Open Smart Cities, what standards are there?

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If we look at an international level, we see various initiatives emerging. We distinguish “technological/technical” initiatives and we also distinguish “descriptive” initiatives. Both are important to know. The descriptive initiatives create a framework within which open Smart Cities are defined. The implementation or rather practical implementation describes how something can be set up or built “concretely”.

Fiware


We will first start with the more technical interpretation of open smart cities. Fi stands for Future Internet. Fiware consists of standard components, available data sources and a ready-to-use infrastructure. It is not for nothing that the experts make the comparison with LEGO, with which beautiful buildings can be built. The standard Fiware components are the LEGO bricks and the ready-made Fiware infrastructure is the LEGO building board. The building blocks, data sources and standard infrastructure enable the rapid development of apps and other internet applications. Parts of those applications are also reusable. This means that apps and web applications can be developed faster and cheaper. All of this fuels digital innovation.

Fiware is very broad. Think of it as an Open Source pillar of the smart digital future. Smart Cities are of course an important part of this. The video below briefly explains the link between Fiware and Smart cities.


The above information is of course fairly abstract. To make it a bit more concrete, give some side info 😉

The core of the FIWARE ecosystem is the so-called FIWARE platform. It is a collection of public and free to use API specifications combined with reference implementations. The FIWARE platform is grouped into seven major components called the “generic enablers (GEs)”. Each GE represents some aspect of FIWARE services and also provides one or more components along with reference implementations. In addition, there are so-called 'domain' specific enablers (DSEs) which provide components for certain domains such as health, energy etc. The general enablers are organised as follows:

  • Data/Context Management: This contains all the components needed for storage, access, data processing and analysis as part of a smart application
  • Internet of Things (IoT) services: Contains all the necessary components to set up sensor networks and routings of data to other GEs.
  • Advanced web-based user interface: Components to design user interfaces, including geographic information and interactive 3D graphs
  • Security: components to define or enforce security.
  • Advanced middleware and interfaces to network and devices
  • Applications/services and data delivery: Components and tools for data visualisation, easy mashup generation and app-store-like distribution of services and data
  • Cloud Hosting: Components and tools focused on delivering and managing FIWARE services over cloud infrastructure


A practical component within Fiware that we refer to very quickly is, for example, the Context Broker. An implementation of this is NGSI-LD, which I talked about in the previous post.

OASC


OASC stands for “Open & Agile Smart Cities”. It is a group of data-conscious cities and towns committed to improving the everyday lives of their citizens (sounds good, doesn't it? 🥰) In addition to numerous OASC activities, its members are an integral part of a new global initiative of smart cities between the open API leaders FIWARE (see previous chapter) and the global industry association TMForum.

The goal: to develop a new global market for innovative and cost-effective solutions and services for local governments for citizens. Complex data management mechanisms are often required to reap these benefits and effectively reuse increasingly available data.

There are currently about 140 cities and municipalities worldwide that are connected to the OASC movement. In Belgium we have Ghent, Brussels, Antwerp and Leuven. A card with more information:


Specifically, what is OASC about now? I'll just quote:

OASC defines a robust model for standards-based innovation and procurement of IoT- and AI-enabled services across domains

This robust model is also known as the MIMs. The Minimal Interoperability Mechanism principles are important puzzle pieces in the smart city strategy devised by the Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC) network. These universal building blocks help achieve the interoperability of data, systems and services between cities and suppliers around the world.

There you read it: interoperability. That's what it's all about.


Below is an overview of the 3 defined MIMs. By the way, these were “officially” designed and presented last year (more info).


MIM 1 – Context Information Management


Context information is the means to provide a holistic and integrated way to access, use, share and manage data. It is usually offered in the form of a 'Context Broker', a technical solution that handles, processes, temporarily stores and then forwards incoming data with contextual data entities. The NGSI-LD API specification provides a complete overview of how this works. In concrete terms, it concerns a “Linked Data” structure that therefore gives context to information. I am repeating the picture from a previous post. It "describes" the data.


MIM 2 – Shared data models


This is about common data models. They are actually a set of models that describe generic entities and their related characteristics based on the CIM data model (MIM 1). They provide a standard to ensure a common and shared language for distributing and scaling different data types. In concrete terms, they are guidelines and it is a catalog of common data models in different industries to enable interoperability for applications and systems between different cities. In the context of Synchronicity (discussed below), several data models are described here.

MIM 3 – Marketplaces


The Marketplace enabler provides an overview for making resources available to consumers, with features such as Service Level Agreements (SLA), catalog, order, license, and revenue management.

The marketplace is positioned as a data marketplace that provides access to data silos and also provides the means to monetize premium data sources with a trusted and reliable transaction manager. Read: a data market where you can trade data in a safe way. 😉

In addition, 2 other MIMs are under development.

  • MIM 4 – Personal Data Management
  • MIM 5 – Fair Artificial Intelligence


Synchronicity


Synchronicity goes a step further and has actually created a framework based on the OASC MIMs (can you still follow with all abbreviations? 😁)

SynchroniCity's vision is to create a market for IoT-enabled data and services. They try to achieve this goal by using the MIM approach. Within the Synchronicity project, each partner city provides IoT data in a standardized format – using common standards, data models and an ecosystem management API. This makes it possible to scale up the solutions that have been selected and put into use very quickly; according to the principle of 'develop once, implement several times'. For cities, on the other hand, this means that they can purchase services based on the open standards they have implemented. This helps them avoid supplier lock-in.

The SynchroniCity Framework principles?

  • Open Architecture and Open API (no vendor lock-in)
  • Interoperability, replicability and reusability across all cities and across sectors.
  • Reuse of existing and standards
  • Compliance with existing technologies of the cities
  • OASC principles and the definitions of the MIMs

The image below shows this “visually”. A tip, be sure to read their fascinating white paper that you can download here.


Synchronicity also describes different data models (for MIM2). An interesting one that we already work with, for example, is the “Air Quality observed”. You can find all available data models here.

Conclusion

Conclusion: we are (internationally) well on the way, we are thinking about it, we are implementing. After reading this blog post, should you now think something of: interesting, I want to know more or I am looking for a company that can support a possible set-up / rollout / development? Look no further. We at The Smart City Architects are happy to help you! 💪