Espoo becomes a member of FCAI: researchers to develop artificial intelligence for the services of the city

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2018-05-23 15:37

The City of Espoo has become a member of the Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence FCAI. FCAI is a research centre launched by Aalto University and University of Helsinki, which gathers together the best artificial intelligence researchers in Finland. FCAI's objective is to make the most advanced methods of artificial intelligence available to enterprises, organisations and society.

The City of Espoo sees that developing artificial intelligence together will be beneficial for the whole innovation community from enterprises to R&D organisations and the inhabitants in Espoo.

“On the one hand, researchers need data for the development of artificial intelligence methods and technology, and public organisations have this data. On the other hand, we as a city get to use the methods, technologies and the latest knowledge of artificial intelligence research in the development of our services,” says Tomas Lehtinen, data analyst consultant for the City of Espoo.

“For a researcher, the data in the databases of the city of Espoo and the shared databases of the Helsinki metropolitan area is very interesting. Especially the innovative start-up companies in the area and Espoo's desire to be profiled as a pioneer in the use of intelligent technologies set a good basis for cooperation with researchers developing artificial intelligence. We have all the prerequisites to expand our cooperation to other research centres and other cities as well,” says the Head of FCAI, Academy Professor Samuel Kaski.

Espoo sees that cooperation in the area of artificial intelligence could support, for example, sustainable development by advancing low-emission traffic, battling indoor air quality problems in schools and other buildings and preventing social exclusion, for example. All this is tightly connected to the Espoo Story, i.e. the strategy of the city, and it is included in the objectives of the City Council.

The ethicality of AI is a crucial question

The second largest city of Finland uses many databases, many of which contain confidential personal data. Materials that contain personal data is not given for research purposes other than in special instances and, in such cases, the encryption of personal data and other data security must be ensured.

Securing the ethicality is the starting point for the cooperation between the City of Espoo and FCAI.

“The reliability of artificial intelligence is the cornerstone of our research. We are developing new, unique methods for securing the data and privacy. In order to establish secure ways of using artificial intelligence, we need these kinds of cooperation projects, where AI methods are used in the everyday life of people,” Kaski points out.

“Artificial intelligence cannot lead; it has to remain a helper. Public operations must stay transparent even though the role of artificial intelligence is increasing. That is the only way for us to have the trust of our inhabitants and employees of the city,” says Päivi Sutinen, services development director for the City of Espoo.

From their employees, the city receives tacit knowledge, which can be used to teach artificial intelligence to find essential things from the data and to create meanings for the results it produces. At the same time, the work of professionals becomes more effective and meaningful when supported by artificial intelligence, and we can then learn to focus on the right things.

Challenge for the state: what is the role of the public sector?

Through concrete experiments, Espoo has created a model for cooperative development with the aim of getting the whole community from the inhabitants to the employees of the city, enterprises and researchers to work together for the common good. This model also serves as a good basis for the development of artificial intelligence.

A common objective for Espoo and FCAI is to get other municipalities and government authorities to join the development of artificial intelligence.

“We challenge the government authorities to join the conversation about what the role of the public sector is in the development and use of artificial intelligence. What kind of data would be relevant, and which data sets of the municipalities and the state could be combined, if we talk about, for instance, preventing social exclusion? I believe that at least Kela, the Tax Administration, the National Institute for Health and Welfare, and the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra could share their insight on this,” says Sutinen.

More information

City of Espoo:

  • Services Development Director Päivi Sutinen, tel. 046 877 2871,
  • Data Analyst Consultant Tomas Lehtinen, tel. 043 826 9177,

Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence FCAI/Aalto University:

  • Corporate Liaison Terhi Kajaste, tel. 050 327 5299,