Sponsors of FutureCities Pilot to help cities reduce cost and risk, enhance innovation

By Bart De Lathouwer

The Open Geospatial Consortium, buildingSMART International and Ordnance Survey are inviting public and private sector organizations to sponsor a FutureCities Pilot project in Europe. The FutureCities Pilot will help participating cities and cities around the world use open standards to spatially integrate human, natural and physical systems to better serve their citizens. Participating cities and their sponsors are expected to see both immediate and long-term benefits.

“The FutureCities Pilot will help participating cities, and cities around the world, use open standards to spatially integrate human, natural and physical systems.”

Both urban thought leaders and the IT industry have been promoting the concepts of “connected cities”, “smart cities” and “resilient cities”. Indeed, all cities, with varying degrees of planning, are increasingly using digital technologies to enhance the quality and performance of urban services, reduce costs and use resources more efficiently. Even higher level goals are sometimes stated, including sustainability, health and quality of life.

The default approach for cities is to let digital technologies spring up in an ad hoc fashion. Some cities experiment with approaches in low-cost Living Lab initiatives; others award contracts to major companies to plan and execute major smart city projects. There are pros and cons for each of these approaches and most large cities are doing some of each, spending either a little time and attention or a lot of time and attention, on technology planning and coordination. What the OGC has to offer is complementary to all of these approaches.

The OGC Approach

The OGC approach is to help cities understand why and how to use free and open standards for describing things in space and time, as described in the white paper, “OGC Smart Cities Spatial Information Framework.” Open spatial standards maximize spatial, or location, interoperability; that is, they support communication and integration of spatial information, which is important to cities for many reasons:

  • Through some inexpensive, simple and straightforward policy decisions, cities can pave the way for less risky, less expensive and more effective public and private sector urban technology initiatives in the coming years and decades.

  • When cities endorse or prescribe the use of standards, ad hoc initiatives tend to fit together, offering more overall value.

  • Major programs tend to be more easily integrated with existing, concurrently developed and unforeseen future initiatives.

  • Standards open up opportunities for local developers to innovate, building on the data and service offerings that their cities have provided.

“... standards open up opportunities for local developers to innovate, building on the data and service offerings that their cities have provided.”

Why is efficient communication of spatial and temporal information an issue?

Spatial information is more complex than most people imagine. Just as some people prefer maps for navigation and others prefer turn-by-turn directions, different applications produce and use different kinds of spatial information. Postal addresses, digital images, point clouds, GPS points, polygon/vector/arc geographic information systems, diverse flat map to Earth sphere map projections, place names, photos, videos, sensor feeds, indoor and outdoor coordinate systems are all different ways to digitally represent our physical world. The differences make data integration and service integration difficult, and the difficulty is multiplied by the fact that different vendors have quite understandably taken different approaches to solving these technical problems.

Addressing this digital Tower of Babel has been the focus of the OGC, ISO/TC 211, buildingSMART and other standards groups over the last 20-30 years. OGC is contributing spatial standards thinking to the international standards activities of ISO/IEC JTC 1 and ITU. The result: a very good but still evolving set of spatial standards, many widely implemented, that support the communication and integration of spatial information. Representatives of various organizations presented on this topic at OGC’s Location Powers: Smart City Summit, held December 2014 in Tokyo. See videos of the event at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQsQNjNIDU86ON-k_--lkkPwZVHiCorRt .

Some recent advances include:

  • Better integration of geospatial information with information about the built environment. This includes an open encoding for 3D urban models (OGC CityGML Encoding Standard) and indoor navigation (OGC IndoorGML Encoding Standard). Advances in buildingSMART International’s Industry Foundation Classes mean that these open standards are now opening up for infrastructure designers and engineers working with roads and railways.

  • i-locate, a project funded by the ICT-PSP program of the European Commission, has developed an online portal that can be used to map the insides of buildings, such as hospitals, as well as to create the indoor connectivity graphs necessary to implement indoor location-based services. i-locate provides the first reference implementation of the OGC IndoorGML Encoding Standard, meaning that it is a publicly available open source implementation which can be used as a reference for developers who seek to implement the same standard.

The FutureCities Pilot will demonstrate how open standards provide a platform that’s useful for both the ad hoc and centrally-planned development of smart city services. Cities need to provide data to their citizens, their municipal service departments, companies and civic organizations. There is an increasing emphasis on open data. Whether open or not, serving spatial data through open, vendor-neutral encodings and interfaces increases flexibility, reduces cost and risk, and enhances innovation. All approaches involve devices and services that need to communicate with other devices and services that have been, or will be, independently deployed. Open standards make such flexibility possible.

buildingSMART International's Inside-out Contribution

While OGC works to provide open spatial data standards, buildingSMART focuses on providing that data and process standards to enable digital ways of working for the built asset economy. OGC can be seen as working from the outside in, while buildingSMART works from the core outwards. Collectively these open standards will allow designers, constructors, operators, citizens, owners/developers and regulators to understand, use and work with the data they need to efficiently optimize cities for the future.

The Berlin City Model

This image, released by Berlin Business Location Center, depicts the urban model of Berlin, based on the OGC CityGML open standard. (www.3d-stadtmodell-berlin.de)

The Berlin city model, available as Open Data Berlin, provides a leading example throughout Europe of urban data provision in the digital economy. A comprehensive 3D city model of the German capital is available to the public as open data through open interfaces implementing OGC and ISO standards. This has provided fertile ground for a wide variety of independently developed software and data products and services.

Location matters to quality of life.

Public participation in city decision-making is more important than ever, and the decisions are often about the locations of things in cities. The FutureCities Pilot includes, among other location topics, the Internet of Things. The challenge is to support human activity by integrating our digital systems with the physical infrastructure systems that help us negotiate the physical world. City design, development and how cities work for their citizens and the authorities that run them can be greatly improved by open interoperable digital ways of working. Energy management, transportation optimization, storm response, pollution control, health care and incident response can all be improved through use of location-aware digital devices and digital coordination. Shopping, tourism, education and recreation can also benefit.

This pilot will help participating cities define specific requirements for better technology support in urban activities of many kinds. Technology providers will be invited to work together to show how those requirements can be met in ways that directly depend on standards-enabled interoperability.

Open standards for sharing and integrating spatial information about the natural environment, the built environment and the built asset economy ought to be part of every city’s core technological activities, as the final demonstration and reports from the pilot will no doubt demonstrate.

Benefits for Sponsors

“Considerable goodwill accrues to organizations that are seen as contributing in innovative ways to interoperability and openness.”

Hosting cities in the FutureCities Pilot will see how the open data they have been providing can be used in an interoperable environment — a platform for innovative citizen-centric services. The FutureCities Pilot is also likely to provide "leave-behind” solutions: software and online services that will continue to provide benefits. Also, cities will be networking and collaborating with best-of-breed sponsors and participants in the interoperable arena, which will provide both knowledge and opportunities for future work together. OGC’s promotion of a city’s participation in the pilot will stimulate interest in what that city is doing in terms of enhancing the value of their technology deployments and applications. This can serve to make the cities into hubs of activity focused on interoperable applications and solutions.

Sponsors of the pilot will benefit from the opportunity to directly work with local thought leaders to understand their cities’ smart city requirements firsthand. The initiatives and results will be branded with the sponsors’ logos, attracting world-wide attention. The engineering reports delivered by participating technology providers will live on beyond the life cycle of the pilot, for future use by engineers and by sales and marketing. This will benefit both sponsors and participating technology providers. Considerable goodwill accrues to organizations that are seen as contributing in innovative ways to interoperability and openness.

Sponsoring organizations, working on their own behalf and on behalf of the participating cities, will together determine the requirements and share the costs. Sharing costs means that they will obtain interoperable results at a fraction of the price that they would pay if they were to individually contract with providers capable of providing the necessary expertise and open solutions. The FutureCities Pilot’s larger aims all directly serve the sponsors and the cities they care about. The pilot will:

  • Expand the market and improve choice by encouraging industry adoption of new standards and best practices, ensuring market availability of interoperable solutions.

  • Mobilize new technologies through providing participants with real world experience and understanding to drive early adoption of standards.

  • Provide a cost effective method for sponsors and participants to share expertise and development while gaining early marketplace insight and advantage.

  • Reduce technology risk through accelerating acceptance of interoperability standards and refinement of interface standards and data best practices.

How to Participate

Organizations interested in sponsoring or hosting the pilot are invited to contact OGC before September 15, 2015 to provide input in the planning phase. Contact Bart de Lathouwer, the OGC initiative director for the pilot, by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Sponsors with interest in cities in world regions other than Europe are also invited to contact OGC for future opportunities.

Published Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Written by Bart De Lathouwer

Published in

Open Source

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