Tartu – From Hrustsovkas to Smartkovskas

Tartu, Photographer: Kerly Ilves

Tartu is home to a lot of smartness. Often called the intellectual capital of Estonia, Tartu is a town of intellectuals, scientists, creatives and students, making it a hotbed for creative and scientific culture. The nation’s most renowned university, the University of Tartu, hosts nearly 14,000 students, which makes up a good proportion of the whole population of the town – in total 100,000. This means the historic university town is always full of youth, life and new ideas which are turned into high-tech start-ups and companies.

Also known as the City of Good Thoughts, Tartu already has a good track record as a smart city. Tartu has developed its e-services and paperless administration practices for decades and has been one of the first in the world to implement many smart solutions – m-parking in 2000, public Wi-Fi throughout the city in 2000, local e-elections in 2005, city mobile applications in 2006, digital signature in 2007, a fully electric taxi service in 2012, and participative budgeting in 2013 etc.

Tartu ranks 15th in the European Smart Cities benchmark for smart people and joined the Covenant of Mayors in 2014 with the aim of promoting energy efficient solutions, the use of renewable energy and environmentally aware citizens.

In SmartEnCity, Tartu seeks to:

  • Demonstrate a comprehensive approach to retrofitting outdated panel buildings according to near zero energy standards;
  • Boost the liveability of the town through intelligent street lighting, biogas buses, electric car and bike rentals as well as charging stations and many ICT solutions;
  • Engage the citizens in creating a high quality living environment that inspires environmentally aware decisions and new patterns of behaviour.

Smart Solutions for Tartu:

  • Tartu retrofitting package
    The main idea of retrofitting activities in Tartu is to turn the Soviet-time “khrushchyovkas” into “smartovkas” that offer an energy-efficient and high-quality living environment to the pilot area residents.
  • District cooling system that uses residual heat
    The new district cooling system that will be installed in Tartu’s pilot area buildings involves a heat pump that produces heat for the district heating system by using residual heat from cooling.
  • Reusing old EV batteries
    Tartu has quite a large electric taxi fleet and seeks to repurpose these EV batteries by developing an energy storage solution that allows to partially recharge electric taxis with renewable energy that is produced on-site with PV panels.
  • Public bike sharing system
    As an additional mobility solution that the City of Tartu will itself fund, an electric bike sharing system will be set up, including 65 parking locations spanning across the entire city for maximum use and comfort.
  • Gas buses in the whole city
    The City of Tartu will purchase 60 brand new biogas buses to serve the public transportation network – this is a step towards the goal of making public transportation 100% based on gas in Tartu.
  • Smart home solution
    In addition to the retrofitting package that will see Tartu’s pilot area buildings fully renovated, the apartments will be supplied with a smart home system that connects to the Cumulocity cloud platform and enables data exchange and monitoring.
  • LED lights with smart controllers
    A smart street light control system that is based on a wireless mesh technology will be installed in more than 300 new LED street lights in Tartu, including a number of detectors and sensors.
  • Technical consultations and community meetings
    For the retrofitting activities to succeed in Tartu, the respective housing associations need to be engaged and supported throughout the planning and implementation process – for this, several consultation measures are used.
  • Lecture series “Planning an energy-efficient city”
    In order to disseminate expert knowledge and educate citizens on various topics that relate to the development of smart cities, a lecture series has been launched in cooperation with the University of Tartu.
  • Art solutions for pilot area buildings
    In addition to fully renovating its pilot area buildings, the City of Tartu organized an international art competition for finding artists who will create unique artworks for the pilot building facades.
  • Study on attitudes towards technologies and the environment
    The University of Tartu will conduct a study on the pilot area residents’ attitudes towards technologies and the environment, exploring aspects like environmental awareness, actual behavior and consumption patterns.
  • Social innovation experiments
    A number of social innovation models will be experimented with in Tartu in order to facilitate behavioral change and mutual learning among the residents of the pilot area and Tartu as a whole.