FIWARE is a framework of open source platform components which can be assembled with third-party platform components to accelerate the development of smart, IoT enabled solutions. These solutions need to gather, process, manage context information and to inform external actors or parties, enabling them to access and update the context and keep it current. The FIWARE Context Broker component is the core component of any “Powered by FIWARE” solution. A suite of additional platform components, which may be supplying context data from diverse sources such as a CRM system, social networks, mobile apps or IoT sensors for example, support the access control, processing, analysis, publication or monetization of data. For more information see www.fiware.org/developers. Since its inception FIWARE focused first on smart products, then connected products, and now enters the space of product systems or system of systems, also called web of systems.
Progress and Outlook
The FIWARE Global Summit 2018 was held in the Palaço da Bolsa (the building of the historical stock exchange) in Porto. The meeting was kicked off by Hubert Tardieu, president of the board of directors reported on the governance of the FIWARE Foundation:
-In 2017 the management was handed over from the European Commission to the current CEO Ulrich Ahle.
-NEC became a platinum member because of the importance of FIWARE for smart cities and smart industries in Japan and the rest of Asia.
-A memorandum of understanding was signed with the International Data Spaces Association (formerly Industry Data Space Association, or IDSA) and the first open-source-based implementation of the IDS Reference Architecture was created.
-ETSI released a preliminary specification of context information management standard API leveraging the FIWARE NGSI API, the standard for managing the lifecycle of context information.
Making FIWARE Easier to Understand
Mr. Tardieu further mentioned that external advisors recommended making FIWARE easier to understand, develop elevator pitches for target audiences. They also recommended to create more visibility and broaden the target industry verticals, in particular smart energy in particular electric power, which are important for smart cities and smart industry, which are already focus sectors.
Enforcing Data Protection with FIWARE and International Data Spaces
He commented that the next frontier to work on is the capability to control the usage of data after consumer has given his or her consent to use it. Certain levels of anonymization, aggregation, and the use of expiration dates will be needed to protect individuals. When transactions are stored in Hyperledgers such as blockchain, it is important to decide upfront which information is stored and which is (not stored but) linked-to in the ledger. The latter links are mutable and can be used to implement the right to be forgotten. FIWARE will be ready before the end of the year to make this possible. This addresses a real issue for smart solutions, illustrated by the fact that only three percent of smart electricity meters in France upload data, because of the lack of trust and capability to enforce data protection.
Spreading the Word
CEO Ulrich Ahle explained the FIWARE Foundation has been listening to developers and users. Their feedback was confirmed by independent reviewers. FIWARE needs to become easier to understand and the organization commissioned a video that explains that harmonized data models and API’s create interoperability between data sources and applications. FIWARE aims at breaking down information silos across sectors, technologies and applications, and has the objective to provide open source and freely accessible enablers, help transforming data in information, as well as enabling data economy, ensuring sovereignty of data owners.
Agreements for Cooperation
Mr. Ahle reported that at the Hannover fair, agreements were announced with ROS.org (fast RTPS technology, one of the FIWARE generic enablers is adopted as default middle ware in ROS2), IDSA (see above) and OPC Foundation (with whom a first OPC-UA agent has been developed enabling the integration of OPC-UA with the FIWARE Context broker). Mr Ahle further explained the governance of FIWARE Generic Enablers, to guarantee they comply with FIWARE requirements of reliability, scalability, support, roadmap and adoption.
He further explained that control of usage of user data mentioned above, will be based on IDS Reference Architecture 2.0, which enables the technical enforcement of policies and contracts.
Boosting the Digital Services Industry
David Raggett from W3C, known for his work on semantic interoperability, said seeing the opportunity for FIWARE to drive exponential growth of services through adoption of the web of things (or web of digital twins), and rely on linked data as framework for semantics, enabled using the FIWARE context broker. Data governance becomes very important, David said, not only to maintain data uploaded to cloud but keep it connected to correct metadata.
Smart Industry Sessions
After the plenaries the audience separated in smart cities, smart agriculture, smart industries and developer sessions. The smart industry sessions were composed of informative presentations followed by discussions between the panels of presenters and public. In first industry session, Sergio Gusmeroli of Politecnico Milano (Italy), pointed out that the alignment of RAMI 4.0, the IIC Reference Architecture, IDS and FIWARE implied the alignment of six pairs of concepts. Another industry panel focused on the projects that build upon earlier work on FIWARE. Several reference architectures were discussed building upon FIWARE and the IIRA, touching upon Edge, Fog and Cloud, and work on open analytics solutions to create value from IoT-data, independent from established providers.
FIWARE in the Industrial Smart Solutions Landscape
I presented the existing and emerging automation and instrumentation connectivity landscape, the impact of open standards such as the those of the Open Automation Forum and the Namur Open Architecture to illustrate how IIoT connectivity is currently approached currently. I believe FIWARE can complement the acquisition of IoT data from low-cost sensors outside of the real-time deterministic closed-loop control in critical operations that is, added for monitoring and optimization purposes only. When DDS enters the industrial landscape through Open Automation Forum standards, and FIWARE would be aligned with IIRA, it would be thinkable that FIWARE, natively built for publish and subscribe mechanisms, could provide connectivity to the real-time databus layers, equivalent to the current fieldbuses. In SME’s and situations where critical, dangerous processes are absent, FIWARE, in combination with OPC-UA, may already today offer a low-cost broadly applicable solution for the development of (I)IoT solutions enabling these companies to take part in the digital economy. The combination of open source FIWARE with IDS connectors for policy and contract enforcement might be of great help to SME’s that would lack resources to develop bespoke solutions.
In addition to the recommendations of the independent external advisors, ARC recommends to document use cases, distribute white papers on social media, participate more in industry fairs, contribute in industry associations, and brief industry analysts, to spread the word.
The FIWARE summit created awareness of this valuable resource that hadn’t significantly penetrated in the industrial automation conversations and literature, although it has significant adoption in smart cities and other sectors worldwide. It is definitely a technology to have on the radar to establish an industrial IoT strategy.
Valentijn de Leeuw
Vice President ARC Advisory Group, www.arcweb.com
Industry specialist Industrial Internet In Flanders www.3if.be