Digital commerce platform for Helsinki

HiQ and the City of Helsinki jointly developed a digital commerce platform for the city, which offers joint ordering and payment services.

Ambientia's public sector unit is now part of HiQ. Read more.

HiQ and the City of Helsinki jointly developed a digital commerce platform for the city, which offers joint ordering and payment services for all industries in the City of Helsinki. In the future, booking a boat dock, paying for parking, or even ordering a museum tour can be easily done online.

The online platform accelerates the establishment of a uniform and modern online store for different industries in the city and enables a clear and accessible transaction path for users. In addition, the platform also offers ready-made and maintained interfaces to other common solutions.

For customers of the services, the platform offers a secure and modern solution that includes all payment methods from its online bank to MobilePay. The platform also enables card debits for continuous orders, so the resident does not need to renew the order for a resident parking permit each time.

There are several ways to connect to the online shopping platform, from simple linking to customized implementation. However, the starting point has been that service-specific customization must not jeopardize basic functions, and basic functions must not have to pay for customization.

The experience-based API layer enables the same function, for example, availability check, to be used in several services. The architecture has been built in a way that the needs of various industries can be met as comprehensively as possible with generic solutions.

In addition to costs, nerves and effort were also saved. If technology function changes, integrations do not have to be made to several different cash register and payment systems: only to one place where it is used by everyone.

Building an online store for the most functional city in the world

The city of Helsinki's goal is to become the most functional city in the world and also have an excellently functioning online store. A functional digital customer experience means uniform production and consumption of services, better findability and accessibility of services, and a clear and smooth transaction and payment process. It is also important to ensure that new services, service models and partners can be connected to the platform.

To reach this target state, the city of Helsinki organized a market dialogue in 2020, in which HiQ (then Ambientia’s Public Sector business unit) participated. In January 2021, HiQ won the competition that led to the dialogue, and the project started in March of the same year.

After the test period in May, we moved on to development sprints, after which a proof of concept (POC) was built, focusing on the simple ordering and payment of one product (boat trailer summer storage fee). The POC was a great success: the payments for the trailer storage of the boat decks in Helsinki in the fall of 2021 were made through the cash register built by HiQ.

The data obtained from the analytics and the user testing confirmed that the direction is right. Next, residents' parking and space reservation services are connected to the online shopping platform. In the future, there will be a wide range of other options, for example paying for intangible services such as museum guided tours easily through an online store.

Cooperation across industry boundaries

The key question in developing the digital commerce platform was clear: how to reach the payment stage and proceed so the user always feels safe and confident?

Successful development has required cooperation with various services of the City of Helsinki. For example, the rental of boat spaces and residents' parking are produced by different industries, and mapping and unifying the needs of different services has required a lot of work.

The project has included numerous workshops with different industries and many rounds of service design. In addition, the development work has used a comprehensive open-source design system built by the City of Helsinki: the Helsinki Design System. The project's steering group also consists of people working in different sectors.

Development as partners brought the desired result

Helsinki has greatly advanced the so-called developer community activities: in the Helsinki Design System, different development projects are shared, and everyone has access to active sprint development codes and backlogs, as well as different prototypes. The city has created an enormous digital infrastructure and continuously develops it further.

Project manager Jarkko Siren from thhe city of Helsinki commends HiQ for the collaboration.

"Once the delivery project started, the experts understood very quickly the goals of the project as well as what, how and why we are implementing the commerce platform," says Siren.

"During the implementation project, HiQ has proven to be a genuine partner, who’s taken the implementation forward with determination. Throughout the collaboration, the conversation with HiQ has been open and constructive, also regarding more difficult themes."

Siren says that HiQ has demonstrated its expertise specifically in digital commerce and digital commerce platforms, which has resulted in completely new ideas for the possible further development of the platform.

According to Siren, HiQ has demonstrated its ability to identify and address challenges, react to changes and find alternative implementation methods, if the implementation according to the original plan has not been possible for one reason or another. Siren also praises how HiQ has shown that it understands and promotes the interests of the city of Helsinki by, among other things, taking care of the cost-effectiveness and flexibility of the implementation to meet the changing needs of the city.


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