The race is on to create smart and sustainable cities. In order to succeed solid data management is required. That is most easily achieved by using a data platform with consistent functionality.

It’s always difficult to choose the right technical platform. That also holds true for working with open data. There are some general guidelines to adhere to:

  • The functionality offered should be focused on the area of use, in this case management of open data.
  • The different functions, and modules, should work in a similar way, regarding commands, element in the user interface, and so on.
  • The different functions, and modules, should be integrated in a smooth way in a technical sense.
  • The different modules should contribute to each other. Module A should make it possible for module B to provide more value, instead of causing difficulty using both modules together.

Maybe most important of all, a holistic view that’s not dependent on the underlying technical platform should underpin the complete solution.

– The creation of smart cities is often hampered by a bias toward technology. One example is the use of devices for real time monitoring. They are important, but the devices in themselves don’t provide a smart city, says Eric Hjelmestam, CEO at MetaSolutions.

He describes a mindset that provides more value:

– If the motoring of energy consumption in real time is combined with data for what a city pays for electricity, and maybe also for the energy mix used, the use of devices for collecting data becomes more valuable.

Many different kinds of data are necessary for creating a sustainable city. That includes everything from streaming data, for example about energy consumption, to data about financial transactions.

One big problem is that sensor networks so far have been built in order to solve specific problems, by some part of an organization. That creates problem when more technical solutions are created, and the need to manage data in a uniform arises. This leads to all kinds of problems: management of data becomes expensive, opportunities for coordination are missed, and so on. The impending risk is that investment in creating a smart city turns into several digital solutions that don’t work together.

What to do instead?

Start by examining the mix of open data that will be used. The platform and the processes for a smart city must be able to handle the whole mix of open data.

Think of a platform as consisting of modules that together provides the digital functionality for a smart city. In order to make it possible for all parties, big and small, to use a solution, the different modules must fit smoothly into the underlying technical architecture.

The processes for publishing and managing sensor data about the quality of bathwater and for budget data are quite similar. There are similar needs for standards and specifications, in order to ensure uniform data delivery from different sources and organizations.

– Everybody who have succeeded with data publishing have started with the tasks that are simplest. That strategy makes it possible to acquire knowledge, and to establish a process. There shouldn’t be a difference between “good and bad” data, everything is relevant and should be made accessible, unless there are needs of secrecy, says Eric Hjelmestam.

Over time it becomes natural to add more data sources, from different organizations. If, for example, it’s easiest to start with GEO data, do that. Or if there already are sensors collecting IoT data installed, start with them. Regardless of where you start, you need a process to manage data.

EntryScape Catalog from MetaSolutions provides a completely standardized module and a process for all kinds of data. The icing on the cake is the possibility to manage both publicly available data and data that should be internal to an organization on one platform, which leads to efficiency gains. And it’s possible to share ideas about using the platform.

MetaSolutions has always been active in standardization organizations. That’s natural, because EntryScape is wholly based on web standards. MetaSolutions contributes to the innovation program Viable Cities, together with the Swedish Department of Energy, Formas, and the Royal Institute of Technology. Viable Cities consists of several projects regarding smart and sustainable cities, and receives support from Vinnova, the Swedish government agency funding research and development.