Smart services to make a smart city
In 2010, Mr. Tinus Kanters, responsible for code enforcement at public events in the Municipality of Eindhoven, attended an interactive event called the ‘STRP Art & Technology Festival’. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Near-Field Communication (NFC) technologies allowed visitors to get involved and do things such as provide feedback on artwork via touch screens. Inspired by the festival and talks of the new wave of technology we now call the Internet of Things (IoT), Tinus Kanters came up with the idea that such devices could also be applied in the context of managing a city. He developed this thought further, and so the Municipality of Eindhoven and the Dutch Institute for Technology, Safety and Security (DITSS) launched the Living Lab Stratumseind 2.0’ project in 2012. Living lab is an innovation and research concept where ideas are sourced and co-developed in an open community and tested in real life. This gives everyone, including citizens, a unique opportunity to get involved and have a say.
Stratumseind is one of the biggest party streets in the Netherlands located in Eindhoven with around 20,000 visitors every weekend. The challenge with Stratumseind comes from the large crowds and parties that cause noise, arguments, confrontations, and sometimes, luckily only rarely, violence. The idea was to use IoT devices for enforcing noise regulation, crowd management and for identifying, preventing and de-escalating potentially hostile behaviour and incidents.
Co-creation in a Living Lab
Eindhoven, a city of approximately 230,000 citizens, is a hub for technology and IT. It’s a city of pilot projects with a lot of cooperation between research institutes, universities and businesses consisting of multinationals, SMEs and start-ups.
After Tinus Kanters decided to turn Stratumseind into a living lab, many local start-ups and even global companies pitched in the development and testing of technologies, such as microphones or cameras, in real-life scenarios. By 2015, there were already many actors and technologies involved, tests conducted and proofs of concept developed. Therefore, the living lab started to look for a standard or framework to integrate the bits and pieces into one holistic solution. In order to share knowledge and collaborate with others, the Municipality of Eindhoven became a member of the Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC) and adopted the recommendations from the Venturespring report “A Spotlight on Smart City Eindhoven”. Among its recommendations, the report suggested evaluating FIWARE-based solutions, such as Context Broker.
What is Context Broker?
Context Broker is a digital building block for consolidating data and making data-driven decisions in real time, at the right time. The services and support offered by the European Commission's CEF programme are based on the technical specifications defined by FIWARE, an association for promoting open and interoperable IoT-based smart services.
Eindhoven chose Context Broker as it was deemed the most advanced standards-based solution in the market. It enables the collection of IoT-based data from various different sources and formats, and collectively analyses them for correlations and insight. Among the IoT sensors were microphones, cameras and ground monitors. Wireless microphone arrays now automate noise level regulation. If music is too loud, an automated notification is triggered. If noise continues, law enforcement will issue a violation notice, or even a ticket. Cameras were installed to analyse images and track crowds. Ground monitors help to make sure that public squares do not get too crowded for safety. In addition, Eindhoven uses specific street lighting as IoT actuators.
What about privacy?
The solution was designed with privacy in mind. The cameras do not apply face recognition. They only track movements from entities identified as people, hence keeping individuals anonymous. Furthermore, cameras analyse images locally on the device and only send analysis data to Context Broker. In a similar way, microphones analyse noise characteristics, not words or sentences. The objective is to do predictive and preventive city management, not post-incident investigation.
Smart City solution for all
Based on five years of the Living Lab’s continuous innovation, Eindhoven now has a scalable and reusable solution (incorporating Context Broker) that can be expanded to the whole city – and even to other cities. The municipality has built relationships with innovative hardware developers, without being ‘locked-in’ to any specific vendor or technology. When all data is in one system, the Context Broker, it is easier to create value-added services.
The municipality has created a four-tier framework to simplify the common challenges faced by smart cities. The solution has been shared with regional, national and European network organisations, such as Creative Ring, ENoLL, Eurocities, EIP-SCC, LUCI and OASC, and is available for all as the Smart City StarterK!t. The kit consolidates five years of research into creating software prototypes for the following applications:
Sensors that help enforce local laws and regulations.
Video cameras for safe crowd management during popular events.
Software to identify early signs of violent encounters and to get police assistance faster.
The Context Broker was also adopted by the Europe Horizon 2020 programme’s SynchroniCity project as the core component to realise two of the three Minimal Interoperability Mechanisms (MIMs): the de-facto European standard open Context Information Management API and the Shared Data Models. Synchronicity is based on the concept that smart-solution interoperability can be achieved even if technical implementations are different, as long as the MIMs are the same. Therefore, Context Broker and the MIMs are integral parts of the common architecture and approach to connect IoT technologies, applications and services, which in the end, provide the real added value. Eindhoven is also an active member of Synchronicity.
The project team is now working with the Netherlands Standardisation Institute (NEN) to standardise their implementation of Context Broker in the context of improving a smart city’s safety on a party street. They are also planning on expanding the solution throughout the city with more Context Broker connected sensors.