ARC was recently briefed by Ulrich Ahle, CEO, Juan José Hierro, CTO, and Cristina Brandstetter, CMO of the FIWARE organization. This blog emphasizes the technical aspects and their implications, where we will mix introductory content with recent developments communicated during the briefing. The blog concludes with highlights of FIWARE’s three-year strategy.
FIWARE: What it is, and What it Enables
FIWARE started with a framework of open-source platform components that can be assembled with third-party platform-compliant components to accelerate the development of smart, IoT-enabled solutions. These solutions need to gather, process, manage context information and inform external actors or parties, enabling them to access and update the context and keep it current. Context information are entities, characterized by attributes that can have values, for example, an entity car, with attributes, for example, speed with value 100 and location with values representing geospatial coordinates.
The FIWARE “Orion” Context Broker component is the core component of any “Powered by FIWARE” solution. This component includes an information model that can be configured by the user without programming or “borrowing” from the FIWARE-led Smart Data Model initiative. The user can interact with the context broker via a REST API, according to the NGSIv2 or NGSI-LD standards issued by ETSI.
This flexible “information context management” can be used to build digital twins, those of the type describing the information associated with an asset. As the data structures can handle estimations of values of attributes in the future, these can be linked to simulations that can provide those estimations. This would be a structured approach of linking simulations with asset information. Nothing withholds the user from documenting the location and the versions of the simulator to obtain a complete and consistent document of static, predicted, and possibly historical asset information. We would not suggest using context information to store process historical data, however just as in the case of “future data,” links to those can be documented with the asset information. FIWARE can be used in any vertical and is most often used in smart cities and mobility, smart industry (which includes smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0), smart energy, smart agri-food, and smart water.
FIWARE Connectors include connectivity to sensors (for instance IoT agents connecting IoT sensors), field instruments (with agents using OPC-UA connectors), robots, and classical on-premises applications such as CMMS, SCM, or MES/MOM. Connectors further include the context broker, and optionally stream processing engines, and connectivity to cloud platforms and smart applications in the cloud. The connector thereby provides great flexibility in connectivity without requiring programming.
FIWARE is applicable to all verticals and is the leader for context management in smart cities worldwide. Significantly, after a few years of experimentation with smart city platforms, the Indian smart city program (IUDX) decided on a countrywide unified platform based on FIWARE for future smart city implementations to gain efficiencies and synergies.
In smart industry solutions, the FIWARE context broker can be used to synchronize information between edge and cloud; and decouple cloud applications or services that use subsets of the same information pool. FIWARE supports smart industry users by providing information on performance under high loads (high frequency, high volume industrial data), and implementation guidelines to optimize for these high loads. Other FIWARE enablers can provide additional open-source applications, such as WIRECLOUD for dashboarding.
The context broker can be used across companies or organizational boundaries, while guaranteeing the control of owners over their data, via identity and API management. FIWARE demonstrated the capability to implement IDS-compliant data space connectors in the past. Building on these components and this experience, FIWARE has recently published an architecture for FIWARE-enabled data spaces. However, different implementations of the IDS reference architecture may not always be interoperable. To stimulate the usage of data spaces for the exchange of information among companies, the four major organizations in Europe promoting data spaces, IDSA, FIWARE, GAIA-X, and the Big Data Value Association (BDVA), have created the Data Spaces Business Alliance this week, providing a common reference model and harmonizing technologies; supporting users with tools, resources, and expertise; identifying existing and future data spaces, and promoting best practices, such as the recently published Design Principles for Data Spaces.
FIWARE has the vision to become the global enabler for the Data Economy. The strategy to reach that vision has the following pillars:
• Growing the market readiness of the technology, by increasing functionality, performance, and quality of the components in the open-source portfolio.
• Focused support of vertical industry domains, in order of priority: smart cities and mobility, smart industry, smart energy, smart agri-food, and smart water.
• Globalization, through partnerships with existing global members, promoting the NGSI standard with NIST and leveraging the FIWARE iHubs.
ARC observes that the FIWARE open-source platform has increased in maturity, both in terms of technology readiness for smart industry applications and also as a globalizing organization. The market vision and technology concepts seem very sound and promising to us. We encourage users to interrogate companies and applied research organizations about their experience with FIWARE and determine how the platform can add value. Because FIWARE is an open-source platform, the cost of using the technology is limited to building knowledge and implementing applications, a considerable advantage.