Little towns, big ideas: How scale models can imagine smarter and safer cities

A conversation about how developers are connecting IoT devices to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

By Jim Grisanzio | October 2021

Little towns, big ideas: How scale models can imagine smarter and safer cities

Oracle Proxima City: a smart city model made of Legos, Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, and sensors, all connected to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

Gabriele Provinciali is an engineer and solutions architect at Oracle Rome. He loves building models to help teach students and the development community about smarter and safer cities for the future.

During a hot, humid day in August 2018, Gabriele and the Oracle Innovation Team, a multidisciplinary team of developers and builders, constructed a 9-square-meter model of a city and called it Proxima City. It was a model of a smart city built using Lego bricks, Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, and a variety of Internet of Things (IoT) edge sensors—all connected to Oracle Cloud.

Initially, the team’s pet project was intended to demonstrate what could be possible in real life by connecting IoT edge devices to the cloud and using machine learning and data science to create new, innovative services. The model tuned out to be wildly popular. The team published a build specification online, and the community started building Proxima Cities around the world. Over time, 25 city models were built, even one at Oracle’s Redwood Shores location. When the team took their creation to Maker Faire Rome, so many people gathered around the city that the team had to build a fence to protect it.

Why such interest? Gabriele explains that in the software and cloud world, things can be really abstract. But when you connect those systems to real-world physical things, the technology comes to life, and people react quickly.

After the pandemic hit in 2020, the team updated their model to focus on making cities safe, using sensor data to determine when there are too many people passing through a small corridor or when hand sanitizers need refilling. Turns out, many such concepts to help keep people safe in real-world environments can be imagined with Proxima City.

Gabriele’s ambition is to make the model suitable for use by students at universities. In fact, one Italian university has already implemented the city to teach computer science and do research. And that’s exactly what Gabriele wants. He hopes that many new use cases will emerge the Proxima City model.

Click on the links below to read Gabriele’s three-article series, “ProximaSafe: Joining the Dots in OCI to Build a Stream Analysis Lab,” and go build your own city. Also, give a listen to my conversation with Gabriele to get a sense of his passion for building things.

On the Mic

Gabriele Provinciali

Gabriele Provinciali

Master Principal Solution Architect Gabriele Provinciali works at Oracle Rome. He’s passionate about everything open source and tinkerable.
Twitter: @GabbaPro, LinkedIn: gabriele

Photography: Courtesy of Gabriele Provinciali

Stay Tuned!

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Jim Grisanzio

Jim Grisanzio

Jim Grisanzio is a senior community manager in Oracle Developer Relations. You can follow him on Twitter @jimgris.