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Citibrain: The key to smart monitoring Porto air quality

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In 2015, the City of Porto adopted FIWARE standards, becoming capable of collecting and aggregating data from different providers. Afterwards, Citibrain – a Portuguese consortium focused on Smart Cities solutions – deployed 75 Air Quality stations in the city, monitoring the environmental conditions in real time.

As a distinctly innovative city and the hometown to a number of innovative projects aimed at unlocking the full potential of technologies in urban scenarios, Porto is part of the Open and Agile Smart Cities (OASC) initiative (according to its website, “a global initiative connecting cities, advocating de facto standards, and sharing best practices”). In the past years, Porto has been investing in an open platform to integrate all IoT solutions and data collected throughout the different projects tested in the city, with the main goal of supporting open standards capable of integrating the several solutions from the different vendors and not being dependent on only one.

As Filipe Araújo, head of the Innovation and Environment Councils of Porto’s municipality, explained, “to integrate several solutions from different companies without having open standards would not be possible”. Thus, in the beginning of 2015, Porto city adopted FIWARE  (a worldwide open-source community, bootstrapped by the EU) standards, becoming capable of storing and sharing the data received (about traffic, air quality, atmospheric conditions, transportation flows, among others) from the different providers in a harmonised and interoperable way. In addition, it was able to provide Open APIs for software developers, management tools for city officers as well as live dashboards and apps for citizens.  

This was the perfect opportunity for companies with smart solutions to improve this ecosystem created by the city of Porto, since data from different sources could now be seamlessly correlated and integrated thanks to FIWARE. Citibrain seized the opportunity and provided the city with its Smart Air Quality solution, with both air quality stations and a SaaS (Software-as-a-service) web platform. However, it was not only a stationary way of monitoring air quality, it was more than that. In total, 75 fixed and mobile units (i.e. installed on top of buses) of air quality monitoring stations were deployed. The air quality stations could collect data regarding air quality (CO, CO2, NO2, O3, VOCs and Particles), temperature, humidity, luminosity and solar radiation, noise pollution, precipitation, wind speed and direction. These communicated through the city’s public Wi-Fi network and were able to integrate with the open data platform mentioned above.


Air quality monitoring station in Porto, Portugal

The interoperability of Citibrain’s innovative solution allowed the interaction with other existing IoT solutions, creating a systems network capable of monitoring and controlling the city’s dynamics. Citibrain achieves this by implementing the NGSI open standard, which defines how to manage context in a Smart City (i.e., how to publish data generated by devices as well as how to access it and receive notifications whenever the data is updated). This leads to the possibility of an application’s ecosystem developed through technological initiatives, such as new strategies and technological solutions in the city, linking the Air Quality data obtained through the Smart Air Quality system with different data from other solutions (such as the traffic flow, geolocated touristic events, or even for multimodal travel planning).

By investing in this area, not only does the City of Porto improve its image, by enhancing its reputation as a modern and innovative city, but it also attracts more investment and companies. Better air quality leads to a better quality of life, something to take into consideration when evaluating cities by their quality of life rankings (e.g Bloom Consulting). Air quality monitoring in real time increases the citizens’ awareness about the importance of breathing clean air, helps reducing the probability of chronical diseases and premature deaths by leading to a change in behavior (e.g. switching from the private car to public transportation with the purpose of reducing the CO2 emissions). The City Council, with the available data and information, can adopt environmental strategies and public policies, in order to preserve the Planet Earth and the city’s patrimony for future generations.

Concluding, on the one hand, Porto had now multiple mobile units in buses, reaching and monitoring every corner, transmitting the results in real time to the central system. Thus, Porto’s decision-makers could now take immediate action to improve their city. And, on the other hand, the project had several advantages for Citibrain and its ecosystem. With this deployment, the consortium proved that its Smart Air Quality solution was at the operational level, validating its efficiency for the purpose. This has lead to an increase on the technology resilience level and, in addition, proved that the smart solution is FIWARE compliant, something that is more and more popular amongst municipalities and public tenders. Furthermore, new projects always mean new knowledge and, with this logic in mind, Citibrain has gained a lot of expertise and know-how.

The live dashboard can be accessed here.

Web dashboard showing geolocated information available through FIWARE technology and standards


Why Smart Cities?

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The recent and rapid growth of the urban population, along with economic and technological changes caused by globalisation, have led to many challenges and opportunities for services offered by the cities and their infrastructures. These are some of the primary drivers for the development of Smart Cities.

Smart Cities intend to the reduction of cities’ ecosystem challenges such as: main resources management including energy, mobility, environment and non-environmental in order to improve citizens lifestyle and health.

They aim to exploit the opportunities offered by the recent and the future technological advances of the XXI century. The world economy is globally integrated into based-services level, and metropolitan areas are the epicentre of such integration. As the regions with the highest level of population and buildings, cities consequently drag all the leading socio-economic features enhancing these places with all kinds of competitiveness and development needed for sustainable growth.

Additionally, recent updates in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), in line with the reduction of its costs such as with mobile devices, free social media and Big Data/OpenData, provide the cities with opportunities and tools to better understand, communicate and predict their urban functions. The primary goal of a Smart City is to create integrated smart solutions, enhancing citizens and cities sustainable growth, delivering unified solutions for urban areas, adding intelligence to diverse domains of the city life.