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Oulu, the little city with big ideas

If you’ve been keeping an eye on NFC you’ll have noticed that a lot of innovative experimentation is taking place in the Finnish town of Oulu. And if you’ve been wondering why a place you’ve otherwise never heard of is at the forefront of testing NFC concepts, an article in Computing magazine now has the explanation you’ve been looking for…

The city of Oulu is home to 130,000 Finns, including 5,000 Nokia employees

The city of Oulu is home to 130,000 Finns, including some 5,000 Nokia employees

“For a city born out of trading in tar, sailing ships and salmon, Oulu in northern Finland is an unlikely hotbed of technology innovation,” says Computing magazine’s Angelica Mari. “But unlike California’s Silicon Valley, Oulu leads the way in applying groundbreaking technology, rather than its development.”

Here’s the background to Oulu’s NFC experiments:

City officials launched a six-year plan in 2007 focused on exploiting its untapped IT potential, aiming to be a global leader. Oulu Innovation, the city’s innovation agency, is in charge of managing and delivering the strategy, which includes the establishment of applied research units, as well as business development programmes and innovation trials to create a technologically advanced society.”

“We are in a remote location, cannot compete in manufacturing and our natural resources are scarce, so high technology provides us with unlimited opportunities,” says Oulu Innovation’s chief executive, Jukka Klemettilä.

An innovation programme aims to assess the public needs for new products and service developments and includes SmartTouch, a project involving 20 local companies as well as Nokia, Gemalto, Alcatel-Lucent and Philips, that focuses on the large-scale use of near field communication  technology to improve community services.

Since 2004 at least 10 trials have taken place in application areas such as healthcare, car parking, the provision of a meal service for elderly and disabled citizens, theatre and bus ticketing services, Outi Rouru-Kuivala, the SmartTouch project manager, told Computing.

The latest trial is taking place at primary and secondary schools in the city and aims to increase security and co-operation between home and school.

The full article, with details of all the field trials conducted in Oulu to date, can be seen on Computing’s website.

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