Future of APIsSustainability

API Standards in Smart Cities


Luca Ferrari is a Solution Architect with Red Hat. In this article, he talks about API Standards in smart cities and the impact of adopting an open platform to the end citizen.

The percentage of the population moving to the cities is increasing every year. It’s projected to be more than 60% by the year 2050. The percentage of greenhouse gas emitted by cities is 80%, energy consumption is around 70%, and the generated waste affecting us daily is more than 70%.

There is pressure from all of us as citizens on the infrastructure. In the case of Barcelona, we have a high season with many tourists affecting the same infrastructure. We have an added pressure of the impact of digitalization, which is affecting all of us. We expect to be able to perform any activity through a smartphone interface. There is environmental pressure in terms of climate change and increasing energy efficiency. Urban infrastructure evolution also adds pressure. All this calls for a smarter urban system.

If we consider the view of a city 50 or 60 years ago, traditionally, we had the infrastructure layer. Then, there was a layer where the citizens or users interacted with the services provided by the city.

Digitalization has impacted a lot of aspects of our city life. It’s become the glue between the services provided and the infrastructure. It enhances the services by letting them access more and more infrastructure-related data. This generates a feedback loop where the citizen can not only use these services but also optimize them and provide feedback in real time on the usage of these services.

The smart city concept is now about 10 to 15 years old. Now, the smart city is showing efficiency. The health system, tax system, etc. are helping us. One of the most important things is transportation—vehicle-to-vehicle communication, vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, etc.

In terms of energy, most of us are now experienced with smart meters. These also need to be smarter. In the future, we may have solar panels, wind energy, etc. So, we need to make sure that the energy grid gets smarter to welcome different energy sources.

The next is water, which may not be implemented as yet. We can detect leakages, poor quality, and automated integration.

Building is a huge part of the city life. We spend most of our time inside a building, whether at work or home. Many problems need to be solved. We can optimize the usage of air conditioning, heating, schedule lifts, etc.

In the field of waste, there is not much innovation right now, but this problem affects all of us. Currently, companies are optimizing the route of garbage trucks. In the future, we may automatically segregate waste based on sensors.

Challenges with adopting innovative services

One of the biggest issues we face is the digital divide. We need to think that not everybody is used to using a computer every day or smartphone and can access new services using these platforms. We will have to ensure that the developers use open data standards and open data models. We also need to ensure that the data exposed to developers is associated with good metadata and pre-formatted. We want data scientists to work on optimization and prediction. So, we must ensure the data is accurate, transparent, and real. We must implement something inclusive, secure, and cost-effective; citizens will love that.

Open source has a greater advantage compared to other approaches. It is associated with an open organization, so you can see how a city government planning organization can have a holistic view across all new services and infrastructure because of adopting an open-source approach. It can also collaborate with external entities more efficiently. An open data model allows you to cross-reference indicators, sensor measurements, and data, and this allows you, for example, to generate innovative services.

When adopting the Smart City platform, you can go one way or the other. You can go democratic and open or have a controlled view. Some cities adopted a closed platform from one technology vendor, and they expected citizens and developers to start flocking to the platform. Most citizens are already living in a city and want to see changes in the current infrastructure through retrofitting and integrating the current system. The same goes for whether you see data as actual goods to be sold by citizens to the developers or just as a platform. Itself to be sent around and used by app developers or just as a platform. Eventually, this leads to whether you see your citizen as just another paying user with a credit card number, whether you see it as also a producer, besides being a consumer and eventually in an open source mind as a contributor, an enhancer of your blood.

Luca Ferrari
Well-rounded and curious, with experience in designing ICT services and managing innovative projects. Cooperative team builder and team leader, able to coordinate resource and projects efficiently (even remotely), while maintaining a high level of attention to details and quality. Not scared by new challenges and looking for new opportunities to apply logic and creativity.

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