“We rely on oneM2M to collect and share real-time network and other data types between different partners and client applications. As you can see, there are technical and business model advantages of using oneM2M”.

May 2024 - Andre Dutra discusses a new market opportunity for hybrid mobile and satellite IoT and how Deutsche Telekom (DT) is addressing customer demand. In this interview, he explains DT’s reliance on oneM2M standards in its T IoT Hub to develop a new product offering. He also describes the open API capabilities that make business-systems and IoT data management another value dimension of the customer experience.

Q: Would you begin by introducing yourself?

AD: I am an Enterprise Architect with technical responsibility in the technology department of Deutsche Telekom's IoT business. I have over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, most of it in telecommunications. Originally from Brazil, I have been working in Germany for the last 15 years in various architecture and solution leadership roles in IT and Business Support Systems (BSS).

At the moment I’m working on evolving DT IoT technology landscape and DT’s T IoT Hub is one of our main assets. My Enterprise Architect role is to ensure that the overall architecture of DT’s IoT Hub remains consistent, competitive, and innovative as it evolves to meet DT’s IoT business strategy and new business requirements.

Q: Tell us a bit more about the T IoT Hub and your latest market development efforts.

AD: When deploying IoT systems, we notice that customers incur significant systems integration costs when linking systems from different vendors. This can arise when customers are managing connectivity across multiple platforms or interfacing with legacy IT systems. The lack of standardization places a burden in the shape of integration costs and that prevents enterprises from extracting full value for their IoT data. We remove these obstacles with the T IoT Hub. Think of it as a standards-based connector and translator for IoT systems, with oneM2M standards being an integral part of the solution. oneM2M is part of our technology stack because it is standardized and reduces our risk of getting locked into proprietary protocols. It also provides a very solid architectural foundation in terms of interfaces and data structures, which has been a time saver. 

The T IoT Hub is the customer entry point for Deutsche Telekom’s IoT Portfolio, and it is continuously evolving to support new products and use cases. One of our latest developments, integrating mobile and satellite communications for IoT, is taking our business in an innovative direction. You might have seen this product announcement we made recently in the Mobile World Congress.

Q: What is the new proposition and what market factors led to its development?

AD: IoT is becoming a more mature technology for the business sector, leading to growing demand for global asset tracking solutions and critical infrastructure. Satellite is important to the coverage mix but businesses need to balance global coverage and cost by combining satellite and cellular connectivity intelligently.

From the supply side, the wireless industry is working on solutions including the adoption of 3GPP standards in satellite communications. There are also longer-term ideas about integrating non-terrestrial networks as part of 6G technical standards. 

In DT’s case, we are focused on current market demands where customers need a failsafe network connection for critical infrastructure like wind and solar parks. There are also mobile scenarios, like maritime applications, where customers want to ensure connectivity to their assets worldwide and in the most remote places. With our proposition they can do this by ordering our converged connectivity together with the appropriate hardware device or gateway deployed on their assets or premises. Our setup manages the use of satellite and cellular connectivity automatically with the T IoT Hub. More importantly, the solution we engineered not only manages the hardware configuration but also provides real-time metrics including location and connectivity network metrics. Some of this data comes from the satellite provider’s business systems, which is an additional level of complexity that our solution manages.

Q: How does DT’s offering compare with other satellite IoT efforts?

AD: There is increased activity on hybrid satellite-cellular solutions to take advantage of 3GPP-compatible, dual-mode wireless modules. Think of these as network-oriented approaches. We are working on that as well and are the first ones to provide a commercial offering for it with one of our satellite partners. However, that approach is tailored to low power narrowband scenarios. In addition to that, we have also a proposition for broadband use cases that differs by focusing more on API integration. This allows us to manage the endpoint IoT hardware and to manage connectivity through the management system so that we are not touching the network.

Our approach hides network complexity issues from the users so that they can focus on their requirements which is all about two things. One is to ensure continuous and cost-effective connectivity. The other is to transport and have easy access to data without relying on specialized IoT protocols which can be opaque because hardware vendors do not always make it easy for developer access.

Q: What benefits does oneM2M provide in DT’s new offering?

AD: Since we already constructed the IoT Hub using oneM2M, a major benefit comes from reusing its common service capabilities. Without oneM2M, we would be starting each new project from scratch. Let us say we started with some other existing device management (DM) solution. Then, we would not only have to customize it to our purpose but also, we would be carrying the full capabilities of that DM solution even though we want to use only a sub-set of its functional capabilities. This is the case for our hybrid satellite-cellular system which is quite a lightweight one; we don’t need a full-blown platform to manage it. With the existing oneM2M foundations in T IoT Hub, we can call on just the right subset of capabilities required for this proposition. Another important advantage of using oneM2M is the flexibility to represent exactly the data required to manage the converged connectivity and its configuration.

Interoperability is another important benefit of using oneM2M. In this case, we want to collect real-time network data and to enable data sharing among different applications, from the business support systems belonging to different partners up to the client applications from our customers. Here again we made use of the oneM2M flexibility to represent different kinds of data. As you can see, there are technical and business model advantages of using oneM2M. Standardization makes it easier to add other partners in the future without incurring new systems integration costs.

Q: You mention using a few of oneM2M’s capabilities. Would you elaborate on that? 

AD: Among oneM2M’s common service functions (CSFs), we are using the application data management and device management capabilities. oneM2M provides so called FlexContainers which are customizable containers for data instances. We rely on FlexContainers to represent the connectivity setup and configuration of the customer sites. With that, we have an abstracted, high-level representation that not only serves our user interface (UI) but also can be used directly by customer applications over T IoT Hub oneM2M API. For the user, it means they can manage the connectivity using simple and straight-forward instructions. The technical intricacies of dealing with different communications networks and hardware devices are abstracted away by oneM2M’s based data structures and API.

We also use oneM2M subscription notification CSF so that remote-monitoring applications receive updates as and when data changes occur. Our satellite partner supplies connectivity performance data in real time. We use oneM2M’s interworking proxy entity (IPE) capability to harmonize that data for ease of sharing and here we rely again on oneM2M FlexContainers to represent the different metric types. Through the oneM2M API, developers and end-users can access real time data from the FlexContainer which we have structured to record performance metrics such as connection rate, jitter, and latency. As we add other partners, it is a straightforward step to customize FlexContainers based on what data different satellite partners make available via their servers.

Q: Are there any final comments you would like to add?

AD: We are quite happy with the new satellite IoT proposition and in the process of exploring opportunities with more partners. oneM2M helps us technically. It also helps us to add more partners which is a positive for our business model. That is because interoperability is at the heart of what we do with T IoT Hub and oneM2M plays in important part in helping customers who are looking for simple ways to manage different components in their deployments and to share the IoT data they collect.