EPIC - European Platform for Intelligent Cities

Pieter Ballon, Wim Vanobberghen, Shenja van der Graaf, Wouter Van den Bosch

Research Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunicaton (SMIT)

The current economic crisis, combined with growing citizen expectations, is placing increasing pressure on European cities to provide better and more efficient infrastructures and services, often for less cost. Innovative, ICT-based solutions - particularly those created in the user driven, open innovation environments of Living Labs (LLs) - hold an important key to helping European cities resolve this dilemma and work ‘smarter’.

Following significant support from the European Commission (EC), LLs have proved to be an effective means to close the gap between innovative research and development (R&D) and market take up, and make the innovation process more efficient. Networks such as ENoLL and EC-funded initiative and best practice projects like Apollon have, in turn, helped to mainstream this new and important means of innovating.

Nowadays, six significant forces are re-shaping societies and governments across the world:
1. Changes in demographics;
2. Accelerating globalization;
3. Evolution of social networks;
4. Rising environmental concerns;
5. Growing threats to social and public stability and order;
6. Expanding impact of technology.

These six drivers share the need for the creation of flexible and interoperable solutions for effective government transformation. This need can be met using the principles and methodologies of “Enterprise Architecture”.

Despite these strides, however, the outputs from LLs still remain relatively fragmented – making it hard for European cities to learn from one another and for SME’s to market innovative new, user-driven applications in a scalable and cost effective manner. EPIC aims to address this short-coming head-on by creating an open, pan-European platform for web-based ‘business process and application as a service’ that enables ‘smart cities’ to learn from one another and exchange practical working models in a real-life context. In this sense, EPIC represents a logical ‘next step’ in EU policy in that it is intentionally designed by SME’s and larger industry players to operationalise the benchmarking work of pioneering projects like Apollon.

As in any other industry, government and governmental organizations are challenged to fulfil their mandates in a more effective, efficient and standardized manner. As a result, e-Government will be transformative and become citizen- rather than government-focused in delivering both emergency- and non-emergency public services. In general, citizen and business constituents’ expectations and cost optimization needs require an always increasing integration between governmental and non-governmental organizations with the ultimate objective of presenting to the citizen and to the business a ‘single-image Government’ they can deal with as a single virtual organization.

The EPIC platform will combine the industrial strength of IBM’s ‘Smart City’ vision, the IBM Government Industry Framework as the governance and interoperability platform and a cloud computing infrastructure with the knowledge and expertise of leading European LL’s and municipalities such as Apollon partners IBBT iLab.o, ISSY-Media and Manchester to ensure the development of a European ‘innovation ecosystem’ that provides an extensive range of opportunities for sustainable, user-driven web-based services for citizens and businesses. At the same time, the EPIC project as a whole will help to significantly accelerate the uptake of these new business and e-government services across Europe to create and disseminate a robust roadmap that will help cities across Europe upscale from the LL environment to a real-life urban deployment.

The EPIC team understands that to be truly ‘smart’, a city must be able to easily access and leverage the benefits of SME and citizen-driven and tested services as well as to anticipate and plan for powerful new innovations such as the Internet of Things (IOT) and Future of the Internet which will, among other things, enable them to digitize and connect their infrastructures in a manner that infuses them with intelligence.

Ultimately, EPIC will combine i) user-driven open innovation, ii) connected smart cities and iii) web-based services in the following manner:
1. Living Labs partners will engage citizens and SME’s in the innovation process to help drive creation of the type of ‘Apple iPhone’ services that citizens, businesses and city visitors want and are potentially willing to pay for.
2. Cities partners will work to plug existing and new co-designed web-based services into the open EPIC platform so that other cities, such as relative newcomers like Tirgu-Mures in Romania, can easily connect to the platform and use them.
3. Consultant and scientific partners will use findings from pilot trials to help create a business-oriented, public-private partnership roadmap that incorporates a variety of differing business models from open source, to pay per use and licensing.

EPIC has two main target groups: i) the Cities and their LL partners and ii) the Citizens and Businesses either located in the city or visiting it.
i) Cities and Living Labs need to migrate rapidly to a ‘smart’, industrial strength web-based service delivery infrastructure in a scalable and cost-efficient manner enabling to access easily new innovative applications from across Europe.
ii) Citizens and businesses require user-driven and localized government services that are on a par with other private sector offerings when it comes to their operational speed, functionalities, customisation, personalisation level and similar.

EPIC will help to fulfil both these needs by using the IBM Smart City Cloud as the basis for a robust, pan-European service delivery platform that will enable Cities/Living Labs and SME’s to use and share rapidly prototyped, tested and user co-designed applications. In addition EPIC will create a practical, business-tested roadmap to help cities in using the platform and enable them to bring services to markets across Europe through sustainable business models such as ‘Public-Private Partnerships’.

The main use of EPIC focuses on two user categories. The first category consists of the typical city and LL who will be able to use relevant authentication protocols to access the administrative back office, and fill in a ‘Smart City Information’ template that includes all relevant service data for the City or connects to relevant live data feeds. Moreover, it will be possible to add the template to the EPIC platform database and plug-in or upload new user driven applications using common interfaces. Finally, cities and LLs will use standard template to customize and use applications of other cities handling ongoing actives such as updating and maintenance. The second user category consists of the typical citizens and businesses. They will be able to use the device of choice i.e. internet, mobile, TV to access the EPIC platform URL and to easily access and use the service of choice. Standard Web 2.0 tools as well as future internet ‘things’ will give the opportunity to this user category to contribute new content on topics of interest.

EPIC innovatively combines cloud computing and industry frameworks technology, IOT middleware, and semantic capabilities to create a flexible and scalable pan-European Service Delivery Platform that can be used to ‘plug ‘n play’ EPIC’s pilot services. These Internet-and open-standard-based web services reflect a balanced mix of state-of-the-art technologies, including IOT, RFID, 3D, semantics and geo-localization.


01/11/2010 - 01/03/2013