In order to successfully promote the expansive vision of smart cities, communities should leverage the evolution of IoT-based platforms that can be widely replicated, according to Carl Piva, VP of strategic programs at the TM Forum .
Piva, who leads the TM Forum’s Smart City Forum, told Telco Transformation in part one of an interview that the organization spent a year creating “a recipe, cookbook-style model” detailing how communities can manage their growth into smart cities.
Telco Transformation: One vision of a smart city platform is made up of horizontal functionality that works across community lines and city-specific elements, for example in Boston, New York and much smaller cities. Is this correct?
Carl Piva: That is exactly what we’re working on right now. The premise is to build on the foundation of the data platforms that cities have already built with the ambition of creating a data economy. What most cities have found is that these data platforms haven’t generated that much traction, or jobs or attracted talent.
What we are working on is developing ideas around how to take the best concepts from the business platform model in the private sector that are obviously very successful and turn it into successful cities. Cities sitting on huge reservoirs of data and local knowledge [can become] curators of a local data platform and a local ecosystem.
We’ve come a bit down that road toward identifying outcomes that actually can help cities make that vision a reality. As part of that effort, we are also looking into how cities can work together. The typical scenario is that you have a couple of smaller cities that don’t have the scale advantage of a city like New York. They simply have to work together to reach critical mass, the scale where it makes sense for an ecosystem to form and evolve. That means that they need to have a number of things in common in order to be able to do data federation and service federation between platforms.
We have the mechanisms identified on how you can federate data and services between cities, and also how you can create the models required to talk about the same things in the two cities. The ambition is that this will lead to a place where cities can easily collaborate, and create a single market rather than multiple markets to drive economies of scale. When that happens, you will also see local data economies really push forward.
TT: Does that federation go as deeply down into the stack as the IoT level or is the IoT assumed to already provide the common platform, with this federation created on top of that?
CP: We think that the right approach is to look at something like a context broker that will know about the city — if a bus is moving and is late on its route, who is the driver, etc. So if you have that context information from that bus, it shouldn’t matter to the city whether that information came through one or the other IoT protocol. If you allow the city to focus on the context information and on the data it needs to be able to gather and publish, then the problem of IoT technologies will not matter so much anymore.
I think that approach is the most interesting for a city to take. It’s a posture where the city doesn’t have to make decisions on every IoT protocol or IoT solution or create a big reference model that sort of describes the entire world of IoT … On top of this, you will find data being exposed. This is where I see the integration points between different cities happening through some very well-documented RESTful APIs where you can do things like data federation and service federation.
TT: What role do the telecom companies play in this?
CP: One of the things we’ve done in the Forum is [offer] carriers a common set of APIs that solve many of these problems revolving around how you utilize digital assets. It addresses everything from “How do you bill for a service?” to “How do you discover a service?” to “How do you do service level agreements?” to “How do you do usage management for a service for service?” and so forth. These actually are covered in a set of APIs that are now deployed across the world by this community, and we are advocating its use within cities as well along with certain other components that are more city-specific including the NGSI, the context brokers and a few other models that can tie in to an IoT universe.
TT: Do some telecomm companies resist in hopes of profiting more from proprietary approaches?
CP: I honestly think that if you’re not interoperable using open APIs, you are already on the losing side of the battle, even if you haven’t lost yet. If you’re not interoperable, then you become irrelevant, and the best way to be interoperable is using something that people agree upon that is in the public domain and royalty-free.
I suppose if you peel off a few layers you might [find] teams who still think in terms of proprietary approaches. But I think most of them have swung around. It’s been a painful process for some, but it’s not a question in my mind any longer.
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