February 2021 - In this interview, Ingo Friese of Deutsche Telekom’s (DT) Smart City Lab describes a strategy for cities to apply a multi-standard framework for managing sensors and data associated with different smart city services. The strategy builds on an implementation pilot in the city of Hamburg.
Q: Let us begin by talking about your background and role in DT.
IF: I am an engineer and software architect with a 25-year background in telecommunications industry. I love to write code. I especially like the "beauty" of Microservices, an approach that enables me to build massively distributed and complex applications.
In Scrum methodology terms, I am a product owner working with a developer team in T-Labs which is DT’s arm for Research & Innovation activities. We get involved a range of projects. One of these is MySMARTLife, an EU funded Horizon 2020 project, involving the cities of Nantes, Hamburg, and Helsinki. The aim of the project is to make these cities more environmentally friendly by reducing CO2 emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy sources. We worked closely with Hamburg on our portion of the project.
Q: What issues were you tackling with Hamburg?
IF: Hamburg operates under a transparency law that requires all data from public sources to be published. This covers static data, such as the opening times of schools, as well as live data, such as the operational status of electric vehicle charging stations. An objective of the project is to gather a broad spectrum of data from many different sources. Our role in the project was to develop an infrastructure to gather and publish data for third party firms to use in analytics or service applications, for example.
Like many other cities, the municipal authorities in Hamburg operate many systems for different aspects of a city. Hamburg had built its own platform based on a standard developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). This is a common and logical starting point for many cities because it fits in with geo-location, surface planning and measurement activities that municipal agencies deal with on a day-to-day basis.
We addressed two issues through our collaboration with Hamburg. One is the issue of sourcing and publishing city data, going beyond geo-spatial sources. The second is to make it easy for data users to access data through an API. While the OGC standard defines its SmartThings API, our analysis of the issues highlighted the need for additional API features. One example is the need to assign access policies to end-point devices and data sources so that a data provider can manage access and security.
Q: How did oneM2M become relevant in the project with Hamburg?
IF: Our team focuses on applied innovation so we were looking for a standardized architecture that we could implement rather than developing something one-off or new. In addition to OGC standards, we considered FiWARE and oneM2M specifications. oneM2M was convenient and also aligned with our preference for developing in Java Spring Boot with a microservices architecture and Scrum as an organizing methodology.
We also liked the oneM2M architecture and common services framework. It meant that we only needed to implement a subset of oneM2M’s common services that handled connectivity and data management requirements. If we need new capabilities in the future, it is straightforward to implement additional capabilities. We also know that if new requirements arise in the future then oneM2M’s blueprint provides a framework that can incorporate new capabilities in a coherent manner.
Q: What value did oneM2M bring to the project?
IF: From an implementation perspective, the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation (IOSB), built a server to collect city data from parking lots and traffic lights, for example. My team developed a data management platform - a common services entity (CSE) in oneM2M terms – to gather data from other sources and to publish it to third party users. We combined the two, effectively building a bridge, with a gateway functions, which is also known as an interworking proxy entity (IPE) in oneM2M terms. This arrangement allows us to gather city data from many different sources and to combine with the primarily geospatial data from Hamburg’s in-house data platform. That is valuable for data users who now have a single way to access a wide and growing range of city data.
oneM2M has a deep stack that covers different layers of an IoT solution. In time, we can bring in other oneM2M capabilities at higher layers in the stack so there is an option value to building on the oneM2M blueprint.
Our project helped to inform our project partners about the benefits of oneM2M. With the oneM2M IPE, the municipal authorities have a valuable capability in their IT toolkit to bring data from non-OGC sources.
Q: Beyond using oneM2M specifications, how are you involved with the standardization side of oneM2M?
IF: I am relatively new to the oneM2M organization because my team is more focused on research and innovation than the details of standardization. Nevertheless, our work with Hamburg and OGC standards demonstrated the importance of interworking between different environments. One of the initiatives to come out of this project is the need for interworking between OGC’s SmartThings API (STA) and oneM2M to enable opaque data routing and a standardized mapping of data models.
Interworking with oneM2M broadens the reach of many city platforms because OGC/STA-based platforms then can be connected with an oneM2M-based sensor or actuator systems. And a oneM2M CSE can also be used to interwork with STA-enabled sensors.
Working with other DT colleagues, I have initiated a new work item in oneM2M to define a formal interworking of both oneM2M and OGC SensorThings API standards. Our first step is to assess different data mapping and implementation approaches and eventually propose a technical specification as part of the oneM2M standard. In this endeavour, we are supported by oneM2M members from ORANGE, Nokia, Convida Wireless and IBM.
Q: What advice would you offer based on your work with Hamburg?
IF: One of the conclusions we reached from the Hamburg project is that in the IoT market and in Smart City deployments, there will not be a single, dominant standard. Each city will build its systems from a different starting point. Many will start from their OGC systems because of their legacy systems which are designed for charting areas and properties.
The use of STA to access data is a logical consequence because it is an OGC standard and available as open-source software. I have the impression that STA will be used in large deployments in several European cities such as Hamburg. As the scope of data sources grows over time, however, there will be a need for interworking across heterogeneous architectures to connect elements using different standards in future smart city infrastructures.
I would advise city IT departments, smart city service providers and systems integrators to plan for interoperable and extensible architectures. Our experience with oneM2M shows that it is possible to begin with a focused deployment that uses some basic infrastructure and a few elements from the standard for connectivity and data sourcing. Later on, cities can add connectors to bring in data from new devices or oneM2M functions that implement access and privacy policies, for example. Interworking capabilities are also important to create bridges for data sharing across application domains which, most likely, use a variety of standards.
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.