Smart City Application Enablement Platform

Kim Khoa Nguyen
January 9, 2018


Today, cities are largely considered as innovation drivers in areas such as health, environment, technology and business. The emerging concept of “smart cities” has quickly evolved beyond superficial use of the term for the purpose of pure city marketing, but shed more light in particular on the defining role of the digitally networked society and user-driven innovation.

A new holistic definition of a “smart” city is when “investments in human and social capital and traditional and modern Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)-based infrastructure fuel sustainable economic growth and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory government”[1].

Smart city enablement platform

In such future smart cities, an application enablement platform (SCAEP) is required to integrate Internet of Things (IoT), computing, and networking technologies to empower individuals, organizations, and society to realize the benefits latent in systems and data at scale. SCAEP enables real-time situational awareness in the urban system of systems by its ability to gather and integrate data at scale, securely and privately, from environmental, critical infrastructure, health and personal sensors. Analytics and learning services from the Business Intelligence layer when applied to historical and real-time data lead to better decision-making, and through open APIs, enable a vast array of smart applications that can be tailored to the specific needs and priorities of an urban community - economic, health, creative, cultural, governance, mobility, energy, safety, environmental. Virtualization of all resources (sensors, computing, programmable hardware, wireless/optical communications, GPUs, networking) and a software-defined approach to services allows SCAEP to ride advances in these enabling technologies, and to keep pace with increasing data volume/velocity, validity/veracity, and network/system diversity and complexity. To some extent, SCAEP is an eco-friendly platform that federates and interconnects a cluster of cities within a country and internationally.

Supporting IoT applications at scale in smart city

Today, IoT encompasses sensor/actuator devices that are connected to intelligent systems to create smart applications that assist decision-making and control autonomous behavior. IoT applications have attracted intense commercial interest, especially in industrial applications. IoT also plays a crucial role in smart cities. However, the first IoT systems address vertical industries that use incompatible protocols in IoT islands, falling short of the ultimate vision of a ubiquitous IoT. The potential for sensor networks to support multiple applications was recognized early on, and initial approaches used Service-Oriented Architecture approaches to enable service composition. Recent approaches use cloud computing to enable a broad range of IoT applications, and some proposals advocate edge computing to support IoT applications with real-time requirements.

Existing sensor technologies (loop detectors in roads, surveillance cameras in buildings and highways, crowdsourced tracking apps, smart meters) already provide hundreds of thousands of data streams in major cities. However, low-cost sensors, actuators, and wireless networks in IoT will lead to an explosion in the volume of sensor data in smart cities. Realizing the benefits of the smart city vision therefore requires dealing with the joint challenges of widely distributed data, connecting it with computing resources to extract intelligence and make decisions, and dispatching commands to take actions, all at scale.

The huge number of “things” in IoT implies that IPv6 is needed for devices that are directly connected to the Internet. However, “things” exist in highly dynamic, context-dependent, mobile, heterogeneous environments that IP has difficulty handling. ICN (Information-Centric Network) is preferred for data dissemination in IoT. ICN is a class of Future Internet protocols where packets are routed based on names rather than addresses. ICN addresses a central concern of IoT by allowing the network to work directly with named data and services. Mobility First (MF) and Named Data Networking (NDN) approaches that combine unique identifiers with dynamic ID-to-network address resolution are promising for smart city IoT.

Software-defined networking (SDN) is transforming networking. By separating the control plane from the data plane SDN allows an external controller to define the treatment of data flows in streamlined commodity switches. This leads to greater flexibility in the network services that can be provided and gives the operator much greater control over the flows in its network. SDN has been proposed to meet the needs of ICN. Virtualization of IoT with a view towards SDN has also been investigated recently. Intel’s OneM2M reference architecture for IoT infrastructure that includes sensor/actuators, gateways, fog computing, network, and cloud/datacenter has foreseen addition of containers, virtual machines (VMs) and SDN. In 2016, USIgnite and NIST introduced a SmartCity Challenge to bring together cities and researchers to tackle the following challenges in creating smart cities and sharing applications: Accommodating the scale of IoT; Achieving ultra-low latency; Leveraging SDN for resource slicing and data isolation; Enabling gigabit community nodes; Providing one-hop interconnection among testbed cities; Delivering responsiveness and availability to support cyber-physical systems; and low-latency applications using 5G and LTE networks. To realize smart cities, it is not enough to address these challenges separately; but a coordinated approach to these challenges by designing and deploying a SCAEP.

SCAEP use-case

The Open-Air Laboratory for Smart Living[2] is a testbed created by Videotron, a major Telco carrier in Canada, in 2016 in collaboration with Ericsson, the École de technologie supérieure (ETS) and Montréal’s Quartier de l’Innovation, to offer researchers, companies and residents a unique environment and the infrastructure for on-the-ground, real-world tests of technologies aiming to improve and simplify the daily life of Canadian ( As the first smart city model that leverages on 5G technology in Canada, the testbed is operated and orchestrated by a SCAEP co-developed by Ericsson and ETS (Figure 1). It supports IoT smart city applications coming from more than 20 companies, many of them are spin-offs and start-ups, classified into three categories. The first category regroups infrastructure providers, like gigabit access, LoRa (Low-Power radio) access, WiFi SON (Self-Organizing Network) access, visible light communication (LiFi) access, and public sensing access. The second category contains platform providers that rely on the infrastructure provided by the fist category to develop platforms for data collection and processing, like data-centric security platform, data analytic platform, image processing platform. The third category includes data exploring service providers that use data coming from the second category to develop their business intelligence, like air quality alarming service, emergency service, living experience service, utility management service, virtual event organizing services, and virtual economy service.

Figure 1: Open-Air Lab testbed.

Figure 1: Open-Air Lab testbed.




Kim Khoa NguyenKim Khoa Nguyen is Associate Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Quebec’s Ecole de technologie supérieure (ETS), Montreal, Canada. He received his Ph.D. degree from Concordia University. He served as CTO of Inocybe Technologies, and was the architect of the Canarie’s GreenStar Network and also involved in publishing CSA/IEEE standards for green ICT. He has worked for Alcatel Systems (now Nokia) and a nationwide operator in Asia-Pacific. His expertise includes smart city, cloud computing, IoT, big data, data center, network optimization, high speed networks, and green ICT.