How Braga, Portugal Is Using IoT and Cisco DevNet to Become a Smart City
Digital transformations are everywhere around us – innovative uses of digital technology that generate real improvements for people. I often wonder about the story behind the transformation. How did they figure out the right technology to use, and the right partners? This is the story behind the story of how Cisco DevNet (and specifically DevNet Express events) helped the right people get together with the right code to realize a meaningful transformation.
Give me a moment to talk about the city and how the innovation came about. Then, I’ll get to the details of the story behind the story, and the steps you can take to turn your innovation into a cool story.
The Story of Braga and Technology
The Historic city of Braga, Portugal, has about 140,000 residents. The people that live there are, on average, young, with Braga being the European Youth Capital in 2012. The city itself, is very old. It was part of the Roman Empire and was named, “Bracara Augusta” back then. The architecture in the city is incredible.
But, just because Braga is an old city, doesn’t mean it can’t be a smart city. And that is exactly what Ricardo Rio, the current mayor of Braga, is making it. Ricardo is the kind of mayor I want to have for my town. He cares about the people. He considers it his responsibility to make life better for the people. And, his actions completely support this perspective. He walks the talk.
One of the challenges that he is helping with is the improvement of their public transportation system. They have a fleet of buses, which are getting old. Buses were showing up late, uncomfortably hot or cold, and even broken down with people on them. These, along with other things have caused some frustration for the passengers. And, these problems get the spotlight when one realizes that it affects the cities well-being. It was plainly obvious that something needed to be done.
Braga, like many other cities, depends partly on tourism. The people want their city to be clean. They want the public transportation system to be a good experience and reduce traffic in their streets. They want to use technology to improve life for themselves and their guests. If your city needs its public transportation to be better, its environment to be cleaner, and its streets to be less congested, then maybe this story will inspire you. Below is a little video we made showing the technology transformation happening in Braga.
Cisco DevNet Prepared the Way
This story about technology didn’t just happen accidently. It all started with a person that had some forward-thinking vision I’d like to tell you about. Sofia Tenreiro, from the video above, started paving the way for this innovation nearly two years ago. You see, she, like other technology leaders, knew that this was possible. She knew that there would come a time when people would start to wonder, “What technology is out there to help us solve this problem?”. So, she and her team, started putting on educational seminars.
Sofia had learned that there was a Cisco developer community called DevNet. DevNet is the place people go to learn about developing custom solutions with Cisco APIs. And, she had learned that DevNet makes it possible for people to attend free learning events which are called, “DevNet Express” events. Sofia, as the General Manager of Cisco in Portugal, decided that her team would make DevNet Express Events happen in her country. It was these events, which paved the way for this effort and which could be the first step for you in your journey to an interesting innovation.
Cisco DevNet Express Educational Events
If this is starting to sound interesting, let me give you just a bit more information. The technical wizards at IBM attended a couple of these DevNet Express events. It was here that they learned there were Cisco APIs, which intersected with their software and expertise. They learned that the Cisco network platform could help them develop an IoT solution, like the one for the city of Braga.
So now you know that this Smart City solution happening in Braga was born of technology experts from IBM attending DevNet Express Events in Portugal. In my opinion, that’s an obvious first step to innovation; attend a Cisco DevNet Express Event.
At DevNet Express Events, you listen and learn from Cisco Technical Experts, and then ‘get your hands dirty’ by putting your learnings into practice and completing missions (labs). When missions are completed, your ID badge is stamped, and you win prizes! DevNet Express Events are typically 2 days long. They’re fast and furious. Each one covers a specific technology. They provide a ‘taster’, allowing you to then follow-up on your newly-found skills by using the additional resources available through DevNet.
It’s Not Just the Events! It’s also the Technology
It’s not just the events. The Cisco DevNet portal has even more information than what is available at these road shows. And, we have dozens of experts monitoring the spark rooms, provided on the web site, to answer questions. If you want to learn and innovate, DevNet is making it as easy as possible.
One of my favorite technologies is inside the Cisco switches and routers – they’ve changed. Cisco has made it possible to run Python code right on our devices. And, given that this is done in a Linux environment, on the device, you can even access the serial ports on the router almost identical to the way you would do it on a Linux computer. In other words, you have everything you need on a Cisco IR 829 router to be able to get data from IoT devices on serial ports, look at that data right there at the edge of the network, and then convert that data and ship it off to an IBM Watson analytics back end for processing. It is, exactly as IBM Chief Architect, Frederico Muñoz said in the video above. It is very powerful.
Below is a simplified architecture diagram of what the Cisco, IBM and TUB team is building in Braga. In the diagram, the green colored items are IBM items and custom development. In Blue is the Cisco platform along with its APIs. And in orange, are some additional items used in this collaborative innovation effort.
Continuing the Journey
DevNet Express events are just the beginning of a journey down the path of innovation on top of Cisco platforms. Let’s talk a little more about the innovation happening in Braga. You see, they don’t just use a Cisco hardware device to connect things together and run some code at the edge of the network. They also provide free Wi-Fi to the passengers on the buses. And what they use to do that is the same hardware device with some additional Cisco software running called Cisco Mobile Experience, or CMX. They also use Cisco software to distribute and maintain the software on the device, which does the initial processing from the various sensors on the buses. They’re using IOx and Fog Director for that. It’s not really just a Cisco hardware platform that can run code on it. It’s also Cisco software helping to get customers logged in to the system and manage the software distribution.
As Fernando says in the video, you don’t even have to buy all this stuff in order to start learning about it and playing with it. You can go the various locations on Cisco DevNet’s web portal to learn about our APIs, and use our sandbox environments to try them out.
We have a ton of different APIs. You can learn how to make your mobile apps perform better. You can learn how to put video into your applications. You can learn how to make your applications more secure. In other words, we can help you make your apps more interesting, higher performance and more secure.
Our Top 5 List for Getting Started
You’ve seen how the historic city of Braga is turning into a smart city. I’ve provided you with links to Cisco DevNet, where you can learn about the technologies used in this example and more. My question for you is, “What are you waiting for?” If you are an application developer, I recommend you start on our newly revised Application Developer page. Perhaps there’s one more thing I should provide. Here’s a top 5 list of things you can do to get going:
I hope I’ve convinced you to check out one of these things. Please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment. @coggerin