Digitalization and emerging technologies such as 5G networks promise to radically transform today's cities, but there is one great hurdle to cross before citizens can fully enjoy the benefits of digitalization. Cities will have to open up their services and data, and embrace open collaboration in order to become smarter and compete in tomorrow's economy. These views were voiced unanimously at the Oulu Smart City seminar, where city leaders of Northern Europe and intelligent community visionaries gathered to discuss what future cities will look like.

At the event, city leaders and visionaries laid out the blueprint for a future Smart City:

  • Services are available digitally to all people and businesses.
  • Services are built on open foundations so that people, private businesses and NGOs can access and participate in developing and creating services.
  • Intelligence is integrated into buildings, housing, healthcare, logistics, and services.
  • Ubiquitous, wireless high-speed networks such as 5G are a key infrastructure component.
  • Collaboration functions openly across organization, city and country borders.


"Human creativity is the ultimate economic resource, and unleashing this potential is the key for tomorrow's cities. Opening up services creates completely new business models and fosters innovation. Tearing down established barriers is by no means easy, but emerging technologies provide a unique opportunity for cities to open up to the future. Being open is both a technical and a cultural challenge, but by opening up to working together, cities can learn from each other and build a common future together," said Catherine Mulligan from Future Cities Catapult.

Northern Scandinavia is leading the way in opening up to the Smart City thinking. North is a key growth direction in Europe, and the total investment in the area is projected to exceed 140 billion EUR by 2025.

The largest Northern Scandinavian cities Luleå, Oulu and Tromsø are developing the region together and building connections for logistics, business and people. Furthermore, leaders from Finland's largest cities recently announced the "Six City Strategy  Open and smart services", where the cities develop joint services together and enable people and businesses to participate in city development. The programme is built on open innovation platforms, open data and interfaces, and open participation for both citizens and third parties.

The capital of Northern Scandinavia, Oulu is well on its way in the transformation into a Smart City. With over 10 percent of workforce dedicated to R&D, the city has been selected among the most intelligent communities in the world for several years running. Oulu also recently unveiled Finland's first 5G network, which is a key enabler for tomorrow's digital services.

"In Oulu, we see open collaboration and advanced networking as key competitive advantages and the best ways of improving services, promoting innovation and creating prosperity," said the mayor of Oulu, Matti Pennanen. "Healthcare is a great example of what can be achieved with the open approach and ubiquitous connectivity. In Oulu, our goal is to build future healthcare on open foundations, allow citizens to access and control their personal health data wirelessly, and together with businesses create user-oriented applications for self-care and health promotion."

To lay out the foundations for tomorrow's smart cities as innovation ecosystems, the University of Oulu is collaborating with Intelligent Community Forum, VTT and Lappeenranta University of Technology within the 'Business Ecosystems and Platforms for Innovations (BECSI)' research program.