TM Forum issues a challenge to cities

The last ten years have been a “voyage of discovery” for smart cities, Nik Willetts, TM Forum’s CEO, said during his keynote speech at Smart City InFocus in Yinchuan. The next ten years are about “navigating the journey”.

He outlined a number of tools that TM Forum has developed to help cities navigate this journey to becoming smarter, including the new City as a Platform Manifesto [a set of principles for deploying city platforms], the Smart City Maturity & Benchmarking Model [a tool to assess the ‘as is’ situation and outline a goal-driven city strategy]and CurateFx [a visual tool to map smart city business models and the corresponding business and technical capabilities, as well as the Open APIs to implement them.]

However, Willetts noted that while these are all useful tools, in the end it comes down to “getting something done” and with that, he issued a series of concrete challenges to cities globally:

1. How do we introduce end-to-end management of ecosystems in a city environment, from a technology perspective and also a business perspective?

TM Forum is focused on ecosystems and nowhere are they more complex than in cities, he noted. Through using technology to connect ecosystems, we can truly transform people’s lives.

2. How do we federate the capabilities of city platforms to bring a collection of cities together, and manage and monitor those ecosystems?

Nik noted the next phase of smart cities is towards “urban actualisation” and the ability to curate, control and flex cities based on demand, such as an influx of people for work, a festival or even a weather event. And, he said, we need to create repeatable solutions so that innovation can be ported between cities and, in the future, resources could also be flexed between cities.

3. Look ahead to the use of machine learning and AI in the context of smart cities to make real-time sense of the complex ecosystems.

In a pre-event workshop, delegates voted that AI is the most disruptive and important emerging technology for the future of cities. We need to assess and harness its potential, and understand the risks.

4. You decide: As the smart city community, what issues do you need to solve?

Nik said cities have two choices in tackling challenges like these: Go it alone and make the same mistakes in parallel with everyone else, or take the path to success, tackle it together and share the journey.

TM Forum is a platform to facilitate this collaboration and a key mechanism to respond to these challenges is through a TM Forum Proof of Concept Catalyst. These projects bring together stakeholders such as cities, telcos and technology companies, academia and more, to tackle a specific problem and find a solution in 3-4 months.

A number of these Catalyst projects demonstrated their latest findings at the Smart City InFocus event:

Connected citizen: Life in a clean, green city
Looking at ways to commercialize the platform the team has developed to co-create replicable business models for smart cities all around the world.
Companies taking part: NTT, Orange, Infonova/BearingPoint, Esri, Amdocs, Symantec

Smart city service optimization
Based around the orchestrated selection and assignment of key workforce assets in the smart city ecosystem.
Companies taking part: Smart Dublin, Smart Liverpool, Galileo Software, AssureNow, Liverpool John Moores University.

Smart city on the edge
Applies edge and fog computing principles to smart city data hubs to improve the efficiency of city operations. It uses situational, de-centralized decision-making, pushing intelligence from the central data hub to a local loop of programmable edge devices, such as IoT gateways and sensors.
Companies taking part: Milton Keynes Council, Agile Fractal Grid, Dublin City Council, BT, CloudSoft, Infonova/BearingPoint, Exfo.

Logical factory: Virtualizing manufacturing for agility
Shows the development of a platform underpinned by Industry 4.0 philosophies which integrate and connect numerous digital manufacturing systems across disparate facilities.
Companies taking part: BT, TIM, TWI, Infosim, Infosys, EnterpriseWeb

Summing up, Nik said, “We need to create a new vision for the smart city. We need to think about where we are on this very long journey so far…Now is the time to move further ahead, looking at where we are going and what needs to change.”


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    Sarah is a freelance writer and editor with an interest in new technologies and how they impact our everyday lives.

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