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From radio to smartphones

Satellite transmissions

Research on radio technology, branching from electrical research in the early 1950s, and the later research on telecommunications technology, built the foundation on VTT’s current development of communication technology.

At the end of the 1970s, Finland moved to the satellite age, when the Nordic countries decided to fund a joint NORDSAT system. The project fell through later, but the reception of satellite transmissions launched extensive telecommunications technology research projects at VTT.

The research moved on to weather satellites and the collection of data sent by them. With the help of a reception station for the US TIROS/NOAA satellite series, built at VTT, and separate equipment, satellite imagery could be received from weather satellites above Europe and the North America.

Planck probe and sensors

Radio technology and sensors developed by VTT can now be found in, for example, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Planck probe.

Planck’s sensors are measuring the cosmic background radiation, which provides information on, for example, the age and structure of the universe


In the 1970s, microelectronics was raised up as an area of focus in Finland's technological development together with telecommunications, IT and automation. VTT developed measurement and observation devices based on microprocessor technology for mining companies to be used in finding ore, and forest measurement and observation purposes.

High-performance microsystems, electronics-based printed intelligence applications and measurement solutions remain VTT’s core research subjects. VTT works in close cooperation with, for example, VTI Technologies and Okmetic. VTI Technologies is the global market leader in low-g acceleration sensors for automotive applications and pacemakers. Okmetic develops its crystal growing and silicon wafer know-how with VTT, utilised in the microchips and special semiconductors of the electronics industry.


VTT Memsfab Ltd

VTT also services the special production needs of its customers, and VTT Memsfab Ltd tarjoaa offers contract manufacturing services for silicon-based components in the field of microelectronics, focusing on MEMS technology and nanoelectronics.

From car phones to mobile phones

Since the 1970s, VTT has been involved in the development of mobile phone technology. Initially, mobile phones were mainly car phones. One of the world’s first public mobile phone networks, the ARP network (Auto Radio Phone) started its operations in Finland in 1971. In 1981, the ARP network was replaced in Finland by the Nordic NMT network, the world’s first mobile phone network allowing the use of one's phone abroad, or roaming.

In 1987, Nokia shook the world by publishing its own "first handheld phone", while in 1991, Radiolinja opened the world’s first commercial GSM network in Finland. The first GSM call in the world was made by Harri Holkeri, then the Prime Minister of Finland.

Video phone technology

As early as in the 1980s, VTT was doing pioneering work on videophone technology. In 1987, the Finnish VistaCom Industries Oy manufactured world’s first videophone. The Engineering award for 1990 was given to VTT’s telecommunications technology working group that developed the videophone. Unfortunately, the product was ahead of its time and its commercialisation failed. However, videophone technology advanced as a result and, in 1991, Vista Communication Instruments Oy published the world’s first codec card to be installed in a computer and, in 1999, launched world’s first peripheral-independent videophone software that for the first time enabled video phone calls and videoconferencing on a regular PC or laptop.

Since then, mobile phones have changed into smartphones that allow a multitude of services in addition to phone calls and text messages. The first smartphone sold widely in Europe was a Nokia Communicator published in 1996.

Wired and wireless communications methods

Various wired and wireless communications methods now allow a wide variety of devices, machines and sensors to be connected to a network as part of Internet applications.

VTT produces technology and new solutions for the creation of services related to, for example, the built environment, machine tools, public locations and transport, home systems and traffic information systems, both for consumers and corporations.

RFID technology

Already in 2006, VTT implemented a service where a public transport user can receive real-time information from a mobile guide connected to a mobile phone concerning buses or railway traffic arriving to the stop or platform and track the progress of the selected transport from the mobile phone’s display stop by stop.

Finland is one of the leading countries in the development of the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) remote identification technology. RFID technology is already extensively applied to car keys, production automation, logistics, access control and various payment and ticket services. Harnessing a mobile phone into an RFID-based physical user interface has opened up new kinds of application possibilities, such as using the phone as an electronic ticket, for paying and activating services. VTT is actively involved in the development of RFID technology and applications.

The communal production and distribution of information helps, in its part, the creation of new services and service concepts. One example of communal services is the Levävahti algae watch service, published by VTT, IBM, The Finnish Environment Institute and the WWF, allowing vacationers and other users to generate and receive information on the algae situation.

Mobile phone as microscope

The possibilities of a mobile phone as the platform for new services is well described by an application developed by VTT, allowing the use of the mobile phone as a microscope, for example in medical diagnostics, with a small add-on device. This application allows one to send a picture of a blood sample from the remotest Africa for analysis by an expert anywhere in the world.

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