Efforts to build smart and sustainable cities are now in full swing. Success requires more than just good data management. A platform with the right features that is designed in a coherent way will help enormously.

Choosing a technical platform for an entirely new field of operation is obviously difficult. The same can be true for organisations starting to work with open data.

However, even if you do not know what features are required and how they should be designed, there are some general criteria to keep in mind:

  • The offered features ought to focus on the intended field of use, in this case the management of (open) data.
  • The different features, or modules, ought to work similarly in terms of commands, user interface and so forth.
  • The different modules ought to be smoothly integrated on a technical level.
  • The different modules ought to support each other’s functions. Module A should enable Module B to provide more value, rather than causing complications during tasks that involve both.

Perhaps most importantly, it needs a fundamental comprehensive view, the realisation of which is not dependent on the chosen technical platform:

– It is common that building smart cities becomes technologically one-sided. One such example is efforts to connect devices for real-time monitoring. It certainly is an important piece of the puzzle, but the devices themselves do not make up the whole puzzle, they do not create a complete smart city, says Eric Hjelmestam, CEO of MetaSolutions.

He goes on to describe an approach that provides more value:

– For example, evaluating energy consumption in real time, combined with the city’s electricity costs and perhaps the purchased electricity supply, increases the value of monitoring devices.

A sustainable city needs many types of data, ranging from for example streamed data on energy consumption, to data on financial transactions. The range of data is wide. One problem is that sensor networks have so far been designed to solve specific problems in one part of an organisation. After a while, it becomes clear that the data generated by the sensors needs to be managed in a standardised way.

This leads to a number of problems, ranging from data becoming costly and cumbersome to manage, to wider shortcomings such as a lack of coordination between different initiatives to build a smart and sustainable city. There is a risk that such individual initiatives will result in a whole range of digital solutions that are disconnected and unnecessarily costly.

So how to approach the task instead?

Start by getting an idea of what kind of open data your organisation will be using. The workflow and platform of a smart city needs to be able to manage any type of data.

Think of a platform as something that is built to function as modular digital support for a smart city. In order for every user, large or small, to benefit and start working in the way that suits them best, each module must be part of a common framework.

The task of publishing and management does not differ much between for example data from sensors measuring bathing water quality or an organisation’s fiscal data. They also share the need for standards and specifications, to ensure a uniform supply of data from several different data publishers.

– All data publicists who have successfully started publishing data began with what is easiest. That way they build knowledge and establish a workflow. There is no such thing as good or bad data, everything is relevant and should be made public, unless there are privacy reasons not to do so, says Eric Hjelmestam.

Over time, it becomes more natural to add more data sets from different services. If you find it easiest to start with GEO data, start there. If you have sensors for IOT that provide data, start there. Wherever you start, you will need a workflow to manage the data.

EntryScape Catalog from MetaSolutions provides you with a fully standardised module and with it a workflow for all types of data. As the cherry on top, it is also possible to manage data that is to be publicly available and data that is to be available internally for instance for a municipality or an agency, on the same platform. This will increase efficiency even further. If you want to share your ideas on how to use it, you can do that too.

MetaSolutions has always been involved in think tanks and forums for the development of standards. To drive and support standardisation in smart cities, Metasolutions is now part of the Viable Cities innovation program. Together with the Swedish Energy Agency, Formas and KTH, and with support from Vinnova, it is working on a number of sub-projects on smart and sustainable cities.