An ambitious new TM Forum Catalyst proof-of-concept project is proposing a set of standard application program interfaces (APIs) to connect internet of things (IoT) ecosystems. The idea is to bridge islands of IoT so that device manufacturers, communications service providers (CSPs) and application developers can benefit from the network effect and find ways to expand the IoT as a whole.
“The IoT market is really fragmented,” says Vincent Seet, Head of Enterprise Architecture, Globe Telecom, and a champion of the project. “You have many IoT platform providers coming in creating their own little ecosystems working with different device manufacturers, and you also have operator groups jumping on the bandwagon trying to create their own ecosystems. So, there are simply too many small fragments of IoT.”
The Open APIs for a vibrant IoT ecosystem (OAsIS) Catalyst, which was demonstrated this week at TM Forum Live! Asia in Singapore, is working on a common set of APIs to interconnect disparate IoT ecosystems in that hopes that it will accelerate maturity of the market, Vincent adds. These OAsIS APIs will facilitate the interconnectivity of IoT applications, platforms and connected things, allowing customers’ orders to be processed and billed, and devices to be controlled across platforms.
Making sense of standards
Today, a plethora of standard protocols are used to connect devices to the internet and manage them. For example, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and low power wide area networks (LP-WAN) are just a few communications protocols. There are also multiple data protocols like message queuing and telemetry transport (MQTT) and constrained application protocol (CoAP), and device management protocols such as Broadband Forum’s TR-069 for customer premises equipment. To complicate matters, several multi-layer IoT frameworks are also developing standards, for example the AllSeen Alliance, the Open Mobile Alliance and the Industrial Internet Consortium.
The goal of the OAsIS Catalyst project is to identify and adopt the best suited APIs for telco IoT applications, platforms and connected things to make them interoperable regardless of which protocol or framework they use. To do this the team, which includes AIS, AT&T, KDDI, Globe Telecom, SingTel and Telkomsel as champions, and DellEMC, Ericsson and Neural Technologies as participants, has adapted IoT APIs from FIWARE, a TM Forum partner, and will contribute them back to the Forum.
How does it work?
For the demonstration, Globe Telecom and SingTel developed the application management systems and mobile apps needed to demonstrate two use cases: connected home and connected parking. Singtel is also providing the business support system (BSS) platform to demonstrate mobile payments.
Neural Technologies has implemented the newly defined OAsIS APIs in its IoT platform, and DellEMC is providing connected devices including a demonstration parking lot with gantries, proximity sensors, radio-frequency identification readers and an LCD screen. Ericsson is also providing its IoT platform and connected devices including a fan and lamp, while KDDI is providing a motion sensor. The graphic below shows the overall architecture:
The demonstration shows that by using the OAsIS APIs, CSPs and their partners can successfully implement a wide range of IoT applications, platforms and devices from multiple suppliers, independent of the underlying technology. In addition to contributing the APIs back to TM Forum, the team will contribute device data models and the first example of mapping between OAsIS APIs and IoT device data models to a device gateway that uses MQTT.
A big step forward
TM Forum has conducted many IoT ecosystem Catalyst projects in the past, such as this one showing how to deliver drones as a service, but they have only demonstrated a single IoT platform. This is the first to connect multiple platforms.
“This Catalyst is purposely built to test an API architecture,” explains Craig Bachmann, Senior Director, Internet of Everything Program, TM Forum. “Previous projects were use case-driven: How do we make connected car, drones or healthcare work?”
He adds: “This project is a natural evolution of both industry ‘vertical’ Catalyst exploration and innovation in ‘horizontal’ IoT capabilities. It seeks to continue this exploration and innovation by leveraging Open APIs to interconnect platforms in a way that is infinitely scalable in the commercial world.”
Watch Globe Telecom’s Vincent Seet and Neural Technologies’ Claus Nielsen discuss the OAsIS Catalyst: