As SynchroniCity, the European IoT Large Scale Pilot for Smart Cities and Communities, comes to a close, we highlight the best practices and ways to get started making your city smart. 

Before we begin, let’s talk MIMs, the Minimal Interoperability Mechanism principles, a key puzzle-piece in smart city strategy devised by the Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC) network (of cities). These universal building blocks help achieve interoperability of data, systems and services, between cities and suppliers around the world. 

The principles have helped guide cities and companies to success during SynchroniCity, which led to 50 pilots being scaled across 21 cities around Europe and beyond. The three first MIMs, adopted by the 150 member cities in OASC, enabled solutions developed across a network of technology stacks and deployed in an agile manner using local knowhow and experiences from each of the partners, as well as from the 45 additional pilot companies and other organisations.

The MIMs core to SynchroniCity included: 

MIM 1 – Context Information Management 

Context information is the means to provide a holistic and integrated way for data access, use, sharing and management of data. It is most often instantiated in the form of a ‘Context Broker’ which is a technical solution allowing for the ingress, conditional processing, temporary storage and forwarding of contextual data entities.

The Context Broker has recently become a core building block of the CEF Digital (Connecting Europe Facilities) an initiative by the European Commision, to help anyone who wants to build great European digital services for the public good.

Read more about context brokers on the CEF Digital website and Context Broker home page. The NGSI-LD API specification provides a complete overview for Context Information Management.

 

MIM 2 – A Common Data Model for all 

Common Data Models are a set of models describing generic entities and their related attributes based on the CIM data model (MIM 1). They provide a standard to guarantee a common and shared language to disseminate and scale diverse data types. As an example, a leading specification suggested by OASC is NGSI-LD, the Next Generation Service Interface for Linked Data. 

NGSI-LD was picked up and used by several of the pilots with cities with mature Smart City data platforms extending their capabilities by deploying northbound APIs allowing new applications and atomic services to be deployed upon them.  

The SynchroniCity data models and documentations are available online. Developers can also find out more about the NGSI-LD standard in January 2019 Whitepaper from ETSI. 

 

MIM 3 – Marketplaces – Ecosystem Transaction Management 

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

The marketplace in the first instance for SynchroniCity is positioned as a data marketplace opening up access to data silos, also providing the means to monetise premium data sources with a trusted and reliable transaction manager.  

The FIWARE TM ForumBusiness API Ecosystem (BAE) is an underlying component, to find out more checkout the API documentation from TM Forum, or a hands-on thesis on the evaluation of FIWARE’s Business API Ecosystem.

In addition to the first three adopted MIMs, the OASC Council of Cities are further developing two more MIMs:

  • MIM 4 on Personal Data Management (championed by the City of Helsinki)
  • MIM 5 on Fair Artificial Intelligence (championed by the City of Amsterdam)

With an understanding of the guiding principles here are the 7 tech ways you can get started with your Smart City projects with the help of SynchroniCity. 

Deploy your own context broker 

The MIM 1 Context Broker, as described above, comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as open-source, licensed and commercial versions, or even built from scratch. The range shows the relevance of MIM 1 for the Smart City context with more and more demand being generated by the unique needs of cities. 

Here are a selection you can try out:

  • Orion Context Broker from FIWARE – It’s part of the FIWARE platform and provides an NGSIv2 interface for context management.  
  • Scorpio Context Broker from FIWARE – Again a part of the FIWARE catalogue, it’s a relatively new project implementing the NGSI-LD compliant broker built in Java.
  • The Urban Data Platform from ATOS –  A complete open, interoperable, standard solution for Smart Cities. It offers a wide range of features and interfaces for many different data formats including NGSI. Find out more at the company website
  • Obelisk IoT Platform from IMEC and Ghent University – A platform for building scalable applications on time series-centric data. Find out more on their documentation page.
  • Djane.io – an open-source implementation of the NGSI-LD standard. An impressive project built by a SynchroniCity SME during the project. Checkout the github.

Get to know the latest NGSI-LD modelling schema

MIM 2 is all about common data, and this means context. The NGSI standards provide a common interface to exchange complex data in a simple way. By implementing systems that use this common interface, it makes it easier to start sharing and working with other’s data.

The NGSI-LD, Next-Generation Service Interface for Linked Data, improves and differs from previous editions by supporting better relational definitions, property graphs and semantics. 

You can find a handy tutorial at FIWARE on using the standard, or check out the whitepaper from ETSI.

Explore open data marketplaces (MIM 3) 

The Digital Catapult, a technology partner in SynchroniCity, were instrumental in developing MIM 3, a marketplace based solution to share data, services and products. It allows sellers to manage the monetisation and lifecycle of digital and physical assets supporting creation, charging, accounting, settlement and sharing.

The implementation used during the project built upon the FIWARE/TM Forum Business Ecosystem APIs providing a business foundation framework for the marketplace solutions. A range of unique features were developed extending granular licensing, data update rates, data response time and delays in subscription access. 

An instance of the marketplace has been deployed and is available to explore open data (see below) and utilise open data from many of the SynchroniCity cities involved in the project.

For a detailed overview on IoT Marketplaces for cities SynchroniCity Deliverable 2.4 provides the background for the development efforts.

Explore open public data 

With so many cities and so much data the marketplace enabler is key for opening up access. A number of the cities focused on this dimension during the project and a range of datasets have been made available using context brokers, shared data models and the BAE.

Each data set made available is typically supported by MIM 1, 2 and 3 to provide a standard interface and context information over a common marketplace. 

You can access the ‘IoT Data Marketplace’ which is managed by the Digital Catapult. Here you can register an account, search the data catalogue, explore different city data sets and subscribe to real-time data events using NGSIv2.

The data market place is available at https://iot-data-marketplace.com.

Tryout an Atomic Service 

Atomic services are a key enabler in the SynchroniCity story, providing modular standalone services that can be combined and reused to make more sophisticated and valuable solutions, which are highly portable and centrally maintained thanks to containerised Docker images.

The atomic services can be added within microservice architecture and provide a singular function, normally with several data inputs, a processing function and output data or visualisation. 

Atomic services developed during SynchroniCity can be found in the Gitlab archives and several are still being supported and used by partners. The track map plugin for Grafana is a good example to get started visualising geo data, developed by technology partner the Alexandra Institute.  

Find the atomic services archive over on Gitlab.

Join Smart City forerunners and MIMs compliant Solution Integrators 

Over 60 organisations were involved with the project, 45 of which are companies and organisations with ample experience to support and develop Smart City projects.

The growing OASC network with the Council of Cities stewards the MIMs principles. In the coming months and years more releases and strategies are planned to further promote the MIMs and matchmake to lift capabilities of Smart Cities around Europe and beyond.

Find out more about OASC at https://oascities.org. If you’re a city, you can become a member (for free). If you’re a company, you can learn how to use MIMs and access a growing global market.