Barcelona's Sentilo smart city the first built by a municipality

Barcelona has bucked the almost irresistible trend to let an external agency design a ‘smart city,’ and instead has done it itself. The result is an open source software suite called Sentillo and already it has been adopted by two other Spanish cities.

The design relies almost entirely on the range of Waspmote sensors from Spain’s Libelium and if lots of other cities follow the Barcelona lead, this should mean a dramatic uptick in sales for the company.

Libelium has recently unveiled a raft of new products including upgrades to its most famous product, the Waspmote sensor, which is essentially a micro controller and an antenna that users can attach any of 70 sensors to.

Sentilo claims to be the first smart city platform developed by a municipality and the Barcelona City Council designed Sentilo to monitor noise and air pollution, starting out in a large public square in the city. It has since rolled out its deployment further. It is an open source project whose name is derived from the Esperanto translation of ‘sensor.’ The source code is freely available from its website and is mirrored on GitHub and Sentilo has also been deployed in Reus and Terrassa.

In terms of the system architecture, the Libelium Waspmotes transmit the data they collect back to the Sentilo platform via ZigBee and 802.15.4 in 868MHz and 900MHz, as well as using WiFi, BLE and 3G/GPRS. The data is backhauled by the Meshlium hub, which can be linked to Sentilo by Ethernet, WiFi or 3G/GPRS. The Meshlium gateway stores the collated data locally in case it loses its connection with the cloud software. It is driven by Power over Ethernet, which can be delivered from an AC power line, DC battery or solar panel, or even a car cigarette lighter plug. The gateway uses an Atheros AR5213A IEEE 802.11b/g or 802.11 a/b/g chipset and runs an open source Linux OS called the Manager Meshlium System.

Environmentally rated at IP65 (waterproof and dustproof level), each Meshlium can operate in a temperature range of -20C to +50C and should prove capable of keeping the Waspmote’s connected to the cloud in most of the weather conditions that Barcelona is likely to see in the future. But in our opinion the City could have pushed the envelope where and opted more for full industrial temperature range, say -40C to +100C, and other cities may certainly need that, which might need some design changes.

The Meshlium can be used in other implementations as a ZigBee to Ethernet router, ZigBee to 3G/GPRS router, WiFi access point, WiFi mesh node (hence the name), WiFi to 3G router, Bluetooth scanner and analyzer, a GPS-3G real-time tracker and a smartphone scanner to detect iOS and Android devices by their MAC addresses. This sort of device, with its multitudinous deployment possibilities, is key to building a sustainable and flexible IoT network architecture ‘ especially a network that could be rolled out across an entire city and support multiple simultaneous device deployments.

The Waspmotes themselves are also IP65 rated and are designed to be highly modular to allow a sensor to be removed or added in seconds, although that functionality is rather redundant in IoT deployments which are entirely designed to be installed and left alone for years at a time or in perpetuity. They are also programmable over the air, and can be run by battery and solar panels.

So far, Libelium’s involvement with the Sentilo platform has been a success according to both parties. ‘Our cooperation began months ago when Libelium was selected as one of the vendors for a Smart Cities project in Barcelona to control the environmental impact on a public construction project,’ said Alicia Asin, the Libelium CEO. ‘Thanks to our successful integration and the interest received from other cities for the solution, we have decided to include a Sentilo connection in the Meshlium gateway to allow other customers to benefit.’

‘The main goal of the Sentilo platform is to make it easy for cities to integrate data from different sensors and facilitate Smart City deployments,’ said Jordi Cirera, Sentilo’s project manager for Barcelona City Council. ‘With Sentilo and Libelium’s products working together in an open, interoperable sensor infrastructure, new opportunities are now open to any city that does not wish to pay the price of closed, proprietary solutions.’

In Libelium’s other announcements, it unveiled support for new interface modules for the Waspmote including RS-232, RS-485, CAN Bus and Modbus. These interfaces are frequently found in ‘industrial automation, building automation, military and automobile applications and factory floor environments.’ The new industrial protocol modules and API libraries will enable the sensors to connect industrial devices to the cloud.

It also said that it had improved the MAC address tracking capability of the Meshlium gateway from 70% of devices to 95% of all smartphones, tablets, hands-free devices and laptops. Thanks to a reduced minimum time between scanning intervals, down from 20 seconds to 1, the gateway is also better able to track traffic by passing Bluetooth, cellular and WiFi connections. The latest update to the Meshlium software has also added the ability to gather data from any radio that performs a HTTP or HTTPS request.

Libelium has added a turbidity sensor to the Waspmote water sensor range, which allows the sensor to detect the haziness of a fluid caused by individual solid particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye. The Nephelometric Turbidimeter uses light beams to gauge the quality of the water, and is intended for use in deployments such as waste water treatment, sanitation networks, industrial effluent treatment, surface water monitoring and the slightly more glamorous and cleanly aquaponics and hydroponics.

This is the latest addition to the Plug and Sense Waspmote sensors, which now include environment, water, cities, parking, agriculture, security, ambient control, radiation control and smart metering.