Thesis: Making carbon neutrality more tangible for everyday transport users
Sree Manikanta Kumar Kanujula, also known as Mani, is an automation engineer and master’s student at Aalto University’s EIT Digital, which focuses on entrepreneurship and integrates education, research, and business. His thesis involves putting together a carbon emission estimator for public transport in Finland. It was his pursuit of this topic that led him to Fintraffic, where he was employed as a thesis worker. Here, Mani talks about the importance of his work, reflects on his experiences at the company, and imparts advice to fellow international students.
I first met Ari-Pekka Kaskela, Head ICT architect at Fintraffic, at a TalentMatch Company Speed Dating recruitment event hosted by Espoo Talent Hub. I came prepared not only with a possible thesis topic idea – I made sure to also familiarise myself with Fintraffic’s role in Finnish society and how they can help the country’s transport sector achieve carbon neutrality by 2035.
My lightbulb moment was this: If it is possible to check carbon emissions on Google Flights, we should also have a similar type of estimator for our daily travel. I was relieved that I was able to articulate this idea in ten minutes or so during the event. In fact, Ari-Pekka found it interesting and relevant enough that he introduced me to someone from the organisation who could help bring it all together.
A travel planner and emissions calculator for everyday users
As a thesis worker, I gathered information from various sources, such as results of previous research studies and carbon emission calculation methodologies, and current available data. Those were combined to devise the final output: a potential real-time journey planner.
The mobile apps we have today allow us to check routes, stops and departure times for different modes of public transport. The one we are working on does all that while displaying the carbon emissions of our chosen trip as well.
For example, if a solo passenger travels by car for two hours from point A to point B, our journey planner will also show the equivalent emissions from beef production along with those attributed to the production of dairy milk and oat milk. Cattle are the animal species responsible for the most emissions and this is a way to make the impact of planet-heating gases emitted by human activity more tangible for users.
Making sense of all the data
It was a fulfilling project, but it also had its fair share of challenges. One involved data collection. When it comes to carbon emissions, we deal with a lot of types of data. To propose a methodology, however, choosing the relevant parameters is crucial. It is necessary to select parameters which are linked with the business prospects of different transport providers. Getting that kind of information was difficult.
The second challenge was a bit more personal. There were moments when I could have managed my time better. The good thing is that the work culture at Fintraffic is friendly and positive, and my colleagues were very patient and helpful in completing my thesis project.
A positive experience overall
From my first encounter with Fintraffic at the talent match event to my day-to-day interactions with Jaakko Rintamäki, my manager, and Janne Lautanala, Jaakko’s manager and Chief Technology Officer at Fintraffic, there has been constant support and encouragement for my thesis. For students who are considering doing the same and applying as a thesis worker at Fintraffic, they can look forward to colleagues who are flexible to work with. There will be opportunities to focus on a range of data APIs (application programming interfaces) as well as on the sustainability of traffic and smart mobility solutions.
The work atmosphere at Fintraffic is pleasant and communication with my co-workers was smooth. As with most professional environments in Finland, English is commonly spoken at Fintraffic so international students have nothing to worry about. All in all, my time at Fintraffic allowed me to develop my expertise and contribute to making traffic in Finland safer, smoother, and more responsible.