Ulrich Ahle (CEO) highlights the valuable work of his organization just before the FIWARE Global Summit, which will take place in Vienna in a few days
There may be a before and after the FIWARE Global Summit, scheduled for June 12-13 in Vienna. On the eve of its start, The Smart City Journal had the honor of approaching the CEO of FIWARE FOUNDATION to highlight the work carried out by this institution.
Ulrich Ahle is undoubtedly one of the great gurus in the IT sector and one of its most reputable executives. With a long professional career since graduating from the University of Paderborn, a reference in the Information Society, he has accumulated achievements in companies such as Nixdorf, Siemens, and Atos. Now, at FIWARE Foundation, he is leading the future.
TSCJ.- How did FIWARE manage to build its own ecosystem that attracted participation from major companies, and what message did FIWARE convey to achieve this level of success?
Ulrich Ahle.- The FIWARE technology was originally developed in a Public Private Partnership of the European Commission with several European companies, universities, and research organizations. It was called the ‘Future Internet PPP’. This is by the way where the FI in FIWARE is coming from. The FIWARE Foundation was created at the end of 2016 to bring the investment of more than 500 million euros into a sustainable future and to increase the market adoption of the technology.
In the meantime, FIWARE-based solutions are used around the world in domains like Smarty City, Smart AgriFood, Smart Industry, Smart Energy, and Smart Water. For example, in Smart City, more than 350 cities around the world are using FIWARE-based solutions for their digitization positioning FIWARE as the globally leading Open Source technology in this domain.
The message is simple: Open Source, standard data interfaces, and data models are reducing dramatically the vendor lock-in effect and creating the lowest cost of ownership for the end users based on a variety of offerings from different vendors which can be easily combined.
All of these as well as the latest insights on digital transformation based on recognized Open Source technology, dozens of running innovation projects and reference implementations from Smart Cities and successful projects in AgriFood, Manufacturing, Energy, Water, Tourism, and Ports will be presented at the annual FIWARE Global Summit, this year, taking place on 12-13 June in Vienna.
TSCJ.- Does the FIWARE Foundation serve as an objective organization or is it an embodiment of perpetual freedom, resembling a big tech lobby to some extent?
Ulrich Ahle.- FIWARE is an objective organization driven by more than 600 members from all over the world. These members include big technology companies like Amazon Web Services, NEC, and ATOS but also a lot of SMEs, startups, and universities. Independent of the size: one member has one voice and the FIWARE ecosystem is driven by openness and meritocracy.
TSCJ - How does FIWARE develop Smart Cities using innovative technologies, such as those based on Open Source?
Ulrich Ahle.- First, I need to underline that the FIWARE Foundation itself is not providing any digital platforms or smart solutions, or commercial services. The deliverables of the Foundation are Open Source software building blocks, standard APIs, common data models, and reference architectures for the application domains described above. All of this is open source, available on Github and can be used by everyone free of charge and forever. This is also true for cities although the majority of cities to enable Smart Cities are working together with partners of the FIWARE ecosystem. They have already used the before-mentioned components and have created digital platforms and smart solutions out of it. The FIWARE Marketplace today presents 26 different digital platforms like Smart City platforms and more than 200 solutions (like Smart Parking, Smart Waste Management, Smart Lighting, Smart Mobility, Smart Agrifood, and many others) and services.
TSCJ.- And what about Data Spaces for Smart Cities? How does it work and what role does FIWARE play here?
Ulrich Ahle.- FIWARE is one of the main drivers for the creation of Data Spaces based on European values not only in Smart Cities. Together with the Big Data Value Association, Gaia-X, and the International Data Space Association, FIWARE created the Data Spaces Business Alliance (DSBA) by the end of September 2021 and published a ‘Technology Convergence’ document describing how interoperable Data Spaces based on the architectures and components of the four organizations can be built.
By the end of 2022, the European Commission selected a consortium, with the DSBA members at its core, to manage the 'Data Spaces Support Centre'. This center is responsible for providing the architectural framework for creating interoperable Data Spaces in various domains, including Smart Cities, Energy, Mobility, and Manufacturing. Separate consortia have been chosen for each domain-specific Data Space to facilitate its creation, utilizing input from the Data Spaces Support Centre. Thus, FIWARE plays a central role in enabling the creation of interoperable Data Spaces and driving the future data economy.
TSCJ.- Considering the rapid evolution of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, the Metaverse, and Blockchain, how does the FIWARE Foundation keep pace with these advancements?
Ulrich Ahle.- All of these topics hold strategic significance for FIWARE. While digital platforms grant access to data, they do not inherently generate value. This value is created by smart solutions that leverage Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics. For instance, in a Smart City, such solutions can enhance citizens' quality of life or reduce operational costs. Blockchain, along with other distributed ledger technologies, facilitates data security and data sovereignty. The integration of robots in factories and the use of functionalities like chatbots automate processes. Additionally, efforts are being made to integrate the digital twin concept into the Metaverse, although there is still progress to be made in this area.
All of this cannot be done by the FIWARE Foundation and its core team alone. This is a work of the global Open Source developer ecosystem of FIWARE which is managed by a Technical Steering Committee led by the Chief Technology Officer of the FIWARE Foundation.
TSCJ.- Lastly, when it comes to advocating for business opportunities, would you be willing to take a stand and place your bets on the three (or more) sectors that hold the highest potential?
Ulrich Ahle.- This decision was already made by the Board of Directors of the FIWARE Foundation when it was established at the end of 2016: Smart City, Smart Industry, and Smart AgriFood were the three business opportunities that were selected to focus on at the beginning. In 2020 Smart Energy and then in 2022 Smart Water were added. This focus was necessary to be able to create global momentum. We strongly believe that a global acceptance and global adoption of the FIWARE open technology is important for a sustainable future of the FIWARE ecosystem.
And The Smart City Journal will be in Vienna to tell you all about it.
Esther Fuldauer (www.thesmartcityjournal.com)