Our Smart Cities Belgium project was piloted by the city of Antwerp in 2016. We developed the platform for the City of Antwerp, in cooperation with Digipolis Antwerpen, when IoT was still in its infancy. Antwerp was already smart in different ways. The city utilizes sensors to measure the water quality, sensors that indicate when the public garbage bins are full or that indicate when somebody occupies a parking spot for too long. All of these sensors provide a richness of information. When those different sensors are capable of communicating, the possibilities become endless. By combining all this data on one platform, Sirus helped Antwerp become even smarter.
Smart Cities Belgium wants to help cities combine their data on one structured platform. Sirus set up a Generic IoT Platform (GIP) to combine data, stemming from thousands of sensors and external sources, in real time so other applications can make use of this data. Thanks to this platform different objects can easily communicate. “Smart applications are often enclosed in silo’s”, indicates Gert De Tant, Chief Technology Officer and CEO at Sirus.
“They often process data in their own specific way. A producer of smart cameras can utilize a unique protocol so these cameras cannot communicate with smart traffic lights of another producer. One producer can also use a totally different data format than another producer. That’s why we translate all data automatically to the uniform European format. We also offer this data through European standard interfaces”.
Thanks to Smart Cities Belgium the different smart applications in Antwerp are able to communicate efficiently. Since data from one sensor may speak a different language than data from other sensors or from external data sources, Sirus converts all data to the European standard format – Fiware NGSIlv2 – so all of this data can be combined.
“Call it a European IoT Esperanto if you will”, says Koen Cornelissen of Digipolis Antwerp. “In cooperation with Sirus, we can connect a new data stream to the GIP in two or three weeks and enrich other data streams. In that time span, the analysis, testing, validation and documentation of this new flow happen.”
On top of that, the data is made available for the public. Each data stream is accessed through one or more Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), through which you make that data accessible. Data marketplaces publish these APIs so that data consumers can access, use and combine this real-time data with other data API’s or their own data. Companies can for instance use this data to offer their newest application to all sorts of businesses in Europe. For smaller companies this is a commercially very interesting possibility. The GIP thus provides benefits to the city, its residents and visitors, businesses and research centers. The city of Antwerp launches a strong start for further groundbreaking innovation in their city.
“Imagine a start-up having a great idea to develop a smart application. They then can effectively use the data from other smart city applications in Antwerp”, explains De Tant.
In 2016 Digipolis challenged the market to help develop a smart city architecture for the city of Antwerp. Sirus won the challenge and immediately talked strategy with Antwerp to develop the new IT-architecture. This architecture was tested during different meet-ups with the digital community of Antwerp. New smart applications were bought and the GIP was expanded.
“At the end of October, we went live with the platform. We are very satisfied with the way things are developing right now. The citizens of Antwerp are impressed by the speed with which new data streams can join the platform. It’s only a matter of two to five days”, concludes a satisfied Gert De Tant.
Every newly launched IoT application will run through this new platform.
The GIP processes real-time data and location of the shared mobility in the city: shared bicycles, shared cars and shared scooters. Sirus helps to ensure that this data is easily accessible and can be enriched with other data. In Antwerp different sources of data from shared mobility companies is already easily accessible, including data from transport companies De Lijn and NMBS, Be-Mobile, which specializes in smart mobility, and the Flemish Roads and Traffic Agency. accessible.
The most striking result of the GIP in mobility domain is the development of slimnaarantwerpen.be. This platform operates a bit like Google Maps, but focuses on the current situation to and in Antwerp. Via the website, people receive advice on the most efficient route to get into the city, based on real-time data. The smartest route often consists of the combination of various means of transport, such as train, bus and shared bicycle. You can indicate which means of transport you want to use.
Data from the NMBS, De Lijn, Be-Mobile and the Agency for Roads and Traffic feed into the GIP and slimnaarantwerpen.be, as well as data from the providers of shared mobility in Antwerp: Bird/Circ, Blue-bike, Cambio, Poppy, Scooty and Velo.
“You get an understanding of how people move through the city”, says Gert De Tant. “Another possibility for smart mobility data are so-called digital twins with which we can simulate the effects of one-way traffic in a street on a multi-modal transport model. For this purpose we are working in collaboration with the research center imec.”
Digipolis is currently working on a Flemish Innovative Government project of creating smart fountains.“By equipping these with sensors, we can check whether they are still functioning properly”, explains Koen Cornelissen. “The final aim is to predict, on the basis of the data, when maintenance will be required. We will also be able to operate the fountains remotely: we can then turn them on and off or have them spout harder or gentler when an event is taking place or when freezing temperatures are announced, for example.”
The first environmental project in Antwerp were the smart trash cans, which were installed in 2018. These smart trash cans were installed in public spaces. They are equipped with a sensor and work on solar energy. They compress the waste and let you know in real time how full they are, so that the city can take this information into account for collections. Furthermore, there are other waste solutions in the city, which are equipped with a sensor as well.
Data from the KMI, flow meters and pluviometers is also gathered. This data helps the city to support, evaluate and adjust its climate policy. “It is important to have and keep historical data, to know what the situation is like in the city now. We want to evolve towards data-based forecasting”, says Sirus CEO Gert De Tant. Koen Cornelissen agrees. “”With data on expected precipitation and wind speeds, for example, the fire department can make an intervention prediction.”
The experience Sirus has gained during an IoT project can be used for other projects for cities, authorities and companies. In addition to the city of Antwerp, Sirus is also active in projects for Paderborn, a city of 150,000 inhabitants in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the BlueArk in Switzerland, which is active in smart water management, and the two largest cities in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: the capital Luxembourg and the city of Esch. Furthermore, Sirus participates in the further development of IoT standards in the standardization organization ETSI (European Telecommunications and Standardization Institute).
“Sirus can openly and constructively think things through with us. When we have questions, they take them to heart and they show flexibility. They have knowledge and experience in IoT on a European level. We have only seen their know-how grow in the course of the projects. They helped compile the GIP, are jointly responsible for maintenance, and alert us for possible optimizations.”
Julie Van Nuwenborg – project leader digital innovations City of Antwerp
At Sirus, innovation is at our core. We strive to help build the smart cities of the future, and Antwerp City is now part of this innovative future. We are proud to be a part of this collaboration, and if you are to – be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for updates!