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Cartagena is on track to meet Europe 20-20-20 targets with CEF Context Broker


©Adobe Stock by alexanderkonsta


  • City: Cartagena, region of Murcia, Spain
  • Challenge: How to meet goals in sustainable development while keeping expenses in check?
  • Solution: Context-Broker based smart platform for making informed decisions
  • CEF Building Block: Context Broker


Citizen well-being through sustainable development

Cartagena is a coastal city located in the south-east of Spain with more than 250,000 inhabitants and a big industrial park in the vicinity of its port. Lately, citizen well-being has been challenged by high levels of particulate matter and pollutant gases, as well as climate change-induced extreme weather conditions. These conditions, such as high temperatures, reduced rainfall and even droughts, have led to increased water consumption, which in this region now stands at 17 litres higher per citizen than the national monthly average. To curb excessive water usage, the city raised the price of water, but this greatly increased expenses for households and local farmers, many of whom had to downsize their fields. 

The situation has left the government of Cartagena to seek more creative ways to curb water usage while meeting its goals in sustainable development and citizen well-being. Turning to technology, Cartagena found Context Broker – Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) Building Block  that gathers data in real-time from smart applications and sensors to one smart platform. This solution allows the city's decision makers to be aware of conditions in real-time, hence making it possible to react and adjust plans faster and more dynamically. The resulting air pollution mitigation strategies and reduced water consumption have also contributed to the city in meeting its ambitious goals towards the European union's '20-20-20’ climate and energy targets.

Monitoring water, air and weather

Cartagena’s solution relies on a vast amount of data to enable the real-time monitoring of water consumption, air quality and weather conditions. CEF Context Broker is key in consolidating the data coming from multiple sources and contextualising data for meaningful analyses, such as real-time conditions and past trends. The solution was designed and deployed by HOP Ubiquitous, a local SME specialised in providing sustainable cities with data-driven environmental services. Context Broker was used to consolidate data from the following two main solution areas:

  • Smart water management system for parks and gardens, consisting of:
    • Sensors: for real-time monitoring of soil moisture and weather parameters
    • Actuators: water meters, electro valves and flow meters
    • A remote management tool: for irrigation programmes (manual, scheduled and smart), creation of watering restrictions, management of user profiles, identification of system components, leak detection, alerts and notifications etc.
  • Air quality and weather monitoring network for real-time monitoring of environmental parameters and air pollution from industry that may endanger urban liveability and sustainability:
    • Pollutant gases: CO, O3, NO2, SO2
    • Particulate matter: PM1, PM2.5 and PM10
    • Weather parameters: monitored by weather stations

The data gathered and managed by Context Broker is visualised in a variety of different dashboards for the benefit of the city’s decision makers.

Benefits of the solution

“The smart irrigation and air quality monitoring solutions built with CEF Context Broker and the FIWARE ecosystem allow our city managers both to create efficient air pollution mitigation strategies, thanks to an early detection of harmful air pollutants from traffic and industry, and to carry out an efficient management of urban irrigation water. Consequently, we are approaching the expected targets in air pollution and water usage for 2020” - Vicente Pardo, Chief of Programs & Studies, Infrastructures City Council Department, Cartagena.

All in all, Cartagena has seen a 40% reduction in water consumption and a decrease of 25% in the use of irrigation water, while the city’s green areas have flourished. These results are helping Cartagena meet its sustainability goals in water consumption and air pollution related to the European Union’s ‘20-20-20’ climate and energy targets20% reduction in energy consumption, 20% increase in the use of renewable energies and 20% reduction in CO2 emissions.

How has the city achieved this? Context Broker makes the underlying data collected from various sources available and easily accessible for holistic analyses that search and combine data from different domains, IoT devices and time spans. This allows Cartagena’s city authorities to make fact-based decisions and plan new sustainable development strategies for increased quality of life and preservation of natural resources. The city can easily adjust irrigation depending on real-time soil moisture, reduce vehicle speed limits in metropolitan areas, strategically plan new green zones, or plant autochthonous trees to reduce the CO2.

How Context Broker is being used

CEF Context Broker is at the heart of the smart city platform. As the Context Broker comes with a standardised open API (NGSIv2 REST API) developed by FIWARE, it was quick and easy to integrate it with FIWARE-ready IoT devices using FIWARE’s complementary data models. This makes it effortless to build scalable and standards-compliant vertical smart services that use real-time and time-series data to meet the needs of smart cities.

Illustration courtesy of Cartagena

After heterogeneous data sources are integrated in the single platform, Context Broker contextualises data based on user needs. This means organising data in a way that produces meaningful information:

  • advanced queries, such as filtering data based on time, attribute or geolocation; and
  • combining data across domains, such as air pollutants or weather events with soil moisture, or real-time data with historical data.

Context Broker’s wide range of functionalities, such as updates, queries, registrations, subscriptions and notifications, help users retrieve, discover and access information as needed. One of the main features of Context Broker is the publish and subscribe system. The system allows context producers (entities managing IoT devices) to publish data by invoking update operations, while subscribing sends out notifications when any of the monitored conditions change.

From Context Broker, queried data is exported to Grafana, an open source tool, for data visualisation and analysis by city authorities. Data is exported through Cygnus (also a part of CEF Context Broker) and QuantumLeap. These tools provide connectors to a wide range of databases and ensure data’s availability for creating different data-driven smart services.

Technical advantages of implementing a smart-city solution with Context Broker:

  • Open-source IoT platform – developed by a large community
  • Based on standards – OMA NGSI recognised as standard by the European Commission
  • No vendor-lock in – ensures interoperability of the smart platform
  • Data contextualisation – harmonisation of data from different data sources
  • Basis for development – easy to integrate applications on top, based on an open API
  • Established ecosystem – variety of applications and services already available through CEF, FIWARE and their partners (FIWARE-ready IoT devices)
  • Interoperability – with main IoT protocols (MQTT, LoRa, Ultralight or OMA LwM2M) and generic databases (relational and non-relational, indexed by time or geolocation)

Images of hardware equipment and selected dashboards powered by Context Broker

How can CEF help you?

Context Broker collects and manages IoT data to make it easily accessible, so that you can develop new data-driven services for real-time monitoring and management of resources. If you’re interested in using Context Broker for a project of your own, we would be happy to help you get started. 

Last updated on  Jan 20, 2021 17:11
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