What makes a Smart App?

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Jul 012015
Smart Applications

The following post is a collaboration by Benedikt Herudek, consultant at Accenture. We would like to thank him for his collaboration and willingness to participate.

FIWARE applications are all about creating smart services and that requires being aware of the context. As one might expect, FIWARE doesn’t have a patent on that idea but hooks in to a wider trend in digitalization and IoT: nowadays, we have so much and so much potentially useful data available via the Internet and sensors that we could benefit from separate units of software to handle it, which are referred to as Context Brokers. Following Gartner’s Context Brokers for Smarter Business Decisions, published on the 21st of January 2015:

The underlying concept of a context broker is to have a separate software facility that gathers, prepares and serves context data so that a decision maker —a person or an application system— can have the benefit of this data without having to do all of the work of obtaining and managing the context data as part of the application itself. It is essentially a design pattern for sourcing context data more efficiently and effectively, offloading work from the decision-making application. A widely used Context Broker coming as an apache license is mosquitto.

FIWARE uses that concept (described to some extent in this blog post) and adopts it mainly (for the moment) for Smart Cities and Internet of Things. FIWARE applications are therefore supposed to be smart, in the sense of context aware applications. One could say, FIWARE does mainly two things with this idea. First, it tries to establish a standard protocol accepted all over Europe and thereby scales a market. Second, FIWARE does context management in a smart way. FIWARE context management is modelled along the design of the SNMP simple network management protocol reusing a standard called ‘NGSI’. The original NGSI standard has been created by the OMA standardization organization. However, this original definition is “abstract” and not directly usable, thus FIWARE has bound it to a “concrete” API definition based on RESTful design principles.

In that design, there is a context of so-called 'Entities'; i.e. relevant things to your application. 'Values' are the attributes of these entities, which change over time. A context could represent the reality in your own house or in a large city with entities like, for example, shops or buses.

The FIWARE Context Broker will allow your application to be unaware about how these context values are rendered: for instance, the temperature in a street could be rendered because users placed it on Twitter or rather because the city council decides to add sensors to buses. The FIWARE Orion Context Broker should hide this for you. The context model is extendable, so one can add features such as a value to rate certain buildings. FIWARE is built on REST (stateless) APIs, which are easy to use for developers. Payloads will use JSON or XML. If you need to know what the status of an entity is, you only need to read the value of an entity. If you want to trigger an action and the device allows so, all you need to do is changing the value of an attribute. You can do this with simple PUT and GET calls. The Context Broker connects to IoT agents, which connects to the devices.

Find here a visualization of the Orion Conext Broker from a 3rd party, not supported by FIWARE itself.


The Orion Context Broker shields you as a developer of Smart City applications from a complex setup of an agent – brokerage architecture. Compare it to the (business activity) monitoring solution of a production system for a large client. The Technical Architecture Team will have to deploy agents monitoring the systems, which will connect to the main system; for example, a console where you can see the status of an order or the memory consumption of a system. The infrastructure needs to be setup and maintained by a team of experts. As an end user, you don’t mind about how it works as long as your central instance allows you to interact with the deployed agents and the connected systems. In the world of Smart Cities and FIWARE, cities subscribing to the FIWARE standard would deliver the setup for you and you, as a developer, only connect to the front end, the Orion Context Broker.

The Orion Context Broker runs on top of the IoT Broker. This is a module introduced to handle the complexity of a large setup with 1000s of Devices and IoT agents connecting to them. Imagine you have an application with sensors in agriculture over large patches of lands over an entire country. Or maybe you have a city with many sensors and complex requests like, e.g.: 'Give me all cars in the street, their location and whatever else you know!'. Here, you might get several thousands of responses back. In that case, you will need a unit which handles and aggregates data for you and a unit to discover sensors in the street. A rule of thumb apparently says: with more than 1000 sensors, you should add an IoT broker to your application.

The IoT Broker will connect to the IoT agents in the field and manage them. The IoT Agents are pieces of software connecting to sensors from devices in the field. They translate IoT protocols like CoAP or MQTT into the Open Mobile Alliance NGSI standard that FIWARE will use. A showcase was done in Santander, Spain as the Context Broker and the IoT standard is developed by Telefonica research center.

From 'aware' to 'Smart'

Once you have all this data in your application, you will use other enablers to do smart things. FIWARE delivers a suite of generic enablers, which allow you to implement different functionalities.

FIWARE is also framed in the Open Data movement. This Open Data movement is pioneered by the (co-)founder of the world wide web Tim Berner Lee and connected to terms like semantic web, linked data, which has as one of its goals to make the web machine readable, where current HTML pages are targeted at human users to consume.

FIWARE uses the open-source Open Data framework ckan to offer a platform and marketplace for Open Data. Thanks to it, free data can be published, enforcing terms & conditions and using data with a fee. The scenarios here are either cities publishing data for free or companies publishing enriched data for a fee. Ckan datastore delivers search & discover functionalities to find published information.

One way of enriching data is to build FIWARE mashups on top of your dataset and visualize them this way. Such data mashups can be sold to newspapers to embed the information revealed in their online presence.

If gathering sensor data from the Internet of Things is a core concept, a Big Data analytics cannot be far. FIWARE hence offers a generic enabler to analyze Big Data. FIWARE uses hadoop under the FIWARE codename cosmos as it's a big data platform. Apache Hadoop's MapReduce and HDFS components were inspired by Google papers on their MapReduce and Google File System.

A typical use case of Big Data analytics would be that sensor data flows in via the Orion Context Broker to a FIWARE instance; for example, temperatures in the field. The Orion Context Broker itself only holds the last value of an entity. To have the historical view on temperature, one will connect the Orion Context Broker via a FIWARE component called Cygnus with hadoop, where the data will be stored and can be analyzed.  Cygnus uses the subscription/notification feature of the Context Broker, detailing which entities one wants to be notified when an update occurs on any of those entities attributes. Cygnus is based on apache flume and will allow to persist data from the Context Broker not only to hadoop but also mysql or ckan. Licenses are currently open-source, at some point these components might be feedback to the apache foundation to the hadoop ecosystem.

Telefonica delivers other add ons to hadoop called 'Tidoop' intended to allow using generic non HDFS data located at CKAN or Mango DB.

FIWARE offers Mashup technologies to create parts of front ends. This Mashup technology is useful for dashboards and maps, which are useful to be embedded, for example, in webpages to blend in a real time data camera from an open-source. A 'Widget' is a building block to build a 'Mashup'. Widgets are connected to each other via 'Wires'. Backends can be accessed directly by widgets via so-called operators. After you build such a mashup and have created a useful visualization, the mashup can be published back to the FIWARE catalogue to reuse and to sell it on the internal store. FIWARE also offers 3D and Augmented Reality visualization frameworks based on HTML5, WebGL, XML3D and XLOW.

FIWARE integrates the Kurento Mediaserver in its platform. Kurento is based on WebRTC, which is a World Wide Web Consortium standard with open-source delivered from Google.  It allows, for example, to create browser communication easily. You should be able to create something like Skype easily. Kurento is implementing this standard. Kurento is an open-source platform making it possible to create a rich WebRTC and multimedia applications. For example, you will use so-called media elements, which are used for example to record videostreams. One will need one video to receive and one media element to record the stream and one will need to connect them properly. Kurento also allows to integrate augmented reality elements in videostreams and can thereby be useful for a Smart City context, e.g. by adding virtual objects like arrows to walk through a street. Thanks to these technologies, it is also possible to detect building of large groups in a city, this could be useful, for example, to direct police to large crowds assembling during concerts or sport events. Kurento is closely integrated with the OpenCV libraries, mainly aimed at real-time computer vision and is used for interactive art, to mines inspection, stitching maps on the web or through advanced robotics and backed by Intel.

As an open platform, you can use any GUI framework like javascript or php frameworks as a base and use the described generic enabler for user interaction.


May 062015

According to its webpage, “Cyberlightning is the leading 3D Internet Company with next generation controlling and monitoring solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT) networks in the Smart City context. At the moment we are developing real world and virtual world integration for European Union’s service portfolio and also at the same time enabling IoT networks to be controllable via mobile devices..” Now, making use of some of the FIWARE Generic Enablers, Cyberlighning launches CyberVille 2.0, a platform that enhances smart-node to Cloud scalability and establishes the basis for self-learning industrial IoT networks.

This platform provides a “see it at a glance” view, advanced analytics and functional control of the complex sensor and machine networks that comprise the Internet of Everything (IoE). With the addition of powerful edge-device functionality and support for independent yet connected instances of the application, organizations can implement systems that learn from the collected data and operating inputs of smart nodes and various networks layers.

“This release of CyberVille marks an important step in evolving from connected, but highly centralized data systems to an architecture that is the basis of a neural network for the Internet of Everything,” said Ville Mickelsson, CEO of Cyberlightning. “Broadly distributed intelligence enables a system that learns as it grows. For example, a machine supplier can gather operating data across multiple installations and create a pool of real-time knowledge about operating and maintenance parameters to share with all customers.”

Which is the role of FIWARE in CyberVille?

CyberVille makes use of some of the following Advanced Web UI Generic enablers:

  • GIS (Geographical Information System): It enables a robust backend for 3D map data. This GE is able to host geographical data and serve it in 3D form (where applicaple) to both mobile and web clients. The GE implementation is based on open source Geoserver project (GPL licenced) and W3DS extension.
  • RVI (Real Virtual Interaction): It captures and stores sensor data and allows its easy usage in a web browser environment. A key aspect of Augmented Reality is that virtual content is not just presented embedded within the context of the real world, but that it should also allow users to interact actively with real objects and the objects to provide input to the user.
  • 3D-UI: It allows the creation of WebGL based 3D user interfaces in a browser and the integration of interactive 3D graphics into a Web-based application.

Cyberlightning has extended these Generic Enablers to include specific features for their business. They have shared some of these changes in open source communities (they recommend us to learn more about the GeoServer project as an example).

Introduced in May 2014, the CyberVille® software platform integrates heterogeneous data and inputs from multiple control systems to create a unified view and control panel for complex networks that can be accessed on any client device, from smart phones and tablets to traditional desktops. Based on open-source, standards based Internet technology, it provides a multilayered 3D view of complex networks based on a combination of geographic information system (GIS) data sets and 3D models, along with all of the real time data feeds associated with the various objects that make up the network or networks under management.

About CyberLightning

CyberLightning provides an intelligent, end-to-end Internet of Everything (IoE) Application Platform for operational and business use in Smart City environments. The company was founded in 2010 by a core team at the Center for Internet Excellence at University of Oulu, Finland. CyberLightning is a member of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), IPSO (Internet Protocol for Smart Objects) Alliance, Euroheat & Power and a Tizen Association partner. More information is available at 

FIWARE presence at 4YFN

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Mar 132015

Last week, FIWARE attended 4 Years From Now, an event related to Mobile World Congress that gathers the main actors of innovation, such as entrepreneurs, hundreds of startups and incubators. FIWARE participated with keynotes, conferences and workshops. But apart from that, our startups and accelerators were present during all our stay there. Lots of people came and asked about the opportunities that the FIWARE Accelerator Programme provides and could talk directly to teams that had been already selected.

Anyway, it was not only about networking. An important announcement by Telefonica, Orange, Engineering and Atos was made. The next step is joining forces to push common standards and thus, foster the efficient creation of Smart Cities.  

Find in this video all that we did there!

FIWARE at 4YFN Barcelona – Telefonica, Orange Engineering and Atos joining forces to push common standards for Smart Cities

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Mar 042015

Since last Monday, FIWARE has been present at 4 Years From Now in Barcelona, an event that gathers the main actor of innovation, such as entrepreneurs, hundreds of startups and incubators. As if it was a little Silicon Valley in Barcelona, attendees have discussed about different topics that are defining the next wave of digital services and that, thanks to technologies as FIWARE, are now real.

But, why was FIWARE there? In 4YFN, FIWARE was presenting its Accelerator Programme once more, a programme that is about to open its second open call and receive thousands of business proposals, as it already happened in the first open call. So far, 346 startups have been already selected from all the 3,217 proposals that were first submitted. These startups are already taking part in training sessions, workshops and, of course, are getting into a new digital market.

In FIWARE’s conferences and workshops, attendees can not only meet the FIWARE Accelerator Programme (thanks to the presence of some of the accelerators in our stand), but also learn how to manage context information at large scale (workshop by Fermín Galán), how to connect to the Internet of Things (workshop by Carlos Ralli), how to solve IoT problems (conference by Ville Mickelsson) or how to create rich WebRTC Multimedia Applications with FIWARE and Kurento (workshop by Luis López). But, if there was a conference that was worth attending, it definitely was the KeyNote speech by Juanjo Hierro and Nacho de Pinedo. You hear them and you can be sure that your app, if developed with FIWARE, will ROCK. They taught us how to make our app become the next hit.

FIWARE in 4YFN Barcelona


Now that the concept of “Smart City” is under (r)evolution, as it is not just focused on providing more efficient services, but on transforming cities into digital platforms for innovative citizen services, four leading companies announce their agreement to push common standards and join efforts to create a FIWARE Open Source Community. These are Telefonica, Orange, Engineering and Atos. “FIWARE does not just support a more efficient management of municipal services. It brings open standards enabling to transform cities into engines of growth”, explains Marieta Rivero, Chief Deputy Commercial Officer at Telefonica. “Using FIWARE, Smart Cities can deliver the platform, combining Open Data and the APIs based on which new innovative applications can be created”, she explained. The integration of Internet of Things, Cloud and Big Data technologies, together with the support of Open Data policies, will create the conditions for a new period of intense transformation of cities into Smart Cities.

“Innovation for Engineering is a key success factor continuously pursued from its birth back in 1980 […] In this context, we see our strategic and full involvement in FIWARE. It is a set of technologies allowing us to be leaders in the market of open solutions”, states Paolo Pandozy, CEO of Engineering; while Patrice Slupowski, Vice-President of Digital Innovation, Orange, says that “there is an incredible opportunity for European cities to take advantage of open solutions and a wide community of developers, to quickly bring digital services and innovations to their citizens”.

Our motto? “Simple, Open, Free and standardized: enabling the new future for Smart Cities services”. These combined efforts will surely lead us into a new concept of cities, into new environments where we will be able to live making the most of technology.

Let’s keep our eye on the ball!

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Jan 302013

FI-WARE Rome Meeting January 2013Last week, the FI-WARE chapter leaders and architects met in Rome at the Engineering premises at Ponte Galeria for a four-day meeting. The agenda was full of things to talk about. Thanks to the engagement of all participants, everything was addressed. A significant amount of time was taken to discuss cross-chapter topics which need to be developed during the next months. All these activities will be handled following the Agile process that has driven FI-WARE to date. By the end of February 2013, Epics, Features and User Stories will be defined to properly capture the appropriate requirements. We also started a discussion on the Open Innovation Lab to pave the way towards opening up the testbed to new external adopters, enabling them to perform their experiments on our infrastructure.

The project is now past its mid-term, and as pointed out in our last review, we need to keep our efforts on a successful second-half. It's crucial to demonstrate the effectiveness of the platform that FI-WARE is providing and the benefits to the Users- the so-called Live Demo. The first version of it, based on the Testbed (first version) was presented during the past project review in November 2012. The release of the second version of the Testbed, therefore, also the Live Demo needs to be revamped.

The Live Demo is the top priority for all project members, therefore, each of us needs to intensify our efforts in contributing to our specific tasks, this in a coherent and coordinated manner. The success of FI-WARE lies in our commitment. We are confident that we can pull together with focus and determination to see this to a favourable end !