The City of Helsinki’s digitalisation projects act as pioneers for other cities and municipalities creating smart services to make everyday life easier for citizens. The open API of the Helsinki Parkkihubi database makes anonymized parking data available to everyone, notifying motorists of the availability of parking spaces, for example via a navigator.

The challenge was the congestion of parking in the heart of Helsinki

Parking is congested in the heart of Helsinki, and up to a quarter of traffic is caused by finding free parking spaces. The parking hub offers a concrete solution to the challenges of parking.

The new service was able to open when parking control has shifted to fully electronic services.

– Four out of five parking spaces are already paid for with mobile applications, says Lauri Uski, Parkkihub’s project manager from Helsinki’s urban environment industry.

Parking data paid through mobile apps passes through an open API for use by any digital service. Through electronic parking information, the idea to prevent parking congestion was born.

The solution was found in platform economy thinking

The Parkkihub development project was a big leap for the city of Helsinki towards a platform economy approach. Before parking operators were put out to tender, now city parking can be sold by any contractor who passes a technical audit. The audit checks that the systems of the parking operators work together with the Parkkihub API among other things.

The system is unique even at the international level. Platform economy thinking is still quite new in the public sector, ” comments Lauri Uski.

The completely innovative system was set to be implemented in a framework agreement with Anders, the contract supplier. The project was carried out iteratively in sprints, which was a necessary condition for success.

At the beginning of the project, we did not know what the end result would be,” says Lauri Uski.

Lauri Uski praises the cooperation with the partner company Anders Innovation. Meetings or Skype meetings were held at least once a week, and the project manager was not a stone’s throw for Uski. “My only job was really to say that this is good enough, let’s move on to the next step,” Uski laughs.

Photos  by Tapio Haaja on Unsplash

The development of the parking hub has been rewarding, as the service concretely makes life easier for city dwellers and has already been widely adopted. The source code of the product has been well maintained and tested, and the open source code has made it possible to utilize the service in other cities as well.

The project was really interesting because we got to deal with many different parties. The co-operation with the persons of the Helsinki parking services, the representatives of the operators and many others involved went smoothly. All in all, the project has been a really successful entity! ”, adds Tuomas Suutari, Senior Architect of Anders’ Parkkihubi project.

The end result is a value-creating service for the citizens

A centralized database has streamlined operations. In the past, the city received parking information from contractors’ systems through various interfaces. Now there is only one standard model of API, and information is centrally managed by the city. Anonymization of parking data means that the location of an individual vehicle cannot be tracked.

The parking hub’s data is also used in the city’s own operations. For example, the city’s traffic planners now receive fact-based information on the demand for parking spaces and the duration of parking in different parts of the city center.

With open source, the platform can be easily replicated for use by other cities and organizations. Anders has helped implement Parkkihub in other cities as well, which is a good example of the benefits of open source and reusable code.

Technologies: Python, Django, REST

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