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Sep 19 2018

Looking good, feeling smart – Nokia, Elisa and Helsinki launch design competition for 5G base stations

I’ve long been inspired by Helsinki’s ability as a collected community of citizens and businesses to create a culture where style and substance thrive equally. And I’m not the only one.

There’s a genuine recognition throughout the city and its people that one without the other is just fundamentally unsatisfying. It’s an atmosphere and emotion that peaks at this time of year – it envelopes everyone setting foot in the area throughout the Helsinki Design Week (which had so many elements it feels like it lasts for a month).

This cultural recognition, and the city’s unrelenting focus on creating a civic structure that really works for the community, manifests in ideas and projects that genuinely contribute to city life, not just cause a brief scuffle of activity.

Nokia has worked with the City of Helsinki for many years and with many different projects, sometimes also partnering with the operator Elisa as well. This time, along with the design organisation Ornamo Art and Design Finland we want to open our collaboration to many more people. We want to work together to create something for the city that reflects a focus on design and the desire for long-term vision, as well as brings some exciting technology to the people.

We are launching a competition today to seek designers and creative minds who would like to play a major part in shaping how a new 5G mobile network looks for the city.

The competition will result in designs for the 5G base stations, that will be installed throughout the city in public spaces so, simply, they need to look good.

What will a 5G powered city mean?

Answering that question will take time. It could be faster home, work or mobile internet access. It could mean an autonomous car drives you home while you catch a quick nap. It could mean real-time updates on environmental and traffic conditions in an area, so you know before you visit what to expect. One existing example I can suggest as an indication of how a smart city network can benefit the community is the Kumpula Campus UrbanSense project at the University of Helsinki where they’re testing ideas and methods for more extensive air quality monitoring.

The only truly reliable way to find out what’s possible with a 5G network is to test it – exactly the spirit that’s guiding this project. There are many possible uses of 5G, and we will use the city’s new network as a lab – testing ideas, gathering community feedback and trying new things to see what’s right for Helsinki (and other global cities).

Style and substance

It would be easy to use a standard base station design for the network, installing them around the city and running technical trials on them. However, as the entire point of the network is to discover, design and develop services that are open and engaging for the community, allowing citizens and businesses to contribute and give feedback along the way, that’s not the start we want.

This competition will result in a design which seems as seamless part of the surrounding city environment as possible. It will have to be sympathetic to Helsinki’s existing good looks, as well as being a functional piece of technology. Style as well as substance – both are crucial.

We are looking for designers, companies and researchers from around the world to enter – anyone who would like to play a part in helping Helsinki develop into a digital city that really works for its community.

The competition is open now, with all details available here, and will run until the 14th of November. As well as contributing to the design of a key piece of urban infrastructure, Nokia, Elisa and Helsinki have sponsored a total prize fund of €35.000 for the top three winners.

With that sort of prize, as well as a chance to create a part of Helsinki that has global technological impact, I can’t wait to see what the international design community is motivated to create.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokia and @nokianetworks using #5g #SmartCities #design #urbanplanning #smartcity

About Jane Rygaard

Meet Jane, shortlisted as one of the most influential women in telecoms and head of marketing for Nokia advanced mobile networks solutions. She calls her current area of responsibility one of the sexiest in the business. And no doubt it is fascinating with solutions for critical communications, connecting airplanes and trains, and securing coverage in the most remote locations. But when she’s engaged in the architectural design of Lego houses with her daughters, then she disconnects from everyone and everything else.