Teppo Rantanen: Pioneering Tampere’s Journey to the Ethically Safe Metaverse

Teppo Rantanen
Teppo Rantanen

Smart cities are reimagining urban life by integrating technology for efficiency, sustainability and citizen well-being. Digital transformation fuels this growth, with data analytics, connected infrastructure and innovative solutions. Here, the expertise of a seasoned professional is invaluable. Leaders in this space champion a clear vision, fostering collaboration between tech experts, urban planners and citizens to navigate the complexities of smart city development and digital transformation.

Teppo Rantanen is one such professional who brings a wealth of experience and a visionary outlook to the table. With a robust background spanning over three decades in consulting, Teppo honed his expertise, notably during his tenure at Deloitte, where he served as both the CEO of Finland and a pivotal member of the global Telecom Media Technology unit’s international leadership team.

His journey in consulting, particularly in the realms of Digitization and the Internet of Things (IoT), instilled in him a deep understanding of value creation and the emergence of new ecosystems. Teppo’s proficiency in navigating the intricacies of the TMT sector positioned him as a strategic partner for corporations seeking to embrace the digital age.

However, it was his innate curiosity about smart city themes that prompted Teppo to embark on a disruptive journey back to his roots in Tampere, his hometown. In his current role as Executive Director at Tampereen kaupunki – City of Tampere, Teppo leverages his extensive experience to spearhead initiatives aimed at implementing smart city solutions and driving digitalization activities within the public sector.

Teppo now stands at the nexus of innovation, bridging the gap between the private and public sectors to shape the future of urban living. His collaborative approach has garnered attention on a global scale, as he works closely with major cities and corporations worldwide to co-create and develop the blueprint for future cities.

Driving Urban Innovation

As Executive Director, Teppo heads pivotal responsibilities centered around shaping strategic economic policy. His role extends to overseeing comprehensive city-wide development programs, with a particular focus on initiatives like the Data-Driven City for Citizens. Furthermore, Teppo’s purview encompasses international operations, event management and advocacy efforts, all aimed at advancing the city’s interests on a global scale.

Vision for Future Cities

Teppo’s journey as a consultant was marked by a dedicated focus on commercializing cutting-edge technologies including the Internet of Things (IoT), with cities being a key target demographic. This early involvement with the smart city theme laid a solid foundation for his current endeavors. Throughout his consulting career, international engagement was a facet but it turned into the cornerstone of his work soon.

Fast forward to his role in city operations, Teppo’s team has recognized the indispensable role of international collaboration in smart city development. They actively foster partnerships with cities, research institutions and companies worldwide recognizing the value of shared expertise and mutual learning. Indeed, internationality emerges as a central tenet in their approach, reflecting its significance for the future evolution of cities.

Metaverse Manifest

Since 2016, Teppo has been at the forefront of pioneering initiatives such as the Smart Tampere program, followed by the Data-Driven City for Citizens development program. Teppo shares, “Recent developments in this field have led us toward the concept of a metaverse city.”

Under his leadership, these programs have catalyzed a multitude of projects exemplified by the extensive scope of Smart Tampere. These encompassed an impressive array of 150 distinct initiatives. Presently, the Data-Driven City for Citizens program is structured around five flagship initiatives, each meticulously designed to embody the essence of a forward-thinking and human-centric smart city:

  • A City of Business Growth
  • An International and Inclusive City
  • A City of Growth and Learning
  • Safe Pedestrian City
  • Sustainable City

Within each flagship initiative lie multiple projects, collectively propelling the agenda of smart city development and digitalization forward with a profound focus on the well-being and needs of the citizens.

The Data Economy

Under Teppo’s stewardship, the Smart Tampere program undertook a groundbreaking turn towards fostering a robust ecosystem-based approach. This ambitious endeavor saw the active involvement of a diverse array of stakeholders including over 400 companies, universities, research institutions, government units, and non-governmental organizations.

Central to this initiative was the meticulous crafting of value propositions tailored to meet the distinct needs of various ecosystem participants. This concerted effort facilitated collaboration and laid the groundwork for mutually beneficial partnerships.

Currently, the focus has shifted towards grappling with data economy issues with a keen emphasis on exploring avenues for value creation through data both for the city and its businesses. As they focus on this domain, Teppo and his team are poised to reveal new frontiers in smart city development driven by data-driven insights and innovative solutions.

International Engagement

International collaboration lies at the core of their strategic approach. Tampere’s engagement on the global stage is a deliberate and integral aspect of their endeavors. One noteworthy example of this commitment is the establishment of the Nordic Smart City network in 2017—a collaborative effort involving Tampere and 10 other Nordic cities. Furthermore, their footprint extends across Europe, with deep-seated partnerships forged with cities like Rotterdam and Barcelona alongside fruitful collaborations with counterparts in the United States.

Tampere boasts affiliations with industry giants such as Microsoft, Nokia and Cisco reflecting their prowess in cultivating strategic partnerships with global players. A crowning achievement in their international engagement was Tampere’s recognition at the Barcelona Smart City World Expo Congress where they clinched the enabling technologies category award. This accolade celebrated Tampere’s innovative utilization of IoT platforms, setting a benchmark for cities worldwide. The ripple effect of this triumph has been palpable, sparking heightened collaboration and fostering dialogue with municipalities and enterprises alike.

However, this triumph recognizes Tampere’s enduring commitment to long-term cooperation and its extensive global networks, which continue to drive innovation and excellence on the international stage under Teppo’s leadership.

Imagining the Future

Teppo holds a forward-looking perspective on the transformative potential of extended reality (XR) technologies within the context of the metaverse city. Embracing the broader term ‘XR,’ Teppo highlights its pivotal role in shaping the future urban landscape, particularly in driving the experience economy forward.

In line with this vision, Teppo champions XR development particularly focusing on its applications in enhancing the city-dwelling experience. From immersive XR experiences enriching cultural offerings like museum exhibitions to the practical utility of XR applications in city modeling through digital twins, the potential for XR to revolutionize everyday urban life is immense.

Anticipating future trends, Teppo foresees a pronounced emphasis on experiential elements, mirroring the growing trend evident in sectors such as museum and exhibition activities. Moreover, he predicts significant strides in healthcare through technological advancements facilitated by XR, alongside the added value it brings to urban development and urban planning initiatives.

To delve deeper into these themes and explore the burgeoning possibilities of the metaverse, Teppo announces the ‘Imagine the Metaverse’ event scheduled to take place in Tampere next summer, on June 11th and 12th.

This gathering will serve as a nexus for inquisitive minds hailing from diverse sectors, including industry, experience economy, smart city development, and the business sphere. At this event, the future trajectories and emerging trends within the XR field will undoubtedly take center stage, paving the way for a bold new era of urban innovation.

Innovating Urban Futures

The metaverse city and how smart technologies will increasingly enable seamlessness between the physical and virtual worlds, adding value to citizens’ everyday lives, are undoubtedly among the opportunities.

Teppo acknowledges that despite the impressive array of technologies currently available, a significant hurdle lies in the absence of tailor-made solutions for the metaverse world. Specifically, the dearth of affordable and user-friendly technology remains a notable challenge. He envisions a future where VR/XR glasses seamlessly integrate into daily life, offering intuitive usability coupled with robust connectivity, ideally facilitated by advancements like 6G. Addressing these technological barriers holds the key to unlocking a myriad of new use cases with profound implications for urban environments.

Here, innovative solutions related to transportation and mobility could revolutionize urban mobility systems while efficient data utilization powered by these advanced technologies ensures safety and security in data handling. By surmounting these challenges and harnessing the potential of cutting-edge technology, Teppo anticipates a paradigm shift in urban development, characterized by a wealth of new possibilities and transformative applications that enhance the quality of life for city residents.

Towards a Seamless Integration

In the future, the metaverse will emerge. The goal of all this is to guide the city toward a metaverse world where digital twins, XR, AI (especially Gen AI) and connectivity intersect in a way that allows us to create a genuine connection between the real world and the virtual world. At the center of it all remains the human being—the ethically safe metaverse city aims to help citizens find practical ways to operate using new technology.

Teppo states, “We have developed a 2040 vision of the metaverse for the city of Tampere in collaboration with the London-based Metaverse Institute. We continue to refine this vision into specific areas, seeking a path toward realizing the vision and creating a future human-centric city.”