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Interoperable Open Specifications Framework for the Implementation of Standardized Urban Platforms

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The current cities’ urban challenges go through digitalization and integration of new technologies under the perspective of actual and future ecological, as well as socio-economic commitments. This process is translated into the Open Standardized Urban Data Platform, which plays a pivotal role. Within its main functionalities, data ingestion, analytics and services as vertical domains become necessary to create more environmentally friendly cities. However, there still exist some deficits. Among them, openness and interoperability are outlined. On the one hand, there is a lack of open data initiatives for increasing the smart services stock. On the other hand, interoperability depends upon vendors and integrators, reducing the possibilities of Smart City growth. In this context, under the mySMARTLife project (GA #731297) umbrella, an Open Specifications Framework has been developed in order to address four main issues: (1) data interoperability; (2) services or verticals interoperability; (3) openness; and (4) replicability. It enlightens the implementation and integration of multiple city domains (like infrastructures, mobility, energy, buildings) for smart management and big-data analytics. Its applicability is demonstrated in the three lighthouse cities of the project, Nantes (France), Hamburg (Germany) and Helsinki (Finland).
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sensors
Article
Interoperable Open Specifications Framework for the
Implementation of Standardized Urban Platforms
JoséL. Hernández 1, * , Rubén García1, *, Joachim Schonowski 2, Daniel Atlan 3,
Guillaume Chanson 4and Timo Ruohomäki 5
1CARTIF Foundation—Energy Division, Parque Tecnológico Boecillo, 205, 47151 Boecillo, Spain
2Freelancer (Avoid Reduce Reuse)—Digital Expert on Smart Cities (T-Labs during mySMARTLife),
Rietze Strasse, 10409 Berlin, Germany; joachimschonowski@gmx.de
3ENGIE INEO Solutions Digitales, Rue Henri Farman, 86, 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux, France;
daniel.atlan@engie.com
4Nantes Métropole, Cours du Champ de Mars, 2, 44923 Nantes, France;
Guillaume.CHANSON@nantesmetropole.fr
5Forum Virium Helsinki, Unioninkatu, 24, 00130 Helsinki, Finland; timo.ruohomaki@forumvirium.fi
*Correspondence: josher@cartif.es (J.L.H.); rubgar@cartif.es (R.G.); Tel.: +34-983-548911 (J.L.H. & R.G.)
This paper is an extended version of the paper entitled “An interoperable Open Specifications Framework
for Smart City urban platforms” presented at 2019 Global IoT Summit (GIoTS), Aarhus, Denmark,
17–21 June 2019.
Received: 7 February 2020; Accepted: 21 April 2020; Published: 23 April 2020

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Abstract:
The current cities’ urban challenges go through digitalization and integration of new
technologies under the perspective of actual and future ecological, as well as socio-economic
commitments. This process is translated into the Open Standardized Urban Data Platform, which
plays a pivotal role. Within its main functionalities, data ingestion, analytics and services as vertical
domains become necessary to create more environmentally friendly cities. However, there still exist
some deficits. Among them, openness and interoperability are outlined. On the one hand, there is a
lack of open data initiatives for increasing the smart services stock. On the other hand, interoperability
depends upon vendors and integrators, reducing the possibilities of Smart City growth. In this context,
under the mySMARTLife project (GA #731297) umbrella, an Open Specifications Framework has
been developed in order to address four main issues: (1) data interoperability; (2) services or verticals
interoperability; (3) openness; and (4) replicability. It enlightens the implementation and integration
of multiple city domains (like infrastructures, mobility, energy, buildings) for smart management
and big-data analytics. Its applicability is demonstrated in the three lighthouse cities of the project,
Nantes (France), Hamburg (Germany) and Helsinki (Finland).
Keywords:
smart city; urban data platform; interoperability; open data; open specifications
framework; open standards; smart services
1. Introduction
Cities are facing the population growth issue, which is becoming one of the main challenges for
small, medium and large urban areas. According to what the United Nations stated in [
1
], it is expected
that by 2050, more than 55% of the world’s population will live in cities. This translates directly into
a 68% increase. Therefore, a new paradigm is necessary so that the Smart Cities and Communities
concept can be applied, the two main reasons being the support of this growth from an environmental
and sustainable perspective, and the assurance of the citizens’ quality of life.
According to the European Commission [
2
], “a smart city is a place where traditional networks
and services are used in a more ecient way with the application of digital and telecommunication
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technologies for the benefit of its inhabitants and business”. In short, the creation of digital and
intelligent services will be (or even nowadays is) essential for the ecient management of the cities’
resources. Among them, energy, water or transport could be mentioned. The implementation
of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that support decision-making tools and
services/verticals from a holistic point of view (e.g., smarter urban mobility, waste disposal and energy
management considered together) is, hence, the mechanism to provide more ecient ways. However,
still, there is a lack of interoperability and interactivity between verticals that need to be solved
whenever creating more sustainable-friendly cities.
Under the digitalization paradigm, the implementation of Open Standardized Urban Data
Platforms becomes crucial. Its definition is basically “the implemented realization of a logical
architecture/design that brings together vertical data flows within and across city systems on a
horizontal layer” [
3
,
4
]. The means to exploit the Urban Platform is via the integration of new technologies,
such as Internet of Things (IoT), Machine-To-Machine (M2M), cloud, mobile or Big-Data, among others [
5
,
6
].
Thanks to them, the data interoperability between verticals (e.g., mobility, governance, energy) would
enable the deployment of the aforementioned holistic digital services. As well, openness aspects are also
crucial in order to provide data accesses. Therefore, a set of requirements need to be established [2]:
Holistic focus: All these services should be oered within a multidisciplinary context and
as-a-whole for a single access point.
Quality of life: As stated before, one of the main objectives of Smart Cities is the citizens’ quality
of life. Therefore, the Urban Data Platform should provide digital services that address this topic
via integration of technologies (above of all, taking into consideration the digital era).
Eciency: Defined as the capability of managing local resources so as to improve the sustainability
and reduce the costs.
Interoperability: Data exchange and services integration are pivotal as explained before.
The avoidance of vendor lock-in and the use of standards are main objectives.
From these requirements, it might be concluded that interoperability is the primary challenge.
Multiple and heterogeneous vendors co-exist and even protocols are not homogenized among verticals
(e.g., energy and mobility transmit data in dierent ways). Furthermore, cities are usually managing
multiple platforms at the same time, e.g., transportation panels for real-time visualization of the
fleets or dashboards for energy generation and distribution networks. Thus, there is still a gap in
achieving a common consensus or standard dealing with interoperability. The importance of the
interoperability can be viewed from the current works that are focused on this topic. For instance, in [
7
],
the connection of co-existing IoT platforms under multiple domains is rendered, trying to integrate
them by using software, from a systematic perspective. In contrast, others, like [
8
], are fostering
the IoT interoperability via new open frameworks applicable at large-scale. Finally, studies such as
the conducted in [
9
] are looking for ensuring interoperability from design, according to a similar
conceptual approach.
In this sense, mySMARTLife (GA #731297) [
10
] is tackling the interoperability from a cross-domain
design perspective. The Smart City and its digital agenda, as well as a holistic point of view, should be
considered in the first stage. Then, by establishing an Open Specifications Framework [
11
], the project
aims to demonstrate, in the Lighthouse Cities of Nantes (France), Hamburg (Germany) and Helsinki
(Finland), that the openness and interoperability of Urban Data Platforms are ensured, integrating
the heterogeneous domains and data sources. However, it is important to establish the framework
definition. This is not a real realization of the urban platform, but a conceptual approach that provides
the mechanisms to define the methods and procedures to implement the urban platform. It could be
confused with commercial products, but the framework is a step back, trying to tackle the lock-in issues
that appear when using commercial developments that are not coupled with the cities requirements.
Thus, the definition of the framework is focused on three main pillars:
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Implementation of Open Data and Open standardized APIs. (application programming interface)
Capabilities for Interoperability & Data integration under standardized data models.
Privacy and security.
Besides, this Open Specifications Framework provides not only standard interoperable
mechanisms, but also replicability and scalability features. Here, it should be noted that data
are essential for the decision-making process. Therefore, the challenge is how to deal with the variety
of data in a unified way and into a common operational framework.
In order to achieve the aforementioned features, a five-step methodology has been followed.
The first step has been the identification of existing initiatives at European level (including on-going
projects), as well as research results, concluding in the background that is described in Section 2.
Once strengths and weaknesses had been identified, the requirements of the cities (step 2) were
collected with the aim of following a bottom-up approach. That is to say, from the cities’ necessities to
the design of the framework, instead of top-down, where unfeasible concepts could provoke lock-in in
terms of capability to be implemented. Nevertheless, at the same time, being broad enough to foster
replicability and scalability where specific solutions fail. Thus, the mySMARTLife Open Specifications
Framework is defined (stage 3) considering both the existing initiatives and the cities requirements,
as illustrated in Section 3. mySMARTLife contributes in terms of providing open standardized APIs
and data based on global standards, where third party developers may integrate new developments,
other cities may adopt the framework and data are “self-discovered”. As well, the data management
mechanisms are clearly defined, identifying the urban platform boundaries. However, the Open
Specifications Framework needs to be validated (stage 4). Hence, the three lighthouse cities of Nantes,
Hamburg and Helsinki have implemented their own reference architecture based on the framework,
as detailed in Section 4. This fact demonstrates the flexibility of the results to dierent cities, multiple
architecture schemes and current platforms to be extended and/or new developments. Additionally,
the capability for interoperability is demonstrated and validated where services might operate from
platform-to-platform as long as a minimum set of requirements is complied with. As last step and
after the demonstration campaign, the lessons learnt were extracted so as to determine not only the
benefits, but also the limitations that the mySMARTLife Open Specifications Framework usage provide,
described in Section 5of this article.
2. Background for Smart City Urban Platforms
2.1. Existing Initiatives at European Level
Urban Data Platforms and the interoperability aspects are not neglected from the European
Commission and other initiatives. In this way, several analysis, norms and frameworks are available.
Three of them are included here: European Innovation Partnership–Smart Cities & Communities
(EIP-SCC) [3], International Telecommunication Union (ITU-T) [12,13] and ESPRESSO [14].
2.1.1. European Innovation Program—Smart Cities and Communities
Starting with the EIP-SCC [
3
] initiative, it is interesting to mention that it is a work group
supported by the European Commission focused on Smart Cities. Through two of its work streams
(City Needs and Industry Partners), it defines some design principles and initial reference architecture
for data platforms at a city scale. One of the main goals is to enhance standard architectures to assure
interoperability. Under this purpose, the EIP-SCC defines a “capabilities” architecture [
3
,
11
], whose
description in detail is not an objective of this paper. It establishes eight horizontal plus two vertical
layers. This paper does not pretend to describe the details of the capabilities but, in short, the horizontal
core is the following:
(1)
Data exchange and ingestion, as well as field level communication establishment.
(2)
Support the devices data exchange by assets management.
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(3)
Storage of data, aggregation and calculation of analytics.
(4)
Orchestration of processes and services, allowing human-machine interaction.
(5)
Generic City & Community capabilities, for general purpose services.
(6)
Specific City & Community capabilities, for specific verticals, e.g., mobility.
(7)
Focused on visualization of information for decision-making.
Thanks to these capabilities, a set of specifications are overcome [
2
,
3
]. There is no direct link
between the capabilities and the specifications, but the realization of these capabilities deals with the
requirements that are listed below:
- Interoperability as main pillar for urban data and infrastructures.
- Replicability.
- Scalability, without creating technical and cost challenges.
- Open standardized APIs and SDKs.
- Capability of Real-Time data processing.
- Integrability of functional and technical requirements.
-
Finally, in order to overcome the aforementioned requirements, field equipment that measures
the field conditions (IoT devices).
With this multi-layered framework proposal, mySMARTLife improves it by including, on one
hand, privacy and security mechanism before aggregation, just at the data exchange and ingestion level
where it needs to be applied. On the other hand, northbound interoperability is not clearly covered by
the EIP-SCC initiative. For this end, standard data models and linked data are required, which is also
established within the mySMARTLife Open Specifications Framework.
2.1.2. International Norm ITU-T UNE 17804:2015
Secondly, the international regulation ITU-T UNE 17804:2015 [
12
] is defined by the International
Telecommunication Union within its Telecommunication Standardization Sector, which is in charge of
the coordination of the standards for telecommunications. This norm sets reference architecture under
the concept of a holistic view.
As displayed in Figure 1[
12
,
13
], it is composed of six main layers [
11
], namely, from bottom to top:
-
Collection Systems level addresses the physical layer as field devices in charge of data monitoring,
e.g., wattmeter. Besides, other data sources are also included, such as social networks, participant
portals, etc., in conclusion, raw data.
-
Acquisition/Interconnection layer, with the aim of integrating raw data from previous layer and
thus ingesting to make data available for upper levels, having in mind semantics.
- Knowledge layer whose function lies in the data management.
-
Interoperability layer, being key level for the provisioning of open APIs to allow services
deployment, as well as other data consumers.
- Intelligent Services, representing the verticals of the Urban Data Platform.
-
There is an additional transversal Support layer, dedicated to configuration and
maintenance work.
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Figure 1.
ITU-T (International Telecommunication Union) reference architecture for Smart City
Urban Platforms.
2.1.3. ESPRESSO Project
Last but not least, the ESPRESSO project [
14
] (related to the EIP-SCC Work Stream 3) aims to
standardize and collect lessons learnt from finished projects. Among them, standards, conclusions
and/or best practices are the most common ones. In this sense, by combining these outcomes and
conclusions, it defines a “conceptual standard framework” for Smart City Urban Platforms, such as the
one illustrated in Figure 2[15].
Figure 2. ESPRESSO project reference architecture.
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As observed, the concept is similar to the aforementioned approaches. The main dierences lie in
the sensing layer (combination of physical devices and communication mechanisms). Similar to ITU-T,
but contrary to EIP-SCC, the IT Enabled Services layer is merged, while EIP-SCC distinguishes among
multiple layers for the high-level services (including Human-Machine Interaction), with the exception
of the visualization, which is integrated into a Business Layer.
2.1.4. Other European Projects
Not only are the aforementioned initiatives working on a common definition of Smart Cities
Urban Platforms, but also, there exist several projects trying to address the conceptual approach,
as well as interoperability matters. Some examples are included within the Synchronicity initiative of
the European Commission [
16
,
17
] under a common goal to ensure interoperable digital data platforms.
Some of them are SmartSantander [
18
] or Organicity [
19
]. Concepts for Smart Cities are commonly
developed, integrating technologies like IoT, Big-Data, and new concepts like Web APIs and smart
objects. The answers keep focus on industrial purposes in order to encourage the technology industry
to sit together to reach a consensus for interoperable solutions.
SynchroniCity [
16
] mainly aims to the creation of digital solutions where cities and businesses
may work together to develop IoT- and AI-enabled services to improve the lives of citizens and to
grow local economies. For that end, interoperability aspects are significant to reach vendor-neutral
and technology-agnostic solutions. It looks for several interoperability features, such as Context
Information Management API or Shared Data Models. It also provides reference architecture based on
the previous ones [
17
], where interoperability is managed in terms of northbound and southbound
interface (services and data ingestion levels, respectively).
SmartSantander [
18
] also bets on interoperability through interconnecting infrastructures and
gateways able to exchange data between dierent actors, within an IoT-based architecture. It collects
3,000 heterogeneous observations per day. Besides, Organicity [
19
] looks for similar solutions for data
integration by including data interfaces.
However, all of them fail in the integration of multiple domains into the Smart City platform. It is
true they already integrate multiple domains, but they miss others. For instance, SmartSantander [
18
]
includes transportation and social (tourism information), while energy needs to be improved [
20
].
Indeed, according to [
20
], current architectures are not able to eciently face all the challenges that a
Smart City presents.
2.2. Scientific Background
The various initiatives and projects are not only an important source of knowledge and
development in terms of urban platforms. There are also scientific research projects trying to
answer the necessities of current Smart Cities in the form of urban platforms. However, there is still not
a consensus on the lack of a holistic view of the urban platform. For instance, the work in [
21
] is focused
on providing a platform for noise monitoring. Something similar is happening for lighting, such as
in [
22
]. Even a third pillar, which is important in Smart Cities, as it is the waste management [
23
].
None of them integrates the diverse pillars of the Smart City.
Nevertheless, the new paradigm within Smart Cities requires a global picture of the city and
determines crossed eects among verticals. For instance, noise levels are partially dependent on the
mobility status of the city. Waste management also needs the mobility pillar to calculate the truck
routes. Hence, other studies have been focused on this global overview. Smart City taxonomy is
formed by multiple dimensions, like buildings, city planning, etc., as detailed in [
24
]. Then, Smart City
is viewed as an IoT network where all the elements are connected through IoT sensors [
24
], although it
misses the common data representation as IoT protocols are heterogeneous. As an example illustrated
in [
25
], a real-time “sense-able” city is defined. Indeed, one of its main conclusions is the requirement
for semantic and linked data [
25
]. However, it mainly establishes a semantic Web with no standard
model for other kind of data (e.g., non-IoT data). Besides, it also presents an architecture for “live
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Singapore”, but it lacks the value and knowledge extraction, being focused on semantic filtering to
process data.
Having said that, there exist other studies working on this paradigm. The authors in [
26
] present
a novel web-based platform to that end, which includes data from heterogeneous sources via semantic
integration. However, it is focused on public data and social media, which still is not the single
objective of a Smart City, and is missing data from private companies (e.g., energy generation plants).
Something similar is considered in [
27
] with a Resource Description Framework (RDF)-based language
for data vocabularies and relational data. As the authors already state, selecting the most suitable
ontology is not easy and emerging technologies are important, such as SensorThingsAPI in the case of
mySMARTLife project.
Additionally, other scientific publications with focus on interoperable solutions are also analyzed.
For instance, the authors in [
28
] already consider the multi-domain in terms of sensors and IoT equipment
for data collection in Smart Cities, highlighting the issues of data integration. To overcome it, a Web
Service named InterSensor Service is presented. The main objective is to connect heterogeneous data
samples via OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) specifications [
29
], making use of the observations
(similar to the proposed mySMARTLife framework) to integrate explicit semantics in data interoperability.
Nevertheless, despite providing an interoperability solution of Smart City Data Platforms, it fails in
the proposition of a common framework under which the services, dashboards, analytical tools and
applications could work in the same harmonized way, increasing the interchangeability. Mainly, the
focus is on the connections to the field level and encoding the data samples “on-the-fly” through
standardized data models to provide unified data to the higher levels in the architecture. Moreover, the
InterSensor Web Service aims at platform-to-platform interoperability [
28
] by the inclusion of adapters,
while mySMARTLife goes a step forward considering interoperability at multiple levels to ensure
sensor data integration, semantics and also interoperable services.
Another example that goes in the same direction than before is the work presented in [
30
]. As it
is remarked, data harmonization via standardized data models is pivotal. The main conclusion is
the necessity of considering ontologies as design pattern, which is one of the design principles for
the mySMARTLife Open Specifications Framework. In this sense, based on standard data models,
it provides an ontology by combining Smart Cities domains [
30
], which results in an integrated
Ontology Design Pattern (ODP) relatively complex. A particular implementation for heterogeneous
mobility data is depicted in [31], where Big-Data analytics are enabled by the data integration.
Continuing with data integration research results, authors of [
32
] analyses an approach for
spatiotemporal data representation integrated into a reference architecture for event-driven applications.
Again, heterogeneity and multi-domain data are particularly challenging in order to provide unified
decision-making tools. In this sense, geographic information is important, being not fully addressed
in current solutions for spatial data analysis. However, the results from [
32
] show services that are
triggered by a geographic event (e.g., trac accident), while a city requires dierent levels of analytics:
real-time processing without the need of a trigger, event, schedule
. . .
, which is considered within the
proposed framework in this paper. In fact, according to the comparison performed within [
32
] for
multiple smart city platforms [
33
37
]; scalability, privacy and security, processing at dierent levels
(batch, real-time) and analytics are features that are still not fully addressed, then failing in the holistic
view of the Urban Platform as Smart City solution. It establishes SensorThingsAPI as a more ecient
communication protocol than the previous ones. Finally, RASCA architecture [
32
] is proposed where
some aspects are neglected such as privacy, security or northbound interoperability, among others.
Last but not least, Ref. [
38
] relies on a new data management procedure where combination of
data promotes application innovation. In contrast to previous researches, this specially treats privacy
and security, which is pivotal, even enhanced with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) [
39
].
In the same line, Ref. [
40
] describes an ISO37120 standardized architecture for urban platforms where
anonymization is already included as one of the key aspects of these solutions.
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2.3. Main Conclusions from the Previous Framework Analysis
From the previous analysis of initiatives, norms, projects and researches, several conclusions may
be extracted from what a Smart City Urban Platform should comprise [11]. Summarizing:
Monitoring, via sensing devices, is necessary in order to get raw data from equipment deployed
throughout the city. Multiple and heterogeneous data take place here, including various and
diverse city pillars, such as energy or mobility. Moreover, sources, protocols and data models
diverge among them (e.g., IoT devices transmitting in LoRa (long range) or 3D city information
based on the CityGML standard).
According to the raw data heterogeneity, data ingestion becomes crucial in order to integrate
all the incoming information. In this sense, interoperability at field level is an indispensable
requirement, which depends upon the data drivers and communication interfaces.
Data management is also a common aspect to be considered. Homogenization of the gathered
information via standard data-models, calculation of added-value information via indicators
and advanced analytics, relational and non-relational storage and privacy/security aspects are
essential at this stage.
Smart City solutions dier from industrial solutions in their requirement for linking data with
spatial context. Practically all the data that cities manage is related to a specific location. Spatial
data are not only the location of the sensor but also its coverage area, shape and so on.
Not only field level interoperability, but also at data consumers (northbound) level is necessary.
For that end, the implementation of open APIs, open Data and open SDKs should be considered
in any Urban Data Platform implementation. Also, compliance with the INSPIRE requirements
sets the requirement to be compliant with ISO/TC211-standards.
Finally, intelligent services with a main focus on the end-users in order to support participation,
transparency and trust among citizens’ help the urban planners with their job.
From these bullets, the biggest contribution of mySMARTLife is established to be through
interoperability, which is a key aspect for most IoT systems. Data integration (communication level),
data management, data sharing (open data and open APIs) and services deployment are essential for
complying with city/citizen-specific requirements.
mySMARTLife beyond the Current Practices
Most of the existing smarty city platforms are focusing on IoT only or semantic Web. Thus,
these are not “real” Urban Data Platforms. Urban Data Platforms handle also static and metadata,
while the latter is neglected most of the time anyway. IoT platforms will help city administrative
organizations mostly in a single domain for their specific task. Their most important thing would be
that these IoT platforms provide open standardized APIs to connect easily to the urban data platforms
forming a system of systems. Since all countries in Europe have to fulfil the INSPIRE initiative, a good
starting point for Urban Data Platforms is the spatial data infrastructures which already exists. Having
already long-time experience in data management, using open standardized APIs, including metadata
handling these spatial data infrastructures, can easily be extended for real time data forming an open
standardized urban data platform.
Under this approach, mySMARTLife Open Standardized Urban Data Platform aims to define
an interoperable framework to be considered from a design perspective in order to ensure data
integration, exchange, INSPIRE directive compliance and a holistic view. Furthermore, replicability
and adaptability are essential. This means that cities with digital platform can easily adapt their current
deployments with the Open Specifications Framework as demonstrated in the three Lighthouse cities
of the project. To overcome the aforementioned problems, interoperability is established at three levels:
southbound, northbound and semantic; that is to say, raw data integration, services data sharing and
homogenization of data samples.
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Furthermore, the mySMARTLife Open Specifications Framework also re-defines the above
explained initiatives or standards to simplify complex concepts and/or bridge the gap of some
others. mySMARTLife considers the Smart City as a holistic concept where interoperability should be
covered from the sensors to the multi-domain services, passing through semantics and enrichment of
information in contrast to the InterSensor Service that considers the data drivers as an interoperable
solution [
20
]. In this sense, it also tries to decrease the complexity of the Smart City itself by reducing
the number of “isolated” platforms that an urban planner would need to operate. Instead of having
individual solutions for each vertical, such as [
22
,
23
], mySMARTLife framework fosters the correlation
between verticals to obtain a more real picture of the city to make better decisions (e.g., eects of the
pollution due to mobility).
Moreover, mySMARTLife establishes clearer reference layers in order to help developers and
integrators at the time of implementing open and interoperable Smart City Urban Data Platforms.
In this sense, it avoids complex data models like the one in [
30
], complex conceptual approaches such
as the EIP-SCC [
2
] or simple interpretations of urban platforms. Therefore, the major step forward is
the definition of a full interoperable framework that includes sensor integration, capability of services
exchange platform-to-platform and harmonization of information. Finally, it also accounts for privacy,
security and data quality aspects (as well GDPR [39] issues).
Having this holistic view in mind, the proposed framework supports developers and integrations
at the time of establishing a common conceptual approach where not only interoperability is included,
but also openness, data sharing and analytics for decision-support. For that purpose, standard data
management procedures are also defined to guide involved stakeholders. Most of the solutions fail on
the data management mechanisms, not providing standardized ways to treat the information, despite
harmonizing data samples. This aects replicability and scalability of urban platforms; concepts that
are fundamental criteria from design.
Last but not least, it should be mentioned the multi-domain approach of mySMARTLife. While
within Industry 4.0 the projects are dealing with IoT platforms for industrial interoperability,
mySMARTLife already considers cross-domains to create an open ecosystem where multiple
stakeholders are possible. Thus, Industry 4.0 solutions could be considered as not applicable in
Smart City projects, due to their specific character.
3. mySMARTLife Open Specifications Framework
Taking into consideration the aforementioned initiatives, the existing and current gaps,
mySMARTLife has redefined the reference architectures to establish an Open Specifications Framework.
Note that this framework is not an architecture, but a conceptual approach under which the reference
architectures may be designed from city to city. This means the mySMARTLife framework extends
replicability, being flexible in comparison with reference architectures that must be implemented.
Flexibility is defined in terms of capability of adaptation to the city needs, providing a full context
where Smart City requirements may be covered.
Figure 3[
11
,
41
] describes the proposed Open Specifications Framework. This framework is built
upon the previous initiatives while, at the same time, redefining some of the concepts to present the
Smart City Urban Platforms with a broader overview.
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Figure 3. mySMARTLife proposed Open Specifications Framework.
The framework, layer by layer, is described as follows:
The sensing layer is similar to that of previous approaches, referring to the physical environment
where metering equipment (IoT devices) and connectivity are included.
The drivers’ layer is proposed in contrast to the previous frameworks. Although the aforementioned
initiatives keep in mind the drivers needed to communicate with the field level, mySMARTLife
framework explicitly refers to this layer in order to ensure the data acquisition. Then, it enhances
the southbound interoperability by means of data integration procedures based on open and
standard communication protocols. Therefore, it is not only a matter of data collection, but
also harmonization of data samples before being ingested into the data repositories. It also
broadens the aforementioned definitions with data buering mechanisms to avoid data losses
in the data ingestion processes. Therefore, intermediate and temporal timeseries are buered to
allow data recovery.
The surveillance layer is completely new. It deals with the GDPR concerns (privacy and security)
by allowing for integration of anonymization, aggregation or any other technique that ensures the
GDPR compliance. Moreover, the surveillance concept helps to increase data quality through
quality checks before storage (e.g., out of range values). In this sense, secure, private and accurate
data are stored in persistent repositories, ensuring the quality that is sometimes neglected.
The data layer that remains as a data storage and analytics layer, but increasing the level of storage
not only to dynamic samples, but also repositories like Geographical Information System (GIS),
static information from the city and other repositories that the city could require. Moreover, the
corresponding Extraction, Transformation and Loading procedures (ETLs) are included with the
objective of managing these repositories. Finally, analytics aggregated data in order to extract
intermediate results (such as indicators) that could be useful for upper layers.
The interoperability layer, whose concept is re-used from ITU-T for northbound interoperability
in terms of open data and APIs. However, it also includes an open Software Development Kit
(SDK) for third party developers and the myData concept, which deals with GDPR as well. In this
sense, myData provides the mechanisms to explicitly and armatively handle the consent to the
use of personal data and take advantage of the usage of high-level services.
The intelligent services layer, being the vertical domains where the high-level services apply
within the Smart City. From energy management to e-governance, mobility to citizen-focused
services, this layer is where the interaction between city stakeholders is created.
Sensors 2020,20, 2402 11 of 23
3.1. Data Management Procedures for Interoperability
As described above, mySMARTLife framework describes new concepts for Smart City Urban
Platforms, highlighting the interoperability mechanisms that a Smart City should fulfil. For this
purpose, to complement the framework a data management procedure is also determined where
the dierent stages and interoperability levels are highlighted. Figure 4[
11
,
41
] displays how the
framework manages data from the collection to the consumption.
Figure 4. Data management procedure defined within mySMARTLife.
Basically, the IoT sensors and other field measurement equipment publish data that need to be
collected by means of data drivers. They import and integrate the information (drivers’ layer) to
cover the first level of interoperability (southbound). Data require to be modified according to GRDP
constraints and/or quality checks (surveillance layer) in order to store and calculate the analytics
(data layer). Furthermore, next step exposes data [
41
] to overcome with the next level of interoperability
(northbound in the interoperability layer) by the publication of the datasets. Finally, services and third
parties consume data to provide intelligent services and/or applications (intelligent services layer).
In conclusion, mySMARTLife deals with the three levels of interoperability described below:
Foundational interoperability to assure data exchange between two information technologies,
without the capability to interpret the data.
Structural interoperability that defines the structure or format for data exchange (i.e., the message
format standards). Uniform flow and meaning of data are preserved and unaltered. Structural
interoperability defines the syntax and ensures interpretation at the data field level.
Semantic interoperability provides interoperability at the highest level, which is the ability of two
or more systems to understand data thanks to common data models. Semantic interoperability
takes advantage of both the structuring of the data exchange and the codification of the data
including vocabulary so that the receiving data systems can interpret the data in an intended way.
3.1.1. Foundational and Structural Interoperability
Foundational and structural interoperability within mySMARTLife are ensured in terms of
southbound and northbound interfaces. In the first case, the provisioning of data communication
drivers to connect field equipment is the main challenge. As stated above, multiple and heterogeneous
vendors are currently in the market. Nevertheless, the predominant technology in Smart Cities
nowadays is the IoT. Therefore, southbound interoperability is preserved by the availability of drivers
able to communicate in the most used protocols, for instance LoRa.
In terms of northbound interfaces, mySMARTLife relies on common data interpreters in order to
provide open APIs that enable data consumption from services. In this sense, open and standard APIs,
as well as open data based on CKAN as a data index or catalogue extend its use to provide metadata of
the APIs to provide a self-understandable interface for third parties when integrating new services.
Sensors 2020,20, 2402 12 of 23
3.1.2. Semantic Interoperability via SensorThingsAPI Semantic Model
Up to now, interoperability has been established on two levels: northbound and southbound.
Nevertheless, this is not enough for data processing and interoperability from bottom to top. Semantic
interoperability is the third level and, perhaps, the most important one. The reason is the capability to
interpret and exchange data (e.g., with other urban data platforms or third-party services) in a common
vocabulary or ontology [42].
mySMARTLife also defines this interoperability level within the framework, which is embedded
from the drivers layer to the interoperability layer. In this way, SensorThingsAPI [
29
] has been selected
among other data models, whose entity-relationship diagram is depicted in Figure 5[
29
]. It is an
Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standard and, nowadays, it is also standardized by the ITU-T [
43
].
Among the set of available technologies, such as the work on [
30
], its selection is characterized because it
is open, standard, has the capability to interpret geospatial data, unifies data samples into observations,
is able to cover multiple domains and complies with w3 standards.
SensorThingsAPI standardizes the data observations [
29
], as well as metadata in heterogeneous
and diverse data ecosystems. This is pivotal for the mySMARTLife framework considering the
heterogeneity of the data sources (3D city models, energy metering, CANbus e-car sensors, charging
stations and many others), as well as the verticals (Smart City pillars).
The SensorThingsAPI model is powerful: it provides a single data model to integrate all kinds of
observations. At the field layer, either a piece of data is integrated directly or using connectors to fetch
the data from IoT devices or from IoT supervisors, calculating KPIs (Key Performance Indicator),or
integrating KPIs from those supervisors’ reporting. For the monitoring of the project, most of the KPIs
are calculated by the supervisors and integrated with specific procedures because existing supervisors
does not always provide APIs to connect to.
Nevertheless, it lacks the provision for a common dictionary to represent data. All observations
in SensorThingsAPI have the same fields/structure, but there is no way to objectively know what
they represent because this information is defined as “ObservedProperty” (cf. name and description
fields). For instance, an ObservedProperty name could be “TEMPERATUR”, “LÄMPÖTILA” or
“TEMP
É
RATURE” in German, Finish and French, meaning the same, but with a dierent representation.
Then, the mySMARTLife Open Specifications has also harmonized this subjective specification into an
objective one where all the data samples would be characterized with the same metadata (see next
section) to comprise incoming information.
According to SensorThingsAPI nomenclature [
29
,
43
], an
Observation
(for example: an indoor
temperature of 22
C) concerns a Feature of Interest (a room in a dwelling or a pedestrian cross in
mobility). A
Datastream
(daily temperature curve) groups several Observations provided under the
same
ObservedProperty
(temperature) and detected by the same
Sensor
(thermometer inside the
room). The
Datastream
relates to a
Thing
(temperature controller system in the dwelling case or a
trac camera for the pedestrian cross example), which can be linked to a
Location
(room location)
and, in the future of SensorThingsAPI, to Tasks (control commands) [11].
Finally, SensorThingsAPI makes cities complaint with the INSPIRE Directive by extending INSPIRE
to the IoT [
44
]. The European Union INSPIRE Directive laid down Spatial Data SonsorThingAPI is
able to overcome these specifications, and this, benefits the implementation of Urban Data Platforms to
be interoperable, standard and INSPIRE-compliant.
Sensors 2020,20, 2402 13 of 23
Figure 5. SensorThingsAPI (application programming interface) entity-relationship schema [29].
3.1.3. Data Sharing: Metadata for Structural Interoperability
Semantic interoperability is not only a matter of standard data models (or representation),
but also data interpretation [
42
]. For this purpose, metadata should be also considered when sharing,
i.e., northbound interoperability based on open APIs. Metadata provide mechanisms to auto-interpret
and self-discover data [
41
]. Urban platforms are expected to support heterogeneous and multi-domain
sensors, a fact that complicates the data understanding, hence requiring dynamic data models that are
being adapted along the urban platform life cycle (i.e., representation of current and future data types,
instead of fixed data models). For that end, data enrichment paves the way to extend current incoming
data streams with additional properties to conform linked data, contextualizing these data.
Therefore, although SensorThingsAPI is the basis to data representation, other taxonomies close to
the domains of a Smart City are analyzed. In this way, third party data consumers, such as services or
developers, require data interpretation mechanisms. That is the reason why, within the interoperability
layer, for providing open APIs and SDKs, JSON-LD (JSON Linked Data) [
44
] is also considered to add
the capability of self-discovering data.
The solution adopted within mySMARTLife is to provide a link to the JSON-LD definition within
the JSON objects [
45
]. The advantages of the solution are being simple and HTTP/MQTT (Hyper Text
Transfer Protocol/Message Queuing Telemetry Transport) compliant, but at the expense of being a little
intrusive. A web server oers the service for the JSON-LD files that define the metadata for objective
representation of data samples (e.g., temperature common naming stated above) and, thus, deploy
a self-explanatory API for third parties. Then, the operation connects the web server when a data
sample is received to enrich and harmonize its representation under a common and already established
vocabulary. The solution is selected from other two possibilities that were discarded, on the one hand,
for being very intrusive with high level of redundancy and, on the other hand, for not being applicable
for MQTT transport.
4. Validation and Demonstration in Smart Cities
As it has been remarked, two interesting features of the framework are the replicability and the
flexibility of the framework. For that end, the framework has been implemented in the three lighthouse
Sensors 2020,20, 2402 14 of 23
cities of the mySMARTLife project: Nantes, Hamburg and Helsinki [
10
]. As explained previously,
the framework is a conceptual approach that should be realized in specific reference architectures.
Moreover, it should be noted here the adaptability benefit that was mentioned before. Cities that
already operate with urban platforms are capable of adaptation when necessary. Next sections map
the individual architectures into the Open Specifications Framework for each city [11].
4.1. Nantes
Starting with Nantes, the main purpose is to extend the current architecture with new features,
according to the necessities of the city. They are focused on the integration of new data related to the
three main pillars of the mySMARTLife project [
10
] (energy, mobility and ICTs), as well as deployment
of new added-value services, such as smart data on mobility or energy data lab initiative, among others.
In order to overcome these needs, the urban platform architecture is defined as Figure 6[
11
],
being perfectly mapped into the framework. Table 1includes the layers and their functionality,
as well as the mapping into the proposed framework. Then, Nantes Urban Platform extension is
completely compliant with the framework with the aim of managing the heterogeneous data samples
and providing added-value services as explained below.
Table 1. Mapping the Open Specifications Framework and Nantes Urban Platform.
Nantes Layer Framework Layer Functionalities
Field layer Sensing layer IoT equipment for monitoring, external systems
Adapter layer Driver layer Data integration, filtering and transformation.
Field/South and API/North
interoperability layers Interoperability Layer Data sharing via Open APIs
Business layer Knowledge layer and
interoperability layer
Data aggregation, anonymization, calculation of
KPIs, data analysis and data services.
IT services Intelligent services layer Visualization and applications to be developed
within or outside the project
Security layer Surveillance layer Access and GDPR aspects
Common services Configuration, logging and cloud Configuration, logging, job control
Figure 6. Nantes urban platform reference architecture.
The core of Nantes’ mySMARTLife Urban platform extension is based on an OGC-defined model
compliant with implementations of SensorThingsAPI standard (interoperability layer). KPI calculation
Sensors 2020,20, 2402 15 of 23
and data analysis are performed on such core model (business layer). Data are exposed for both incoming
and outgoing streams through APIs administered by API managers (security layer). Dashboards
(IT services) are built on top of the core model (internal dashboards with performance aspects) and
open APIs (third-party dashboards). Accesses to the dashboards are regulated by identity and access
managers (security layer).
Nantes’ Urban Platform also integrates data through connectors, into the single data model
of SensorThingsAPI, which provides a uniform access to observation data. Both observation and
referential data are integrated. At the core of the platform lie in two distinct data sets: one is directly
completed by field data, the other is dedicated to exposition and use by the end-users or third-party
applications; only data eligible to being exposed are copied from the former to the latter. While private
data is not a core aspect of Nantes’ Urban Platform, still, this mechanism allows controlling data
privacy as per Nantes Metropole’s role regarding rules and regulations: sensitive data can be collected
and used for non-sensitive KPI calculation, then, only the KPIs would be transferred to the exposed
data set and accessible as open data.
Regarding access control, when data are fetched by connectors on the Urban Platform side,
only expected data are collected and access control is performed. When data are pushed to the
urban platform, mechanisms aside SensorThingsAPI must be enforced: the SensorThingsAPI model
does not cover security aspects. For instance, dierent data publishers could publish directly into
the SensorThingsAPI model, overriding the notion of domain. Within mySMARTLife, we did not
experience this issue because, on one hand, all data publishers are integrated through connectors which
provide this extra layer of security, furthermore reinforced by the API manager—which handles the
user access rights through API keys, and the HTTPS communication protocol with private certificates;
on the other hand, accesses to the SensorThingsAPI are managed through API managers, which allow
restricting access to publishing and reading APIs on a per-user/token basis.
Finally, the Open Specifications Framework has several layers, where dierent stakeholders can
contribute; it is very important to settle cross liability questions. In this project, Nantes Metropole and
Engie signed a bilateral agreement on top of the project’s grant agreement to settle specific points of
the intellectual property for data and developments.
4.2. Hamburg
Following a similar approach like Nantes, Hamburg is currently working with an Urban Platform
in charge of data storing and analyzing unit for open and non-open data from dierent authorities,
third parties and few sensor data. Furthermore, one of the main datasets is related to geospatial
information classified into several categories [11].
This approach has been extended following the open conceptual framework defined in
mySMARTLife Project into System of Systems approach/architecture; extending an OGC-based
Urban Data Platform with a similar one, based on the global oneM2M standard, as illustrated in
Figure 7[11]. This standard also allows heterogeneous systems to be connected.
While cities have an interest in applications and standards with, i.e., geospatial backgrounds like
OGC, many industry players need a standard like oneM2M providing additional features like device
or access management. Since both standards have their strengths, it is worth to build an integration
or interworking. While OGC and its SensorThingsAPI (STA) is easy to use and provides excellent
semantic description through its data model, oneM2M provides access control and data routing.
Both systems are running on a modern micro-services architecture and comply with the idea of an
Open Standardized Urban Platform where each have their advantages, and the combination uses the
best of these two technologies. The OGC is strong oering an almost complete set of standards for
dierent purposes for an open standardized urban platform. These standards apply i.e., for metadata
(CSW), static data sets (WMS—Web Map Service, WFS-T—Web Feature Service, WCS—Web Coverages),
web processing services (WPS) and since recently also for sensor data management including the spatial
relation (SensorThingsAPI). However, the standard does not cover the very “southern” part in an IoT
Sensors 2020,20, 2402 16 of 23
world, where device provisioning and IoT harmonization are required. Here, the oneM2M standard
focuses on the technical harmonization and orchestration of dierent domains, including aspects
like device management or authentication. This oneM2M framework is based on open standardized
APIs. The central logic of oneM2M uses a Common Service Entity (CSE), which is acting as central
orchestration instance. The CSE receives data from dierent domains or sensors via Application Entities
(AE) or Interworking Proxies. These data can be accessed from applications or they are distributed
to interested parties by the CSE through sophisticated publish/subscribe mechanisms. OneM2M
also provides integration with dierent authentication mechanisms and has an own access policy
mechanism and description. Through this way it is possible to describe fine-grained authorization
schemes for sensor data access. OneM2M provides an extensive framework for gathering, routing
and orchestrating data. Beside data-routing, oneM2M covers also areas like network control functions
and device management. There are also initiatives to define so called device classes. These are data
structures that define domain specific data semantics. Nevertheless, this work is in a rather early stage
of development and currently there is no alignment with so SI or ISO standards.
The innovative challenge is to combine both the OGC-based and oneM2M systems towards an
Open Standard-based Urban Platform (OSUP) in order to provide the requested interoperable and
future proof solution (see Figure 7). Both systems combined provide the requested open APIs and
standards from the IoT device level up to the application layer and can deliver open data based on the
common ontology. Besides the interconnection of the two systems, it requires the development of a
common data exchange logic and data model.
The combination of the two standards provides advantages of a smart city ecosystem. Integration
of hardware or service providers, e.g., from the IoT space that already use oneM2M or from the
OGC world which is quick and simple. These partners have the advantage that there is no need to
adapt respectively to the other standard. The OSUP provider on the other hand can select the more
appropriate standard, based on service or usage requirements, to connect a service or hardware partner.
Data sets requested from the system can be provided as “open” data in the data format of oneM2M or
OGC. In case of certain advanced requests or enriched data more advanced OGC data model will be in
place. This could be of importance for developers or certain industry partners.
Figure 7.
Adapted graphic of DIN Spec 91357 towards an Open Standard-based Urban Platform of
Hamburg in mySMARTLife. It follows a “system of systems” according EIP SCC (European Innovation
Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities) ensuring full interoperability using standardized APIs
and connectors from OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) and oneM2M.
Sensors 2020,20, 2402 17 of 23
The core of the data management of the Hamburg Urban Platform is divided into five modules:
Data Web Services, Metadata Web Services, Processing Web Services, Data Analytics and Sensor Web
Services. These are implemented in a multi-layer architecture as depicted in Table 2. Similar to Nantes,
the Hamburg Urban Platform follows the specifications of the framework, which is applicable into a
completely dierent architecture.
Table 2. Mapping the Open Specifications Framework and Hamburg Urban Platform.
Hamburg Layer Framework Layer Functionalities
System and Field component Sensing and driver layer
IoT devices for data gathering and
ingestion into the urban platform.
Integration layer Knowledge and
interoperability layer
Data management and analytics
calculation via indicators and
big-data. APIs and data sharing.
IT services Intelligent services layer
Dashboards, added-value services,
3rd party apps . . .
Security layer Surveillance layer
Anonymization and GDPR aspects
4.3. Helsinki
Last but not least, Helsinki, which is also part of the SynchroniCity project [
16
], has adapted the
reference architecture to the framework. Figure 8and Table 3[
11
] show the reference architecture
and its mapping into the framework, respectively. Like Nantes and Hamburg, Helsinki has extended
an existing Urban Platform with the mySMARTLife new features following the Open Specifications
Framework. Helsinki has developed the platform under the concept of City-As-a-Platform so as to
link together several data-related services, providing a single point of service for developers, city
ocials and citizens requiring information in a machine-readable format. For the data ingestion, in
terms of building energy, information requirements are derived from the Project Haystack terminology
lists together with the Unified Code for Units of Measure (UCUM), which is based on ISO 18000
standard. On the other hand, electromobility interface protocols rely on the Open Charger Point
Protocol (OCPP) and the ISO/IEC 15118 standard. After its collection, a formatting process is applied
in order to be compliant with SensorThingsAPI, while CityGML v2.0 data model is also used to extend
SensorThingsAPI in terms of 3D representation.
One of the major characteristics within the Helsinki urban platform is the MyData layer, which is
partly the implementation of the “surveillance layer” of the framework. Basically, the citizen is put in
control in all the data related to him/her. This ensures the authentication when provisioning sensor
data to the platform. That is to say, data related to a personal owner is consented before being ingested
in the urban platform.
Apart from the MyData tool compliance with the framework, the Helsinki urban platform is
layered in five main levels as follows: City backend; Events, analysis & ETL; SmartCity API; Dashboard,
city BI & apps; Authentication & MyData console. As stated before, Table 3maps the aforementioned
layers, including their functionality (mainly data integration, management, sharing, high-level services
and configuration), with the framework layer that is applicable. Then, this is the third lighthouse city
that demonstrates the flexibility and adaptability of the proposed framework to the specific urban
platform requirements.
Sensors 2020,20, 2402 18 of 23
Figure 8. Helsinki urban platform reference architecture under the City-as-a-Platform concept.
Table 3. Mapping the Open Specifications Framework and Helsinki Urban Platform.
Helsinki Layer Framework Layer Functionalities
City backend Sensing and driver layer Data ingestion, integration
and governance
Events, analysis, ETL Knowledge layer Data management and indicators
SmartCity API Interoperability layer Open API, Data portals and SDKs
Dashboard, city BI, apps Intelligent services layer
Dashboards, added-value services,
3rd party apps . . .
Authentication, MyData console
Configuration, logging and cloud
Access rights and configuration of
the urban platform
4.4. Interoperability Validation among Cities
From the previous sections, the replicability, scalability and adaptability of the framework are
demonstrated. However, although interoperability is also included, it still lacks high-level services
interoperability. Although its validation is still a future work to be overcome in the project, the
assessment methodology has been established. Basically, it relies on the selection of use cases to be
deployed across the urban platforms. The use case here means the realization of an added-value
service that consumes data from the open APIs and, then, run the functionality. In this sense, six steps
are defined for standardized interoperability:
(1)
Identify candidate standards and specifications based upon specific requirements;
(2)
Assess candidate standards and specifications using standardized, transparent, fair and
non-discriminatory methods;
(3)
Implement the standards and specifications according to plans and practical guidelines;
(4)
Monitoring in compliance with the standards and specifications;
(5)
Managing change with appropriate procedures;
(6)
Documenting in open catalogues, using a standardized description.
According to these steps, two use cases are currently under development: (1) electricity
consumption in public buildings (as data are openly accessible) and (2) street lighting (ownership
Sensors 2020,20, 2402 19 of 23
by the municipalities), therefore avoiding privacy data issues. Then, based on the aforementioned
SensorThingsAPI and linked data mechanisms, the interexchange of use cases is assessed through
the “interoperability indicator”, ISO 37151:2015 [
46
]. Results are still not available, but, according to a
Likert scale 1-5, the estimation is to reach, at least, 4, i.e., high level of interoperability.
5. Discussion
As it has been described along the paper, the Open Specifications Framework developed under
mySMARTLife project provides several benefits that are explained below:
Interoperability is the biggest challenge that is overcome, dealing with foundational, structural
and semantic interoperability. The definition of the layered framework, standard data model
based on SensorThingsAPI and linked data foster vendor-free integration in terms of raw data,
data-sharing principles and integration of heterogeneous and diverse city verticals. Besides, it is
based on holistic perspectives where the Smart City concepts are conceived for data integration,
usability and sharing, covering the entire life cycle of the data. In this sense, the framework
defines the data management procedures, data models and interoperable mechanisms from the
sensors/IoT to the high-level services, passing through storage.
Openness to ensure transparency and open data principles where entrepreneurship is also
enlightened via open APIs/Data/SDKs. Self-discovering and dictionaries are included to ensure
city-to-city or platform-to-platform data exchange capabilities.
Replicability as being an Open Specifications Framework adaptable to current implementations, as
well as setting up the basis for new developments. In this sense, follower cities of mySMARTLife
demonstrate this aspect, such as Palencia, currently developing DigiPal project for digitalization
of the city based on the same principles than the presented framework.
Adaptability and Scalability as highlighted with the three lighthouse cities, where the integration
of new data sources or use cases is a very simple task, when just making use of the
connection interfaces.
Ecological: The necessity for any type of data interpretation e.g., gateway equipment is omitted.
Secondly, it should be highlighted how this framework provides guidelines for other cities
(like fellow cities) to implement their own Urban Data Platform. In this way, cities would only need to
follow a set of steps:
(1)
Define the requirements according to the city needs, not only in current conditions, but thinking
in a more scalable manner (i.e., future needs).
(2)
Map these requirements into the framework concepts about interoperability and openness.
(3)
Determine the necessary layers to comply with the specifications.
(4)
Design the architecture based on the aforementioned framework.
(5)
Select from the existing IoT platforms/systems the most suitable one that serves as a basis for the
further developments (do not start from scratch).
(6)
Implement the interoperability and openness functionalities, as well as services.
Nevertheless, there exist some limitations:
Sensor level interoperability requires the utilization of communication drivers, while the amount
of existing protocols is huge; therefore, the number of available access points is limited. Then,
the integration of new data must be adapted to the provided interfaces.
Dictionaries are extensively defined for covering lots of data samples. However, within the
mySMARTLife project, some pillars are not implemented; consequently new concepts could be
necessary for linked data (i.e., JSON-LD).
Services interchangeability relies on the availability of data. This depends upon the data acquisition
system for each city; therefore, high-level services interoperability requires the compliance with
the data sharing specifications.
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6. Conclusions
Cities are currently facing one of the major challenges in decades, as is the population year-by-year
growth, being estimated that 68% of the population will live in cities in the near future. This makes
the use of resources in a more ecient way to ensure more comfortable, sustainable and well-being
metropolis (but also in Smart Communities) essential. One of the mechanisms to do so is the
digitalization and deployment of new technologies, which might be summarized in (data) integration
and new services in a multi-domain approach. In short, digital transformation of Cities and
Communities should be part of the digital agendas of Smart Cities and Communities.
This digitalization approach yields results in Open Standardized Urban Platforms as the final
implementation. The ultimate objective is providing services to all groups of stakeholders, especially
citizens and urban planners. However, to oer services from and across dierent domains, data in
various blends like raw, integrated or aggregated are essential. Therefore, the interoperability aspects
are one of the major challenges to be solved, which is the major contribution of the presented Open
Specifications Framework. In this sense, a three-level interoperability approach based on foundational,
structural and semantic concepts is encouraged to ensure data exchange capabilities at northbound,
southbound and semantic levels. Thanks to this, new services are possible with the aim of fostering
more livable cities.
Interoperability is sustained in openness as pivotal topic to be able to overcome a new transparency
paradigm and data-sharing aspects. Nevertheless, it fails with privacy and security, as well as GDPR.
Hence, data governance and management procedures need to be integrated as proposed within
the in the surveillance layer of the framework, which is a very novel concept integrated within the
mySMARTLife analysis.
Finally, its capabilities for scalability, flexibility and replicability are demonstrated and validated
in the three mySMARTLife lighthouse cities (Nantes, Hamburg and Helsinki). Besides, follower
cities, such as Palencia, are also taking the Open Specifications Framework as fundamentals for the
digitalization processes. These great possibilities are conceivable thanks to the available freedom
degrees. The framework provides a guideline for Urban Data Platform, being adaptable to the
necessities and IT architectures of each city, as explained in Section 4.
As future work, after the final implementation and deployment of the urban platforms, as well
as their services, interoperability will be tested platform-to-platform. That is to say, although the
interoperability of the platforms themselves has already been validated, the interchange of services
between the platforms is going to be also tested. Services from one city (or platform) will be used in
the others to validate the semantic capabilities. These checks will lead to feedback the current design
in order to extract lessons grasped, conclusions and propose improvements.
Author Contributions:
Definition of the framework, J.L.H., R.G., J.S., D.A., G.C. and T.R.; analysis of initiatives
and background, J.L.H. and R.G.; implementation in the cities, J.S., D.A., G.C. and T.R.; validation, J.L.H., R.G., J.S.,
D.A., G.C. and T.R.; semantic interoperability, J.L.H., D.A., G.C. and T.R.; data management procedure, D.A., G.C.
and T.R. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.
Funding: This research was funded by European Commission, grant number 731297.
Acknowledgments:
The authors would like to thank both the mySMARTLife consortium and the European
Commission for funding the project under the GA #731297.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
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