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Smart City Challenge 2024

As a result of the Smart City Challenge 2024, we will launch three pilot projects to create new smart and research-based solutions.
We welcome the participation of cities, researchers and developers who are interested in solving urban problems and creating smart solutions and services.

See more about the upcoming events and the conditions for participating on the FinEst Centre's homepage.

FinEst Centre for Smart Cities

FinEst Centre for Smart Cities was established in 2019 and it is an independent organisation within Tallinn University of Technology.

FinEst Centre is an international research and development centre where the main ambition is to create innovative and smart smart city solutions that improve the quality of life in cities. We are driven by passion to enhance the quality of life in urban areas. We firmly believe that the future of cities lies in creating smart, human-centric, and resilient environment that empower people to lead happy, fulfilling lives.

At the core of our work are our exceptional research and development teams from Tallinn University of Technology (Estonia) and Aalto University (Finland). 

In addition to TalTech, the founders of the FinEst Centre are Aalto University, Forum Virium Helsinki and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications.

See more at www.finestcentre.eu 

Ongoing Smart City Challenges: 2023 and 2024

3rd round of the Smart City Challenge was started in 2023. The aim is to find 4 new ideas to pilot and implement. In the pilot projects, interdisciplinary scalable solutions for complex urban challenges will be developed to make cities better living environments.

We will implement the solutions that are most likely to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the FinEst Centre and in which knowledge from different fields is combined.

As a result of the 2023/2024 round, we would like to implement:

  • 2 large pilot projects with a duration of 36 months and a budget of around 1.26M euros.
  • 2 mid-sized pilot projects with a duration of 24 months and a budget of around 860K euros.

There should be at least one piloting city from Estonia and one from another country in each project.

We will select 4 pilot projects in September 2024 and the aim is to launch them in November 2024.

In the spring of 2024, we also started the 4th round of the challenge. In this round, we want to launch three pilot projects and finance their implementation and the creation of new solutions with three million euros.

Find out about the conditions and possibilities of the idea competition and upcoming events on the FinEst Centre's homepage: 

Smart City Challenge 2023

Smart City Challenge 2024

Pilot projects

Six pilot projects have been implemented and new solutions created in cooperation between researchers and cities/municipalities. In June 2023, the created smart solutions were presented at the Smart City Demo Day. The created solutions are intended for use by cities and you can learn more about them here.

Four pilot projects were carried out in the period 2021-2023 and two pilot projects in 2022-2023.

The idea is to offer a conceptual ecosystem solution to transport system management of the near future, where additionally to the existing means of transport, self-driving shuttles and micro mobility solutions are going to play an important role and user centric approach is highly required.

One of the main outcomes of the pilot project is a user-friendly data exchange platform for all required services by interconnecting existing and new solutions over unified data exchange-platform. Our pilot will test an interconnected on-demand based full transport solution from passenger’s home to capital city hub and beyond. The data exchange platform will be connected with existing governmental databases and creates open-access new data sets in order to offer personalized on-demand pro-active services.

The practical pilot includes self-driving AV shuttles on-demand service in sub-urban areas connected to main public transport and micro mobility service providers in the capital city. AV shuttles are going to be remanufactured from end-of-live electrical vehicles significantly reducing the environmental footprint and making AV shuttles affordable to local counties.

The final outcome of the project will be future city model tested in real urban environment and implementation toolkit for cities and urban areas all over the world. Project main partners are City of Tallinn and Rae County, as well as a wide circle of external partners in government, private and non-profit organizations.


The scientific leader of the pilot is by Prof. Raivo Sell and the pilot coordinator is Krister Kalda.

This project develops green elements for the digital twins of Tallinn and Helsinki, and additionally, creates a permanent hub for city planning in Tallinn centre. The world-class novelty of the project is the dynamic digital modelling of the green environment, a “green information model”.

Today, the green is represented in digital environments by static images. In reality, the green environment is in constant temporal change, which has a major impact on urban comfort and the carbon balance of a city. Green environment is a primary quality factor of urban environment. It has a major impact on micro-climate and particle emissions, heat island effect and soundscape. Green-blue infrastructure is a measure for climate adaptation. Green environments create identity for cities and can offset greenhouse gas emissions towards carbon neutrality.

A 3D-plant model resource library for the target areas in Tallinn and Helsinki will be created by applying game engines together with CityGML. Later, the library can be extended to serve the needs of other cities in other climate zones – all over the world.

The permanent Smart City Planning HUB in downtown Tallinn will promote the digital advance of the city and facilitate citizen participation in urban planning.


The project partners are the cities of Tallinn and Helsinki, Aalto University and TalTech. 
The pilot is lead by Prof Fabian Dembski, D. Sc. Aija Staffans and Kristi Grišakov.

This team aims to improve operational energy performance and indoor climate through digitalization of facility management in large real estate portfolios. Continuous monitoring of energy, ventilation and indoor air quality in hundreds of buildings results in a big data for which performance analytics capable for benchmarking and identification of faults and malfunctions in building technical systems as well as in building operation will be developed.

In total, 45 educational buildings of Tallinn, Tartu and TalTech are planned to be connected to the IoT platform and tools developed in the project. The platform will split performance monitoring functions from maintenance related automated diagnostics.

The user interface of the platform consists of three dashboards with increasing detail level on information provided: Executive, Departmental and Maintenance dashboard. The project focuses to educational buildings because their indoor climate is essential for achieving high learning performance that has implications to national competitiveness. The results can be utilized by any large real estate portfolio owners.


The scientific leader of the pilot is Prof. Jarek Kurnitski and the pilot coordinator is Kalle Kuusk.

This project aims to reduce requirements for electricity supply through optimized consumption and decrease carbon-intensive electricity production by simplifying the uptake of renewable energy. Instead of consuming electricity based on real-time demand, the use of energy storage and control systems enables to alter the electricity consumption profile and compensate for the intermittent output of generators utilizing renewable energy. The objective is achieved through the use of electric microgrids, which are formed by a digital low voltage substation with an integrated energy storage system and a dedicated software platform.

The project provides municipalities means to solve their energy supply problems, whilst also increasing the uptake of carbon-neutral energy through the simplified formation of electrical microgrids and closed electricity distribution grids.

As a result of this project, recommendations for policy makers and a concept of creating microgrids through a scalable product are provided. Additionally, empirical evidence from actual environments is used to carry out high quality research focused on energy storage systems, cyber-security in electricity grids, energy policy and markets.


The pilots are planned to be carried out in Lääne-Harju Parish in Paldiski and in the city of Tartu.

This pilot project is led by Dr Tarmo Korõtko.

REnovation Strategy TOol (RESTO) pilot aims to develop an innovative digital platform for municipal decision-makers that would allow them to optimize required investments into their building stock. The Tool will combine Pilot is carried out together with Võru city government in their town centre. RESTO would allow to evaluate the impact of alternatives in connection to different aspects such as technology, building and infrastructure design, urban  planning, and  business  models. Furthermore, utilising the digital twin data from the Building Registry and other public databases makes it possible  to  identify  optimal  configurations  that  allow to  account predefined limitations like availability of funds, energy performance ambition, environmental goals etc. In other words, RESTO would  allow  municipalities  to define, generate, simulate and quantitatively analyse renovation scenarios adapted to specific districts and buildings in order to make sensible investment decisions.


The pilot project is lead by Targo Kalamees and Einari Kisel.

The pilot project aims to bridge the gap between urban planners and urban residents developing a well-being score. This score is an innovative method and tool integrating quantitative physiological and subjective psychological indicators for assessing environments that are not only safe and convenient, but also interesting or pleasant or vice versa to define environments that are unsafe, stressful, overstimulating, or unattractive. 

The result is a visualization of well-being score (WBS) and related parameters as map layers including guidelines for interpretation and use in city planning workflow. The WBS can also be used as an input for solving climate challenges in the city planning. Increased well-being in the city, e.g. better human-environment relations, in turn, creates an overall spill-over effect contributing to secure and mentally, physically, socially, economically healthier city. Narva is the project pilot partner city where the WBS will serve as an additional input for making decisions about the improvements in their living districts to find new options for keeping and attracting citizens and investments. 

The pilot project team will involve also other cities as the goal is to develop and validate a new service for the FinEst Centre for Smart Cities relevant for many cities in Europe.



READ "Urban Planning Well-Being Score aka ‘City Resident – What Are You ACTUALLY Feeling’?"

The pilot project is lead by Ivo Fridolin and Külle Tärnov.

Collected urban challenges (2020 and 2021)

In cooperation with Estonian urban areas, we selected the 10 most important challenges for them in the second half of 2020 that could be solved with smart technologies. In 2021, we selected ideas for solutions to the same challenges.

71 ideas were received altogether in 2020, of which the best four were selected in 2020 and the two best in 2021. Based on these challenges, the first six pilot projects were launched.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Anija, Elva, Haapsalu, Harku, Keila, Lääne-Harju, Maardu, Pärnu, Paide, Rae, Rakvere, Saaremaa, Saue, Tallinn, Valga, Viimsi, Viljandi, Viru-Nigula, Võru

  • How to develop a network of roads and streets, so that it encourages mobility by walking, using different two, three and four wheel bicycles, as well as micromobility devices (incl. with electric motors); public transport (bus, train, etc.) and in the future also with self-driving vehicles. It is important to increase the share of sustainable modes of mobility and allow people to have healthy and safe modes of mobility.
  • What is a network of roads and streets like that forms a joint part of the entire remaining public space, where there are attractive connecting stations and convenient access ways to shopping centres, also for pedestrians that allow inhabitants to reach the required destination in less than 15 minutes, without using their own car etc. 
  • What is the transport management system that takes into consideration the needs of inhabitants that live outside the city, but commute on a daily basis to the city to work or go to school.
  • How to manage traffic operationally and flexibly, as well as increase road capacity, while at the same time calm the traffic and increase safety. 

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Anija, Elva, Haapsalu, Harku, Kohtla-Järve, Lääne-Harju, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rae, Rakvere, Saue,
Tallinn, Tartu, Viljandi, Viru-Nigula, Vormsi

  • It is difficult especially for children, to come to the centre, from the outskirts of the municipality. The transport within rural municipalities, including connections to small islands, is inadequate. There is not sufficient people to create a profitable bus traffic with sufficient frequency. What possibilities are there for creating a transport solution, based on demand based public transport or on transport sharing services (social transport, school transport, transport to work for larger companies etc.), thereby also taking into consideration the needs of inhabitants with special needs. 
  • The problem facing cities is daily commuting – how to create an integrated and with sufficient frequency public transport connections, as well as a convenient compatibility between cars and public transport, on the outskirts of cities. How to ensure a public transport that functions comfortably and at relevant times, according to the needs of different age groups (for work, school, to the centre for using services: store, medical care, hairdresser etc.). 
  • Companies are in succession closing long distance bus routes, due to free public transport and a shortage of passengers, wherefore municipal governments need to increasingly organize transport within the rural municipality, as well as county transportation and find opportunities for ensuring a sufficient frequency of routes and establish new routes.
  • The municipal government increasingly needs to contribute into organizing social transport, due to the ageing of the population and the chronic shortage of family doctors (due to the distancing and centralization of primary health care services). 

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Anija, Elva, Haapsalu, Maardu, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rae, Rakvere, Saue, Tallinn, Tartu, Valga, 
Viljandi, Viru-Nigula, Võru

  • There is no unified public transport system for cities and the county, not to mention the national one. Ticket systems are also different. It would be important to have combined planning of different mobility means: bus, train, bicycle, car, micromobility devices etc. 
  • The possibility of working in public transport is an important advantage over driving private cars. How to create as comfortable as possible conditions for this (a desk for supporting a computer, high speed and stable Internet connection, possibility for privacy – working quietly or making calls, without disturbing others). 
  • What studies and data analysis must be performed, so that county and regional public transport can be brought into conformity with actual mobility needs. 
  • It is important to even allow for working in larger cities, up to 100 km away, such that it would be time and energy efficient, as well as comfortable. 
  • What is the mobility of goods and location of logistics centres that takes into consideration the production and industrial needs, of smaller settlements.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Maardu, Paide, Rakvere, Tallinn, Valga, Viimsi, Viru-Nigula, Võru

  • How to smartly create structural plans that encompass many detailed plans, to ensure a more unified detailed planning and utilisation of resources, as well as a better urban space that creates prerequisites for sustainable construction and using sustainable energy carriers. How to effectively include the inhabitants?
  • The development of blue-green infrastructure in smart cities – what are the environment friendly and smart (rain)water systems like, smart spatial planning solutions that improve the quality of life and assist in improving the environmental condition (e.g. improve management of rainstorms, storms, floods, mitigate the effect of a thermal island etc.)?
  • How to take into use the possibilities of geoinformation applications for managing the infrastructure objects, managed by the city (for example street lighting, snow removal, landscaping etc.), as well as spatial analysis (public transport, waste management etc.).
  • What opportunities are offered, by using remote sensing and positioning in urban planning (application of innovative solutions from the field of space, in urban space planning).
  • How to take into consideration in planning that a person can perform the activities required, for his/her life within the vicinity of the home, ideally on foot, by bike or public transport. How to comfortably organise the mobility of people living in the suburbs, to institutions in the city centre (e.g. kindergartens and schools). How to ensure access to attractive sites, using cycle and pedestrian tracks.. What to do with existing large shopping centres that do not allow for being reached on foot? How to plan the space surrounding centres as compact and pedestrian friendly?
  • How to smartly use sensors to collect data, in a way that maximumly improves the well-being of the citizen, so that based on measurement results, it would be possible to conduct simulations and projects that improve the quality of life. The creation of future simulations based on data to predict trends and model people's needs (for example kindergarten places). 
  • The indicators of water, heat, electricity consumption and production of buildings should be visible in real time, to efficiently plan and forecast energy production, identify high consumption buildings and share consumption, in order to avoid a surge in growth. 
  • How to further integrate contemporary technologies into urban planning (for example incorporating a model design centred process (BIM), that would allow for a unified processing, during the entire life cycle of the project, as well as information capacity for creating models of landscape, planning, surface and existing buildings). How would such developments also allow for improving the compatibility of possible infrastructure project models (InfraBIM) and use of local urban models (CIM). How is it possible to determine, based on data, the profitability of projects for the rural municipality? A new developer with 3 000 new residents – predict through data analysis the costs and benefits for the rural municipality, as an example.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Anija, Jõgeva, Kohtla-Järve, Jääne-Harju, Maardu, Narva, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rakvere, 
Saaremaa, Saue, Sillamäe, Tallinn, Tartu, Valga, Viljandi, Viru-Nigula, Võru

  • The biggest challenge is the increasing of energy efficiency of buildings – in apartment buildings, as well as in buildings managed by the municipality and in small houses. It is necessary to construct new buildings with low energy consumption and reconstruct existing buildings. How to solve the entire whole economically – light, ventilation, cooling, heat.
  • The profitability of offered energy solutions is not easily discernible. There is a lack of knowledge in which buildings it is reasonable to perform projects and the demolition of which would be more appropriate, as they would be depreciated before the solutions have paid off. There is a lack of a unified collection of knowledge, based on which municipalities can make decisions.
  • The usable solutions should also be diverse from an architectural aspect. How to ensure the preservation of local peculiarities and traditional architectural heritage, when construction volumes are increasing and in the context of development needs, of the contemporary urban space? 
  • Investments into buildings of areas of heritage protection are difficult to make – resource intensive, demanding conditions and knowledge of possible usable solutions are fragmented, difficult to find. 
  • How to efficiently switch from local cooling devices of a building, to environment friendly remote cooling. 
  • The efficiency and reasonability of district heating in smaller municipalities is low, what could be the solution, the alternative?
  • With what to motivate inhabitants to create energy cooperatives that would assist in speeding the taking into use of alternative methods of energy production. 
  • The withstandability to emergencies of buildings (the supply of heat into the building for example functions, but the internal circulation within the building does not work, during a power failure).
  • How to solve the real time availability of information on resource consumption (electricity, heat, CO2, noise etc.), of public buildings. The analysis of these data would be necessary, possibility for simulation that would allow the operational management of the buildings.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Elva, Haapsalu, Jõgeva, Keila, Lääneranna, Maardu, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rakvere, Saaremaa,
Saue, Sillamäe, Tallinn, Viru-Nigula, Vormsi, Võru

The availability of electricity to industrial areas is critical. The population of most rural municipalities is decreasing, partially due to a shortage of places for work. How to ensure good conditions for industry, both from the point of view of energy supply and freight transport (railway connection). What would be a sensible development model (currently energy producers do not invest because of a lack of consumers, while industry does not come, because of a lack of conditions). 

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Keila, Kohtla-Järve, Lääne-Harju, Maardu, Paide, Rae, Rakvere, Saaremaa, Tartu, Viljandi, Viru-

  • The production of electricity and heat based on non-renewable energy sources is problematic. Thermal energy is the energy type with the largest volume, in terms of consumption, but currently still natural gas and peat are partly used for the production of district heating. How to ford local renewable energy production and consumption.
  • What are the possibilities for switching the production of district heating to renewable energy sources, to exploit low temperature possibilities in district heating. How to detect and realize projects based on contemporary solutions (production of electricity from waste water, underground or water body based solutions of heat pumps, combined with solar panels)? How to link these projects, with urban architecture and planning (for example constructing city greenhouses, in areas of heat pumps). 

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Elva, Harku, Maardu, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rakvere, Saue, Tallinn, Tartu, Viimsi, Võru

  • The need and extent for data collection has not been precisely determined, i.e. which data and what for, needs to be collected. Certain data, at the same time is collected and their volume is constantly increasing.
  • The technical capacities and competences for data processing, analyzing and using for management decisions, are currently low. How to improve the general architecture of the city information system (incl. compatibility between local and national registers) and in the longer term, also move toward the direction of a so called functioning of a smart city that would better allow for an analysis of the situation of Estonia, through data of cities. 
  • An increasing contribution to IT security (ISKE) and data protection, is required in the contemporary information society. The navigation currently in data protection, GDPR, cyber security regulations, is difficult for local governments.
  • The data currently available from Statistics Estonia, for example, are not based on regions nor often in real time.
  • The data from different databases are not compatible with other databases. Many need based own systems have been created that are centred on a single local government. What should the software be like that is capable of making data from different databases, to communicate with each other? How to create data bridges with neighbouring municipalities, including those of neighbouring countries, to integrate data based management, cooperation and services. 
  • There is a lack of digital real time urban space monitoring or how to make management of city assets smart, systematic: traffic load on the streets, free parking places, CO2 and noise level on the streets, air quality, real time consumption and monitoring of resources of public buildings; electricity, heat etc., monitoring of waste management.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Anija, Maardu, Paide, Põltsamaa, Rakvere, Saue, Tallinn, Tartu, Viimsi, Viljandi, Võru

Municipalities have quite a bit of databases, but they are not used or displayed. Private companies desire and can develop smart, necessary and useful solutions based on open data. How to give data to citizens, organizations and private companies, for free use and the creation of new services, while at the same time ensuring their legitimate and secure management.

Estonian towns and urban areas for whom this is the top challenge:
Maardu, Paide, Rakvere, Saue, Tartu, Viimsi, Viljandi, Viru-Nigula, Võru

  • Communication with inhabitants is often slow and inefficient. Inhabitants continuously have an increasingly difficult time to manage their daily lives and obtaining information on services important to them, due to continuously increasing volumes of information. What would be the correct channels of communication that would take into consideration the capabilities and interests of different age groups. 
  • How to increase the quantity and quality of e-services, how to propagate their use, among the population? The population, in greater parts of Estonia, in cities is decreasing. It is required to find solutions, to ensure the quality of services. 
  • The document management system does not allow for monitoring the procedures of applications etc. The creation of such capacities would significantly increase efficiency, transparency and quality.
  • Emotional ageing and illness are among one of the biggest problems facing older people in Estonia. Social welfare needs to be upgraded and improved. How to develop nursing homes, organize communication, so that people would not hold on to their real estate, but would have a desire to go to a nursing home, where all living conditions are better (health, social life). Find ways for optimizing the work of support personnel, in conditions of decreasing personnel, in caring for ageing people.

Smart City Challenge 2020

In 2020, FinEst Centre organized the first open idea competition. The competition sought science-based ideas that would solve important challenges for Estonian cities and contribute to growing the sustainability of the center of excellence and strengthening the research level.

The selected ideas were implemented by the FinEst Centre together with partner cities and researchers from Tallinn University of Technology and Aalto University.

The implementation of the pilot projects is done under the project “Smart City Center of Excellence” funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research (2014-2020.4.01.20-0289). In parallel, Horizon2020 Teaming project: FinEst Twins is funding the development of the basic science part of the FinEst Center for Smart Cities.


  • On October 6, 2020, the idea competition was announced.
  • November 6 was the deadline for submitting the ideas. The ideas had to be submitted in the prescribed form. 71 ideas were submitted.
  • The team of the FinEst Centre assessed the compliance of the ideas with the evaluation criteria: being research-intensive, involving at least one city and being realistically doable within the given financial and time frame. In the second round, 38 ideas were selected based on this evaluation.
  • All 38 ideas were evaluated by experts in the field. Each idea was evaluated by two different experts. Based on the opinions of the experts, FinEst Centre selected 12 ideas for the finals, i.e. those that were positively assessed by both experts.
  • Following the experts' recommendations, the teams submitted their updated applications by November 27th.
  • The nine-member International Evaluation Committee reviewed all applications and evaluated them in writing according to the evaluation criteria. The composition of the evaluation committee and the evaluation criteria has been in accordance with the provisions of the Regulation for this financial measure.
  • The evaluation criteria were: research excellence, novelty, growth potential, feasibility and impact on urban environments.
  • On December 8, all 12 teams had the opportunity to present their ideas to the evaluation committee and answer their questions. After hearing the presentations, the evaluation committee excluded eight projects by consensus based on the evaluation results in five categories and the exclusion method.
  • By consensus, 4 projects were identified for which the evaluation committee had given the most points. These projects were submitted to the Steering Committee of the FinEst Centre for decision.
  • The Steering Committee of the FinEst Centre decided on December 17, 2020, to provide an opportunity to start all 4 projects, but to prepare more detailed research and development plans and budgets for the pilots projects by 31 March.
  • On April 7, 2021, meeting of the Steering Committee, 3 projects have been approved, and one project had to submit an updated plan for re-approval based on the recommendations of the steering committee on May 18. The 4th pilot project got the green light to proceed on May 18, 2021.

Smart City Challenge 2021

71 ideas were received for the open idea competition for the Smart City in 2020, the best four of which were selected and implemented by FinEst Centre for Smart Cities together with the partner cities where the solutions are piloted. Among the remaining 67 ideas, there were still many good ones, so we decided not to make a new open collection of ideas in 2021, but to evaluate the ideas submitted in 2020 with a slightly different methodology, and to find two of them that can be implemented in 18 months.

In Phase 1 of 2021 challenge, representatives of the FinEst Centre for Smart Cities and ministries selected 15 ideas from the last year's competition. During the summer, we did a reality check with the authors of the idea, and 10 idea were decided to continue, then the Estonian and Finnish cities evaluated these ideas and 5 ideas reached the finals. The cities were then able to apply to become pilot partners.

The plans for the pilot projects in the finals were prepared in cooperation between the FinEst Centre, the authors of the idea and the partner cities. The plans of the 5 pilot projects were evaluated by an approved evaluation committee, and based on these evaluations, the Steering Committee of the FinEst Centre decided to select the following two pilots for implementation: Renovation Strategy Tool and Urban Planning Well-Being Score. The pilots will be implemented between January 2022 and June 2023.

Smart city 2021 process


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Recordings of past events can be found on the centre's YouTube channel.