HOPU

Smart urban development and improved liveability through data-driven environmental monitoring.

Technology: Artificial Intelligence, Fog computing, Machine Learning, Open Source software and/or hardware, Sensors and/or Cameras, 5G // Domain: Services // Location: Spain

SDG engagement:

HOP Ubiquitous S.L., or HOPU in short, abbreviates Human Oriented Products Urban areas. Since the founding of the company in 2014, HOPU has supported smart urban development and digital transformation with data-driven environmental monitoring. Their solution helps cities undergoing climate change mitigation by supporting decision making processes and action planning.

Presently, HOPU has grown to 34 employees domiciling in Murcia, Spain, and the company’s solution has gained widespread interest, with instalments covering over 40 cities, with more than 500 units sold during the past year. The company caters the needs of both B2G and B2B, and the primary customers are cities, represented by publicly authorised urban planners in terms of governments, city councils and city managers.

The HOPU offering is an end-to-end solution, covering both an IoT device for environmental sensing and monitoring, as well as complementary data-powered services and tools, such as dashboards and AI-supported decision tools. The complete solution enables cities to monitor indicative parameters of air quality (pollutant gases, VOC odours, and particulate matter), noise pollution, people affluence and other environmental data (temperature, humidity, radiation), with high data quality and reliability.

HOPU’s-IoT-device-‘Smart-Spot’-is-installed-at-strategic-locations-in-a-city.-Here-in-Cartagena-Region-of-Murcia.Illustration 1: HOPU’s IoT device ‘Smart Spot’ is installed at strategic locations in a city. Here, in Cartagena (Region of Murcia).

The incentive for HOPU to develop their IoT solution derives from the global concern of climate change and its negative impact on the health of humanity and our planet. HOPU strives to contribute positively to the agenda by making urban design more agile to mitigate the climate challenges.

“We are in the core of the challenge that Europe is now addressing, and I am pretty sure that IoT will make the difference supporting all the technologies.”
Antonio Jara, CEO at HOPU

Every city suffers from a unique combination of environmental challenges, and there are numerous mitigation actions that exist that can address the different challenges. However, it may be difficult to recognise and prioritise which actions may have the greatest mitigation effect and add the most value in response to specific challenges. HOPU sets out to develop an IoT solution that provides the technologies to support the cities in selecting the most cost efficient and sustainable actions.

The concern is in the DNA of HOPU, as climate change is a pertinent issue in Spain, which Spanish authorities has made a top priority during the recent decade and onwards till 2030. HOPU approached the market looking to understand both the individual challenges and the common difficulties experienced in cities. Soon, they realised that air quality was among the most significant challenges and an area in which existing providers at the time was not able to offer high quality solutions to the market. Figuring that a more sophisticated solution could be made by leveraging IoT, HOPU seized the market opportunity.

“My motivation was: I will demonstrate that high data quality, together with industrial standards, can leverage all the benefits of IoT.”
Antonio Jara, CEO at HOPU

Due to the lack of capable hardware, HOPU started developing their own sensing device in order to reach full potential. Being the first of its kind, this device enabled cities to: 1) monitor levels of environmental parameters that put citizens’ health at risk, and 2) contextualise the data to identify optimal mitigation actions for achieving the ideal environmental quality that ensures the well-being of inhabitants, as well as predict possible events that may affect their welfare.

HOPU started their journey in a role as hardware provider, solely selling the Smart Spot device and earning revenue on the one-time sales. However, the company quickly found that the users were not able to fully utilize the capabilities of the device, and for that reason, it was difficult to demonstrate the novel and sophisticated potential of the device, as well as its superiority compared to the present solutions available on the market. HOPU thereby realised that their role in the ecosystem would need further integration to support the data exploitation relative to the device. The company thereby added an additional SaaS[1] solution on top of the current business model to enable users to extract the full value of their hardware devices.

HopU’s-solution-adds-software-as-a-service-SaaS-on-top-of-the-hardware-‘Smart-Spot’-device.Illustration 2: HOPU’s solution adds software as a service (SaaS) on top of the hardware ‘Smart Spot’ device.

The Smart Spot device consists of a minimum of six different sensors which collectively supports monitoring of up to 35 different environmental parameters. Each sensor generates up to 8 MB per day, which in a full city deployment, amounts to between 3 and 3.5 GB per month. The device is installed at strategic locations in areas of interest in a city, where it is able to monitor and measure the environmental parameters in a 100–200-meter radius.

The Smart Spot device collects information from data sources such as: pollutant and toxic gases, particulate matter, noise pollution, flow and density of people in crowds, energy consumption, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and direction, solar and UV radiation, temperature, humidity, rainfall etc.

The-Smart-Spot-device-consists-of-minimum-six-different-sensors-that-monitor-up-to-35-different-parametersIllustration 3: The Smart Spot device consists of minimum six different sensors that monitor up to 35 different parameters.

The Smart Spot device consists of two systems:

  • System 1: The IoT main system, which acts as the ‘brain’ of the device. Edge computing infuses the device with high level artificial intelligence processing and communication capabilities.
  • System 2: The sensing system, which is the part of the device that collects data. This is the patented sensor system that monitors the aforementioned environmental parameters.

The Smart Spot device transmits data via NB-IoT[2], GPRS[3], LoRa[4] or WiFi[5], to the open-source cloud platform FIWARE[6]. FIWARE ensures that the solution complies with a universal set of standards for context data management, which facilitates entire ecosystems of the Smart Cities domain. All the data that is collected by the sensors is processed locally on the Smart Spot device (i.e., enabled by its edge computing capabilities) as well as in the cloud, where artificial intelligence models run on top.

Enabling-technologies-for-HOPUs-smart-spot-solutionIllustration 4: Key enabling technologies for HOPU’s Smart Spot device.

HOPU use open-source software, including a tool for data valorisation that allows real time data monitoring, time series analytics and integration of external data sources. This SaaS supports cities in defining informed KPIs for a desirable environmental evolution and in identifying specific parameters that denotes effective mitigation and/or value-adding potential as well as how this can be achieved.

All insights are illustrated via HOPU’s Grafana dashboards, using business intelligence to present the major spectrum of environmental parameters. HOPU provides open access dashboards, which allows everybody to follow the evolution of cities that deploy the Smart Spot solution, as well as restricted access dashboards for internal use of the individual cities. Whereas the open dashboards illustrate basic environmental indicators and correlations between parameters (e.g., noise and traffic, pollution and air quality), the individual dashboards are customised to illustrate more profound insights in terms of cause-and-effect identification, forecasting and action plan modelling.

The-Grafana-Dashboard-illustratesthe-processed-insights-derived-from-data-collected-by-the-Smart-Spot-device.Illustration 5: The Grafana Dashboard illustratesthe processed insights derived from data collected by the Smart Spot device.

The data processing capability of Smart Spot enables the device to detect situational anomalies and irregularities, and autonomously elicit mitigation actions. The autonomous behaviour elicited by Smart Spot is enabled by the open API[7] FIWARE and the edge processing capability, which guarantees both data sharing and privacy preservation in the ecosystem.  Thereby, HOPU’s solution address a direct impact on environmental conditions and is a reliable and robust solution to address emissions monitoring, and support decision making for more effective investment in actions for climate change mitigation in key areas as electrical mobility, green zones, and low emission zones.

The unique trait of HOPU’s solution compared to alternatives is the ability to illustrate the life of a city. Where the competitor’s solutions primarily are classic information systems that shows only static parameters of a city, such as the streets and the infrastructure, HOPU’s solution also illustrates the human dynamics and behaviour. This, combined with the interoperability and exchange capacity with external data sources, enables the solution to deliver correlated and contextualised insights on how citizens are impacted by pollution, noise and other parameters.

HOPU brings urban innovation and engage citizens and decision-makers, to guarantee that data is understandable by everybody, intuitive and usable. Supporting urban development and digital transformation through data-powered tools with dashboards and IoT devices to monitor impact, sustainability and the environment, cities are empowered with Business Intelligence tools based on Open Source and the integration of data from multiple data sources. Real examples on how HOPU is supporting the decision-making process include:

  1. Noise detection and regulation, as illustrated by cases in Valencia and Barcelona. In the event of continuous and persistent excessive noise levels, the system raises an alert and automatically sends a report to public law enforcement authorities, enabling them to immediately locate and patrol the suspicious area for violation of public rules.
  2. Analysis of the benefits of sustainably using land for new spaces such as car parks, green zones or commercial cases, as illustrated by the case of Cartagena, which received the urban innovation award by Le Monde.
  3. Understanding the origin of the pollution and how it can be mitigated via a wide network of IoT sensors, data integration from ports activity and satellite data (Copernicus), as illustrated by the Ports as Algeciras case.
  4. Understanding of how to reduce climate change impact via the number of electric scooters (motosharing), in order to identify the number of additional scooters that can be deployed in a city and how it impact air quality, noise etc. as illustrated by the case of Acciona.

The development of HOPU’s end-to-end solution is an obvious contribution to the global ambition of addressing the climate challenge. Leveraging IoT, the solution supports urban design in becoming more agile by providing a basic understanding of the liveability and sustainability of a city, as well as a plan for mitigating and value-adding actions.

“We are really helping cities to mitigate climate change. I am very happy to see that cities are taking this sustainability mitigation much more seriously.”
Antonio Jara, CEO at HOPU

The company has grown steadily since the foundation, and both the HOPU team and the role of the business has expanded vastly. This means that the outcome of the solution for HOPU is the realisation of being a profitable company with exponential yearly growth. However, the people of the company still take pride in randomly spotting a Smart Spot when visiting new cities, considering each device resembles a piece of the company’s joint effort. Another valuable outcome relates to the overall experience of entering the Smart City domain.

“…to see that big corporations open their ecosystem to welcome us, to support us and to learn with us, that for me was very grateful.”
Antonio Jara, CEO at HOPU

The outcome of HOPU’s solution for the end user relies on the leverage of IoT to democratise, contextualise and exchange data. The data allows users to effectively monitor and forecast environmental evolution based on custom configuration for the challenges of individual cities. The insights empower urban planners to make informed decisions and take action that improves the liveability index[8], quality of life of the citizens and sustain the environment.

“For us, IoT means democracy.
IoT means access to everything and capacity to see, to decide, to act.”

Antonio Jara, CEO at HOPU

This outcome is realised through a continuous loop consisting of four steps:

  1. Understanding: the solution provides cities with an environmental status quo and a basic understanding of the liveability quality in a city.
  2. Decision-making: the solution supports data-driven decision making based on insights from the environmental monitoring in combination with external contextual data sources.
  3. Action: the solution detects actions to mitigate current challenges, enabling cities to identify the best action plan for improving environmental and social conditions of the city.
  4. Evaluation: the solution measures and quantifies the impact of the environmental and social actions taken by the city, and yet again provides understanding.

 

This loop may for example help a city identity the optimal action with respect to reducing pollution, by determining the impact of building a new electric vehicle infrastructure vs. the impact of lowering the speed limit or density of cars vs. the impact of introducing low emission zones etc. Hence, regardless of the specific challenge, the outcome of HOPU’s solution covers identification of parameter correlations and cause-and-effects, simulations that predict the consequences of action A vs. B vs. C and comparative analyses that identify the most valuable actions for that individual challenge.

MORETH1Illustration 6: Today, more than 500 Smart Spot devices are installed in a variety of urban and industrial settings. With the visibility of these devices HOPU promotes IoT as the baseline technology to create Smart Environments.

HOPU has learned a lot during the transformational journey of their solution, from being solely hardware to extending the value proposition to SaaS. Some learnings may have transmissible value for other actors in the IoT ecosystem.

HOPU describes the market penetration as a battle to win the trust of cities and investors. Struggling to convince them in becoming early adopters of the solution, the company has found three instruments helpful in building the trust needed to reverse the tendency:

  • European Union projects: HOPU’s participation in these publicly recognised projects allows the company to invite cities to take part while all involvement is being supported by EU funding. Furthermore, these projects provide widespread promotion and proof of concept.
  • Public innovation procurement: Funding is provided by the public sector for cities that strive to invest in transformation towards becoming Smart Cities for environmental and social enhancement.
  • Contract awards: Tenders ran by city governments in Spain can be split into smaller contracts that mandate up to 15,000 euro for pilot projects to unfold in the city.

These instruments have often been the initial point of entry for HOPU to demonstrate the capability of their solution in a city and in insuring complete investments. Presently, HOPU no longer needs to look for investors, but can grow, leveraging the alliances and outcomes resulting from their previous activities. Hence, an essential learning in the process of commercialising an IoT solution is to focus on building trusted partnerships. Trust builds adoption, and the early adoptions builds future penetration.

HOPU considers several points to be vital for the success of their IoT solution. Taking departure in the journey of HOPU, these points are compiled into a list of recommendations below:

1. Digitalisation is crucial for organisational growth

“If you want to grow you need to have everything digitalised!”
Antonio Jara, CEO at HOPU

A basic, yet crucial recommendation, is to digitalise all streams of data. For HOPU, this has been one of the most essential lessons for the organisation, derived in the early days of the company. As the magnitude of employees and partner networks expanded, internal and external streams of data increased rapidly, and the analogue processes ended up causing a lack of communication and misunderstandings. HOPU’s advice is to digitalise everything and to do it as fast as possible.

2. Empowerment is key

The CEO of HOPU, Antonio Jara, does not believe in hierarchy, but prefers a horizontally structured organisation. During his time leading the company, he remembers a commonly offered advice:

“Many people make a big mistake saying: ‘You need to learn to delegate’. That is wrong. You need to learn to empower.”
Antonio Jara, CEO at HOPU

He considers empowerment crucial for building an engaged and reliable team and for retaining the people in it. He recommends all leaders to strive towards being in an ecosystem of leaders. At the end of the day, all employees should feel as leaders – motivated, challenged and enabled.

“Everybody is a leader. But you need to give the proper tools and the proper empowerment.”
Antonio Jara, CEO at HOPU

3. Standardisation offers interoperability

A major determinant for the value of IoT solutions is the use of standards that support openness and interoperability for cooperation and collective understanding. Hence, actors should strive not to disrupt functioning systems that are already there, but rather utilize standards as ‘a common language’ for entire ecosystems

For HOPU, it is the use of FIWARE as a ‘common language’ that has provided the foundation for openness and interoperability, ensuring a wide market spread and adoption of the solution as well as the ability to contextualize data

4. Add value on top of the hardware

“IoT is not about building devices, IoT is about using devices.
…You don’t need to build the hardware to build the service.”

Antonio Jara, CEO at HOPU

Building and offering services on top of hardware and standards has been key for the success of HOPU, and the company recommends other actors to do the same. The technological evolution makes it difficult to outdo competitors in the domain, and instead, one should therefore join forces with existing developers, reuse existing hardware and focus on how to add value on top. Identify the value you are able to bring to the market, make it your unique value proposition and let IoT be the enabler of it.

“IoT is just an enabler. IoT is really about connectivity, interoperability, federation of service and democratisation of data.”
Antonio Jara, CEO at HOPU

Illustration 7: Digital Maturity Radar Chart: Assessment of HOPU by Ruben Molina, CFO.

HOPU assumes a high level of digital maturity with an overall score of 4.43. The score indicates that the digital capabilities of the company are vastly mature, and that they perform above average for the service sector.

The Digital Maturity Assessment Tool is copyrighted by Associate Professor and PhD Annabeth Aagaard, Director at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Digital Business Development, Aarhus University. To get the digital maturity of your company mapped out, click here.

[1] Software as a Service (SaaS): web-based model of software delivery that allows data to be accessed from any device. Software vendors host and maintain the servers, databases, and the code that makes up an application.

[2] NB-IoT (Narrowband IoT): wireless cellular technology standard that addresses the LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) requirements of the IoT. It is classified as a 5G technology, standardised by 3GPP in 2016.

[3] GPRS (General Packet Radio Service): a packet-switching technology that enables data transfers through cellular networks.

[4] LoRa: wireless technology that offers long range, low power and secure data transmission for machine-to-machine and IoT applications. LoRa is based on chirp spread spectrum modulation and used to connect devices wirelessly to the cloud.

[5] WiFi: a wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet access.

[6] FIWARE: an open source initiative defining a universal set of standards for context data management which facilitate the development of Smart Solutions for different domains such as Smart Cities.

[7] API (Application Programming Interface): a set of functions that allows applications to access data and interact with external software components, operating systems, or microservices.

[8] The Global Liveability Index: annual assessment published by the London–based Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), ranking 140 global cities for their urban quality of life based on assessments of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.