2017 was an intense year for IoT-enabled smart cities, first for the city planners, but also for researchers, policymakers and providers of digitization infrastructure to cities.
Where do we stand?
The Alliance for the Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) is an association of academia, industry and end-user representatives chartered to advance the widespread adoption of IoT in Europe and beyond.
AIOTI’s working group dedicated to smart cities has assessed the progress achieved based on the collective contribution of members to pilots and real-world deployments of smart city solutions.
The working group’s findings provide us with directions for the work ahead, directions which promise to help scale or replicate ongoing deployments and remove the remaining inhibitors of market growth. Here is an extract of their findings:
- Connectivity, plenty to choose from: There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ connectivity solution, but recent advancements in Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) are filling a major connectivity gap, with cities now able to choose the right connectivity solutions for their devices. Choices should, however, be made with caution. Cities should avoid having to manage or use too many different types of networks, which could make the Total Cost of Ownership prohibitive.
- Open data is starting to happen, but this data is often fragmented and static: Data is the oil that will fuel the innovation of application developers. Several cities are starting to open access to historical data in different file formats. To move beyond static files, more effort is needed to provide datasets, including as they are generated, and use a uniform API for all city data.
- City-funded projects are often turn-key and vertically integrated: It is clear, cities buy a solution to solve a specific problem. There is nothing wrong with this practice, but these projects will yield greater value if cities pay close attention to architectures and the component reusability of platforms during the procurement processes. The next finding will provide an additional motivation for this to happen.
- Commercially viable cross-application (and cross-domain) use cases are emerging: These use cases will come to form market drivers for horizontal integration, changing procurement processes in such a way that component re-usability will be integral to such processes.
- Projects will only achieve significant scale if supported by a clear business case and value proposition: Proving a clear business case can be challenging for new innovations for which little historical evidence is available. Identified risks should be viewed in comparison with the risk of not innovating and being left behind in emerging and evolving markets. While recognizing that every city is unique, key to the success of smart cities will be the identification of commercially viable or economically sustainable use cases with potential to achieve significant scale along with clear guidelines for cities to replicate such use cases.
- No single IoT platform will dominate: Smart Cities will be built on a combination of infrastructure from players, including telecoms operators, mobility operators, public safety agencies and utilities, as well as infrastructure from cities themselves, cities that will run different legacy and platform-based IoT deployments. It is widely acknowledged that no single IoT platform will dominate the market. Here we see the increasing need for IoT platforms to exchange data to address the requirements of cross-application use cases. This will only be achieved by IoT platforms designed and managed for interoperability.
- Public-safety use cases are emerging fast and will have a major impact on IoT platforms: Spending on public safety is projected to grow steadily, responding to the growing security threats and the increasing prevalence of natural disasters. Many public-safety use cases rely on real-time, distributed processing of continuous data streams such as CCTV video. The impact on IoT platforms will not be trivial.
Where do we go from here? 3 priorities for technical work in 2018
AIOTI’s working group on smart cities is using this assessment to highlight industry priorities for 2018 and beyond. These priorities will be communicated to standards bodies, open-source projects and other relevant organizations as requirements for consideration and potential future development.
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These bodies will include the ITU-T Focus Group on data processing and management, which recently co-hosted a workshop with Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC) and the European Commission, as well ETSI SmartM2M, Context Information Management (CIM) and City Digital Profile (CDP) Industry Specification Groups.
These three areas of technical work stand out as deserving of priority status in 2018:
- Commercially viable cross-application use cases will be essential to the sustainable development of IoT-enabled smart cities: The journey towards achieving the vision of fully integrated smart cities will be incremental. The industry is reaching a point where commercially viable and/or economically sustainable cross-application use cases are emerging and entering the mainstream. These use cases will continue to gain in commercial viability if they are built on common, interoperable platforms. They will help us to achieve horizontal integration at all layers, in line with the vision put forward by several of Europe’s H2020 pilot projects (e.g. Synchronicity). Cities will still source solutions for specific problems, but they will do so with horizontal integration in mind.
- The industry must provide a solution for IoT platforms to exchange data: Mere discovery and exchange of data across IoT platforms is a relatively simple issue to solve. The major challenge will be found in privacy protection and compliance with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), where the set of problems to be solved will be much more complex. AIOTI promotes standards-based interoperability when it comes to addressing this priority area.
- IoT platforms must scale for stream processing, including video: We knew real-time stream – be it time series data or video – processing was happening, but it’s now happening at a much faster pace. A mixture of edge- and central-cloud processing with high-performance computing capabilities will be needed, as pure centralised cloud solutions will simply not scale. The importance of this processing is explained by the Bell Labs initiative, World Wide Streams: “The emerging Internet of Things is transforming the world into a giant source of live data streams. These streams range from slowly-trickling sensor samples to bandwidth-hungry video streams. They carry valuable data that — when processed in a continuous and timely manner — hold the potential to significantly improve people’s lives.” The value propositions include faster response to emergencies, improved decision-making and increased operational efficiency.
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