November 2020 - In this interview, Andreas Neubacher discusses Deutsche Telekom’s initiatives to help small and large businesses to implement IoT more quickly and dependably through standardization.
Q: Let us begin by talking about your background in Deutsche Telekom.
AN: I have been working in the Telecommunication sector since 1999. I was responsible for the development of national deployment plans for the 3G radio access network in Austria. Then, in 2003, I joined the Deutsche Telekom Standardization and IPR management group, where I headed various projects such as network sharing, Self-Organizing Networks, home NodeBs, VoLTE Roaming in Standards. I represent Deutsche Telekom in various global organizations like 3GPP, ETSI, IEEE, oneM2M, and have set up and chaired Open Radio Interface study group (ORI ISG) in ETSI.
Currently, I head standardization activities in the IoT area for Deutsche Telekom group (DTAG). In this role I ensure that appropriate standards for IoT are being developed, selected, and introduced within DTAG. My ambition is to build up an efficient, scalable, and rich technology ecosystem for the IoT Service area, based on global standards to enable new opportunities for our customers and partners.
Q: Through your everyday activities, what issues do you see in the IoT market?
AN: Today, as IoT is an integration business, many customers find themselves locked in an ecosystem around an IoT platform they have initially selected. Let me illustrate what that means with a gambling analogy. In a casino, you can put your chip on one of 36 numbers on a roulette table. Your chances of winning are 1:36 which is less than 3%! In the IoT service area we have multiple IoT platforms promoted as the best solution. With roughly 1600 different IoT platforms on the market your chance of picking a winner are slim. Also, changing your choice later is costly.
Another complication that worsens the odds is that IoT is an integration business. Many partners, including software developers, hardware manufacturers, platform providers, connectivity providers and others, contribute to a complete IoT solution. This makes it even more difficult to have successful IoT projects.
I often come across guidelines created by standards organizations and industry bodies with guidelines to help find the right solution. There are also a lot of industry experts who talk about their tremendous efforts to find the right choice for their application or customer. All too often, these recipes do not take account of what happens after the initial deployment. How can I connect the solution to the other parts in my IT and OT environments? What happens when I want to switch the provider of my solution or deal with situations where a component is discontinued?
Even if customers have built a good IoT solution by selecting suitable IoT platform, software developers, hardware, and connectivity, they might face the downsides of a vendor lock-in, since the software running on IoT devices is tailor-made to interwork only with a specific IoT platform.
At Deutsche Telekom IoT we are convinced that the adoption of IoT solutions would happen more quickly and the IoT ecosystem would be livelier and more profitable for its participants if we could overcome these barriers.
Customers should not have to worry about a platform choice restricting their flexibility and adaptability down the line and locking them into one platform or ecosystem. Nor should their choice of technology come with prohibitively high integration costs for existing and future IT and OT solutions. We want customers to be in a position to make choices based on their challenges, to find and select the best possible option and, to adapt it as they evolve and mature.
Q: How does oneM2M help?
AN: oneM2M is a global standard, developed in an open and collaborative manner by many companies. It decouples the applications executed on IoT devices from the applications used in IoT platforms and business applications. All oneM2M standardization documents are publicly available.
For example, a company developing software for an IoT device can rely on vendor-independent oneM2M APIs to communicate with IoT applications. On the application side, companies can develop and connect applications based on oneM2M interfaces regardless of the IoT platform that will be deployed in a final solution.
Customers are no longer locked into the ecosystem of a specific IoT platform provider. Instead they can create their IoT solutions with their partners and technologies of choice and maintain the flexibility to migrate to another platform without the need to completely redesign their solution.
The improved compatibility and elimination of silos that comes with the oneM2M standard also enables partners to contribute to more IoT solutions. Standardization removes long-term maintainability risks which can scare customers away. Standardization also addresses concerns about potentially high costs of adapting their solution to a multitude of platforms and ecosystems, which can act as a barrier to entry.
This flexibility afforded by oneM2M explains why it is often deployed in smart city projects, where vendor lock-in aspects and maintainability over the complete product lifecycle are key issues.
Another challenge of smart cities is their high need for inter-operability of different systems and verticals. Despite being viewed as a vertical itself, a smart city system is typically a cross-vertical system of systems, where platforms, sensors and devices from various, different verticals and vendors, need to be combined to make a city smart.
To keep the story short, selecting a platform with an underlying oneM2M abstraction layer and the respective oneM2M interfaces avoids a vendor lock-in and enables customers and partners to achieve more in IoT.
Q: What is Deutsche Telekom’s position regarding the IoT market and what are some of its promising markets and initiatives?
AN: What I described before fits exactly to the ambition of Deutsche Telekom. We want to reduce technical and commercial barriers to adopting IoT solutions. We would like to create an open architecture for partners & customers with no lock-in effects and a fast time-to-market. We are convinced that oneM2M fits very well into this picture.
One of the most interesting initiatives is our IoT Hub, which acts as a portal into the IoT ecosystem connecting customers, partners, and technologies. We are currently building out the services necessary to connect a range of functionalities across the IoT technology stack using an API-driven service architecture and standards like oneM2M and LwM2M. This framework will ultimately empower our customers and partners to build IoT solutions faster and more efficiently.
Q: What practical steps is Deutsche Telekom taking to help adoption?
AN: Today the IoT market is quite fragmented and driven by many companies trying to onboard as many customers as possible on their systems and at the same time lock them into their products. Implementing oneM2M in their products would allow more flexibility for customers and systems integrators. That will certainly give the whole market a push as companies can focus more on their core competency e.g. writing an IoT application for a device rather than putting a lot of effort into integrating it into a specific IoT Platform. On the other hand, it is also no surprise that incumbents are rather reluctant to implement oneM2M and weaken their lock-in capabilities.
We do see open source projects growing as well as many smaller companies implementing oneM2M. There are examples of this in smart city projects in Busan, South Korea and in Bordeaux, France and recently in India where oneM2M specifications have been locally transposed for adoption as national standards in India. As a country, India is running a large smart cities program and it has a globally significant base of systems integrators.
Within Deutsche Telekom, my colleagues have already started integrating oneM2M in the IoT Hub. They will put an increased focus on providing the tools and tutorials necessary for adoption. This will fit nicely with a strong focus on supporting developers in the form of new guidance that will appear in a planned update to oneM2M’s website. We are doing this to help the community get familiar with oneM2M and achieve a wider reach. We think that will make it easier for developers to participate in the in the IoT value chain. This is particularly important, because the IoT ecosystem relies on partners to get together and solve societal and business challenges together.
oneM2M is the global standards initiative that covers requirements, architecture, API specifications, security solutions and interoperability for Machine-to-Machine and IoT technologies. oneM2M was formed in 2012 and consists of eight of the world's preeminent standards development organizations: ARIB (Japan), ATIS (U.S.), CCSA (China), ETSI (Europe), TIA (U.S.), TSDSI (India), TTA (Korea), and TTC (Japan), together with industry fora and consortia (GlobalPlatform) and over 200 member organizations. oneM2M specifications provide a framework to support applications and services such as the smart grid, connected car, home automation, public safety, and health. oneM2M actively encourages industry associations and forums with specific application requirements to participate in oneM2M, in order to ensure that the solutions developed support their specific needs. For more information, including how to join and participate in oneM2M, see: www.onem2m.org.