Open Hack: “We learned mature APIs are the future”

The latest in TM Forum’s successful series of competitive hacks ended on Tuesday at Action Week in Lisbon – the range of applications the teams came up with show the flexibility and rapid development that open APIs offer.

A total of 45 people from 23 companies formed eight teams to compete in the Open Hack, which started at noon on Monday and concluded at 5pm on Tuesday. Their task? To leverage Huawei’s Business Enabling System (BES) platform, using open APIs, to create potential new products and services for Internet of Things and smart cities, 5G virtualized services and digital payments. The APIs were provided by TM Forum, FIWARE and Huawei, which was the event’s executive sponsor.

open hack participants lisbon 2017

At the end of the hack, each team had five minutes to present its solution.  Unlike the Forum’s previous Open Hacks, the participants were, in the main, employees of enterprises, rather than independent entrants. Many of the teams were made up of people who didn’t know each other. Expert coaching was available in the use of the tools and APIs, but there was little take-up – a measure of the experience and caliber of the participants.

Combining assets

The teams had access to the City of Lisbon’s open data and were allowed to bring components with them, but had to demonstrate how they combined them with the assets provided. Participants were encouraged to use publicly available resources and were judged by a panel of Dr. Lester Thomas, Chief Systems Architect, Vodafone; Helen Zhang, Director of Marketing Execution, Software Product Line, Huawei; and Pierre Gauthier, Chief API Architect, TM Forum, plus votes from non-participants in the audience

The judging criteria were: the teams’ use of APIs; feedback on the APIs;  innovation and creativity; value to industry and society; and level of completeness. All the members of the winning team were given a Google Home device and are invited to compete at the Open Hack at TM Forum Live!, in May, in Nice, where they will be able to pitch their idea to top executives at our flagship event. All the participants were given a certificate to mark their achievement.

Joann O’Brien, VP, APIs and Ecosystems, TM Forum, commented, “The solutions were of an outstanding quality and variety – our congratulations and thanks to everyone who was involved.”

The outright winner

Hack winners Action Week 2017

The City Planners team’s app, ShareParking, was the winner. The team members were Nuno Goncalves of WeDo Technologies, Ricardo Goncalves, Andre Macedo and Alexandru Guzun  from Truphone, and Ion Moraru from Tierone OSS.

Dr. Thomas said the judges had particularly appreciated the team taking, “an Airbnb approach to parking,” by providing a way for people to hire out their personal parking spaces to drivers. As one team member noted, “Parking is frustrating, time-wasting and creates pollution”. Dr. Thomas also noted that ShareParking could be used for a two-sided business model, with the city as its direct customer.

ShareParking used open APIs from all the providers, including TM Forum’s catalog management API to enable the app to sit on top of a telco platform. It used the City of Lisbon’s data to highlight places of interest that visitors would likely want to visit and the nearby parking slots. It used Huawei’s open APIs to handle payments and the inventory API to automatically update the availability of parking.

The Forum’s customer management API was used, along with the product catalog API, to define the offer and the inventory API to track availability. The team pointed out that the weather forecast could be added as a customer might prefer an underground parking slot to an open air one in bad weather, for example.

Three special mentions

The judges gave special mention to three more teams for their innovative solutions.

The [email protected] team of five included a mother and daughter. It was cited for its “very good use of APIs and the Lisbon data”. The app is to help people find places for their favorite activities (sport, music, etc.) based on preferences they set when they open their account and digital wallet. This team use an Internet of Things architecture, nine APIs from the Forum and Huawei, and the city of Lisbon’s data.

Users could also look for somewhere to have breakfast on the fly within a 1km radius of their location or book tickets for an event. They pay from their account, which they can top up as necessary.

AirUp’s aim is to reduce pollution, which, as Dr. Thomas said, is very valuable to society. It plans to do this by using a sensor to measure exhaust and reporting any anomalies to the car’s manufacturer. The team used APIs from the three providers and also provided a lot of useful feedback to the providers about their APIs.

Indeed, as judge Helen Zhang from Huawei observed, “We found so many interesting things during the development, so much good feedback to help us with our open capability.”

I wanna go! was designed with foreign visitors to a city in mind, to help them get to where they want to go, for example, providing details of which train or bus they need to catch to get to where they want to go. The app would also guide users through the process of buying tickets, which is often a struggle for people in a strange place, and provide additional simple travel notes to improve the overall experience.

The team used APIs from Huawei and TM Forum, as well as Lisbon’s data.

Only limited by imagination

Just how flexible open APIs are was demonstrated by the teams’ varied offerings. The Umbrella Social Sharing Platform was about how people could drop off useful items for others to use or rent for certain amounts of time before taking them back to an agreed drop off point. This could an umbrella or a book, for example.

The Senior Emergency Service is a smart phone app which combined with a wearable device could alert medical services before a heart attack happened, and provide an alarm button for an older person to summon help too.

The Lisards addressed the issue of service assurance for the Internet of Things, showing how the service problem management (SPM) API can be used to help monitor the status of IoT services.

The Internet of parking app was designed to help people reserve parking slots so that they didn’t waste a lot of time and energy looking for one. Customers could reserve and, in future, pay through their phones too.

This is what the team had to say about using open APIs: “The using of mature APIs is easier, efficient and effective, rather than develop everything by ourselves. We also learned that this is the future.”

TM Forum believes that too: Open APIs are an integral part of the its strategy for enabling digital business because they enable:

  • Faster on-boarding of partners
  • Ongoing cross industry market development and collaboration
  • Curation and orchestration between multiple services
  • Building blocks for ecosystems deployment
  • Higher reuse of services reducing deployment costs overtime.

And it’s why nine of the world’s biggest network operators and 10 of their largest technology partners have committed to developing and using the Forum’s suite of APIs through the Open API Manifesto.


    About The Author

    Snr Director, Research & Media

    Annie Turner has been researching and writing about the communications industry since the 1980s, editing magazines dedicated to the subject including titles published by Thomson International and The Economist Group. She has contributed articles to many publications, including national and international newspapers such as the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune, and a multitude of business-to-business titles. She joined the TM Forum in 2010 and is responsible for overseeing the content of the Research and Publications portfolio.

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