How to bridge the interoperability gap in a smart city

Apps for connected parking, intermodal mobility or security solutions: Smart city services and IoT smart city projects strive to enhance the quality of life in our cities.

A variety of the diverse service providers rely on various platforms to deliver their services.

Now imagine a smart city, where there would be only one platform for smart city solutions. This platform would provide cities with an ecosystem that providers could use to conveniently market their data and services. A dream of every city authority.

But, so far, there is no one and only platform that is able to cater to a city’s needs as part of a smart city solution. As a result, smart city projects are left with the significant headache of successfully connecting a variety of platforms, things, and users to ensure platforms are interoperable.

However, now a solution may be in sight. The BIG IoT (Bridge the Interoperability Gap of the Internet of Things) project aims to help. The task: developing technology solutions and prototypes that promote the interoperability of IoT platforms in and among cities. The goal of the 12 project partners is not to develop another platform for cities. They aim to develop concepts and techniques that facilitate semantic interoperability among existing platforms. In the long term, this will encourage open and dynamic IoT ecosystems.

Semantics come first

From charging stations to connected parking and security solutions, a variety of service providers rely on platforms to deliver their services. Each platform uses a proprietary data model and has its own particular interface. This one most often requires onerous integration work to be able to interact with other platforms.

For this reason, the project places a particular emphasis on improving information semantics. This is about describing information in such a way that it can be understood and processed by a variety of platforms. This data serves as the basis for offering higher-value applications and services. Another focus of the project is on developing a prototype marketplace. Platform operators can use it to interact with one another and trade their IoT data and services.

Through its marketplace concept, BIG IoT aims to provide cities with an ecosystem that providers can use to conveniently market their data and services , and to more easily develop new platform-independent IoT solutions. It is a way for data and service providers to monetize the resources at their disposal.

Pilot projects in three regions

This initiative goes far beyond concepts: it also features multiple pilot projects. They demonstrate the benefits of the BIG IoT marketplace and to showcase the technologies developed. This will help to inspire the development of new IoT solutions for residents and tourists. As an example, the project partners are working on an app for intermodal transportation. This app will show users in Wolfsburg and Berlin the best mode of transportation for their selected journey. Another app hopes to display available parking spaces across cities, and to guide users to the next available space.

The conduction of these pilot projects takes place in three separate regions: in the cities of Berlin and Wolfsburg in northern Germany, in the Spanish city of Barcelona, and in the Italian region of Piedmont. The intention is to demonstrate that future IoT applications are capable of working across countries.

Simple communication with IoT marketplaces and platforms

The project will also be defining a BIG IoT API. This makes it easy for developers to communicate with the BIG IoT marketplace and other IoT platforms. Thanks to the API, users will be able not only to offer their own data and services but also to gain standardized access to the data and services offered by other platforms.

The vision is that developers will be able to use the marketplace to choose between open, free-of-charge, and paid IoT resources that vary by factors such as their data scope. Project partners are also addressing how payment might be organized for paid resources. In a new approach, they are currently considering automated agreements and billing procedures straight from the marketplace.

From concept to prototype solution

This project is the initiative of a consortium coordinated by Siemens. It has the aim of establishing an IoT ecosystem for applications in Europe’s cities. Development and definition of the overall architecture is headed by Bosch. We are also contributing the software platform, which has already been employed on the app level, for instance in the San Francisco Shipyard project.

Our objective is both to expand our own platform and to enter into strategic collaboration with other platforms.

In a specific prototype project, we hope to demonstrate how the software platform, which in this case acts as a proxy for a variety of data sources from the city of Wolfsburg and the Universities of Clausthal and Aalborg, can work automatically with the platform of the traffic information center in Berlin.

The developed technologies are not only relevant to the city, but can also be applied equally successfully to other areas of the IoT.

Find out more about BIG IoT
 

About the author

Lena Dorsch

Lena Dorsch

I’m a marketing manager at Bosch Software Innovations focusing on the Internet of Things and smart city. I have more than eight years’ experience in B2B marketing & communications, chiefly concerned with technology. I’m particularly interested in how digital technologies will change both the world and how we will collaborate and cooperate in the future.