CEA-Leti is coordinating a “Cloud of Things” (ClouT) project that is bringing together a group of European and Japanese companies, research institutes, universities, and cities—with the goal of creating “smart” cities.
Now that high-speed broadband infrastructure is well underway in many cities around the world, it enables the “Internet of Things” (IoT), which means users in these cities can connect everything—sensors, devices, mobile phones, and servers—to gather and share information in real-time to help manage the infrastructure, environment, traffic, emergency situations, and even society as a whole.
At the heart of the ClouT project are four cities: Santander, Spain; Genoa, Italy; and Fujisawa and Mitaka in Japan. The European Commission’s 7th Framework Program and Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology are jointly funding ClouT as a three-year project to help these four cities become “smarter.”
By combining cloud computing and IoT, the ClouT project will focus on developing infrastructure, services, tools, and applications for municipalities and their stakeholders, explains Levent Gürgen, CEA-Leti, R&D expert, research engineer, and project manager of ClouT.
One of the application domains targeted by ClouT, for example, is to encourage the citizens of these smart cities to become involved essentially as sensors themselves. “If someone discovers the sidewalk is broken or finds something that doesn’t work within the city, they can report it to the municipality simply by taking a photo of it and sending an email message that includes location information,” says Gürgen.
In Japan, where the population of elderly people is quite high, an application domain of great interest is the ability to use smart sensing to warn residents of adverse air quality or high temperatures, or even to notify them of social events that they may be interested in. “Another application domain of interest in Japan is emergency notification of natural disasters,” Gürgen says.
In Genoa, Italy, an application domain of interest is placing sensors along areas prone to flooding to detect any increases in water level, so that the city can send out real-time alerts to its citizens.
Capitalizing on cloud computing
Cloud computing enables so many things and, for this project in particular, it will be used to allow users process, store, and access information with unlimited processing and storage capacity. ClouT is integrating the latest advances in these domains and, with its user-based approach, will make it possible for the citizens of the four participating cities to create their own cloud services and share them with others.
ClouT’s industrial partners include IoT technology providers STMicroelectronics and Panasonic, as well as service and cloud providers Engineering in Italy and NTT R&D in Japan. The project’s two research centers, CEA-Leti in France and the National Institute of Informatics in Japan, share the goal of bringing cloud innovation to the industry.
And the two universities involved in the project, the University of Cantabria in Spain and the University of Keio in Japan, are both highly respected for their work in creating smart cities and wireless sensor actuator systems for context-aware applications.
Internet of Things becomes a reality
As commercial IoT products are just now starting to make an appearance, there are many special IoT products being created within the academic environment or within R&D centers—the list is quite exhaustive and they’re building really innovative new IoT applications. “IoT will become a reality quite soon—tens of billions of devices are expected to be connected by 2020, and these devices can provide huge amounts of useful data,” says Gürgen.
Another key aspect of the ClouT project involves the business model of cloud computing. “We’re planning to bring pay-per-use models to the IoT devices’ data, which opens the door to sharing data on the device with others,” says Gürgen. “In this way, citizens can be looped in and receive revenue from the use of their data. So it’s a technical enabler of cloud computing as well as a business model that provides cloud computing application tools to ClouT.”
Of course, any time you talk about cloud projects at this level, it’s a conversation that needs to include security of the data and users’privacy. “We place a high importance on security,” notes Gürgen. “One of our cloud partners, Engineering, will bring existing security techniques currently used in cloud computing.”
At the end of each year, ClouT will conduct field trials involving real end-users from the four pilot cities. They will be accepting feedback from developers and citizens, and then using that information to refine the system’s architecture to enhance it.
ClouT has a website, www.clout-project.eu, where you can view updates about the project and track its progress.