi Ekman, Professor of Product Development from Aalto University, opened the virtual event emphasizing the human and user-centric approach and thanking the super-productive Aalto Design Factory project team for their hard work and collaboration in this project. The project has without a doubt been very intense and culminated in the team working day and night to set up the exciting showcases at the Aalto Design Factory.

Principal Consultant  Markku Heino from Spinverse continued by presenting the LuxTurrim5G, which is a Nokia-driven innovation ecosystem, creating a digital backbone for a smart city. LuxTurrim5G solution is based on smart pole networks that combine fast 5G connectivity, multiple sensors and a secure data platform, providing new data-driven services. The joint R&D&I activities include tens of partners, Aalto University being one of the key research partners.
“Embedding technology in city infrastructure in a way that it is unobtrusive but functional and responds to the needs of users is an important and not an easy task. The great work of the ADF team on scenarios, concepting and practical prototyping has given important background for the development of the smart pole family and related services and a lot of food for thoughts in smart city planning,” LuxTurrim5G ecosystem coordinator Markku Heino from Spinverse said.

Urban environments need to be designed with citizens’ wellbeing in mind

In the main keynote of the event, Aalto Design Factory’s project manager Sara Figueiredo explained the audience about urban environments and how we should make our cities smart to best serve the safety and wellbeing of the citizens. The team has urbanized the technologies and designs to create a smart city where the technology is transparent, and which ensures that the citizens have a good quality of life.

Designing with peoples’ needs in mind requires an understanding on the complexity and numerous layers of the urban environment. The design team has collaborated with the city of Espoo to gain more understanding of the services needed in city environment.

Walk-through of the Smart Urban Furniture project

The ADF team work focused on four themes to identify the needed services, namely Citizen engagement, City management, Safety and emergency and Transport and mobility. The services translate into a collection of products and infrastructure.

The design team identified that each city is a unique, living organism based on their culture and heritage so they had to think of ways how to fit their designs into different cities. Four collections were born: Flow, Edge. Loop and Ambit. They reflect different cities and their requirements: some are very plain and timeless, some classic and innovative etc. For example, Flow is organic and fluid in its design language, combining fluid shapes with aspects from the nature.

The four collections comprise 57 product concepts to meet the requirements of different urban areas, and some of them were on display at the Aalto Design Factory. Examples of the different products are Smart pole, Smart bench and Smart trash can.

The ADF team showcased how the products are linked and interconnected to each other. A bus stop can, for example, have interconnected services to taxis, and criminal activities will launch an alert to the public authorities. The ADF team introduced some of the functions for security in smart poles and smart benches, where you can call for help by pressing a button on the smart pole, or you can charge your phone wirelessly on a smart bench. The applications are almost limitless from surveillance, monitoring and entertainment point of view.

The design team developed all these products and started to wonder how to visualize all the products. For that, the team created a model of an imaginary city with four different districts representing the different collections. This can be viewed in virtual reality environment.

When asked which of the concepts presented would be ready to be productized, Sara Figueiredo answered that all products are unique, but she sees high potential in the Smart hubs. Their implementation could be started by connecting areas in the cities with hubs. The hubs are mobile and modular, and their size roughly equals to shipping containers and can be installed in a matter of days. Markku Heino reminds that these collections are still design concepts, not products, but of course also serving the product development of LuxTurrim5G.

At the end, the whole Design team (Manuel Rosales, Sushant Passi and Petteri Heinonen) were on stage, where they shared their experiences on the project overall, and the last hectic and somewhat crazy days in setting up the exhibition. We are looking forward to hearing more about these exciting designs!

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