Open Standards for Civic Tech APIs Edge Closer to Reality

The EU-funded open API platform FIWARE has reached an agreement with seven countries to embed its core infrastructure as open API standards for creating new civic tech solutions. The initiative hopes to foster the growth of a new wave of startups focused on smart city technologies.

A new Open & Agile Smart Cities initiative has been signed by seven countries — Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Portugal and Spain — that agree to four key mechanisms for the development of smart city infrastructure. The initiative is a partnership between the the EU-funded FIWARE and the Connected Smart Cities Network.

ABOVE: Launch of the Open & Agile Smart Cities initiative at CeBIT on March 16

“Three of the mechanisms are technical and the fourth is the agreed approach to take,” said Martin Brynskov, chair of the Connected Smart Cities Network. “A letter of intent has been signed by the 31 cities that includes a commitment to an approach that is driven by implementation. This initiative is about doing something; ideas will evolve through implementation, and we will see what is a good idea and what is a bad idea.”

In addition to the implementation-driven approach, the three technical mechanisms agreed to by participating cities are:

  • To support the deployment of FIWARE’s NGSI API open standard, which proposes a common data model for getting real-time, contextual data about cities
  • To share API data models, starting with the CitySDK APIs
  • To use the open source platform CKAN to publish open data.

The NGSI API

Juanjo Hierro, coordinator and chief architect of the FIWARE platform, says the agreement to use the NGSI API as the open standard for how cities will provide access to real-time, contextual information is key to the smart civic tech innovation that is being fostered by this initiative.

Hierro explains:

If we talk about a smart city, when we are trying to create smart applications, context means anything that describes what is going on and its current state. For example, the buses, shops, streets and even citizens are all entities with attributes that have values. So a bus is an entity that has location attributes that change during the day, also information about its license plate, its next stop, its route, passenger carrying capacity, the driver assigned to the bus for that day, etc.

So context information is about all of those entities that describe the city and what is going on, and the values that characterize those entities that change over time.

The hope is that if all cities are using the same NGSI data model, they can then open up data they may be collecting from sensors and other civic technologies and make it available in a uniform way for third-party application developers. This creates a scalable model so that entrepreneurs and startups can create a civic tech application that can work across any city signing up to use the NGSI standard.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities.

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