Cross Town Traffic! oneM2M looks to drive the smart cities of the future

NCN spoke with Chris Meering, regional vice chair (EMEA) of oneM2M MARCOMs committee, to find out how networks in urban areas can build the smart cities of the future.

oneM2M is an organisation set up to develop technical specifications which address the need for a common M2M service layer that can be embedded within hardware and software and then relied on to connect the huge number of devices needed to create larger smarter networks.

Chris says that the main messages oneM2M would like to get across is the need for a horizontal platform strategy rather than a multiple vertical ‘siloed’ application, that any system should be citizen centric in design, driven by a problem not a solution and match the connectivity to the use case. Chris argues it’s not a one size fits all approach, choices need to be made as to when to use Low Power Wide Area Networks such as LoRa, NB IoT etc. rather than Wi-Fi or traditional cellular. Security also must be built-in rather than added as a separate module.

So, what are the advantages of a smart city? Chris says, “Delivering better services, more efficiencies, less cost to service, potential new revenue streams for the cities, better infrastructure and attracting new employers and industry.

“They can also deliver better quality of life/experience. For example, less CO2 and congestion through the use of smart parking, traffic management and waste management.”

Solutions such as these are a huge part of the future as the planet continues to urbanise, a white paper by Chris’ employer, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE), where he works as CMS WW IoT go to market lead, predicted that by 2050, 70% of the global population will live in urban areas. Chris argues that IoT in particular offers far-reaching opportunities to change the trajectory of asset and resource management and usage to help cities become more efficient and sustainable as demands increase.

IoT is already delivering benefits to cities like Los Angeles and Oslo, which have experienced energy savings of more than 60% by moving to smart street lighting. Other cities have seen similar significant savings by deploying smart waste management solutions, reducing CO2 emissions, and increasing citizen satisfaction through smart parking and traffic management.

Chris explains, “In many cases, however, these are only isolated point solutions. To truly exploit the benefits of IoT within a smart city, a holistic approach is required such that the infrastructure deployed is flexible enough to support multiple use cases rather than building multiple silos.

“As such, a thorough study of setting up IoT networks and solutions is needed to respond adequately to specific smart city project requirements. Policy makers must fully comprehend and organise the interaction between IoT systems and multiple connectivity networks to accelerate the transformation of data these systems generate into value and services.”

Chris adds, “The future city represents an extensive melting pot of innovation potential. Several cities are already driving knowledge exchange in schools, universities, and laboratories. Innovation labs are expected to marry technology innovation to services and business models to create more contextualised residential and enterprise benefits.

 

Smart Cities are needed to cope with increasing urbanisation
Smart Cities are needed to cope with increasing urbanisation

Making it happen

NCN wanted to know what Chris’ message would be to those tasked with making smart cities a reality.

Chris argues, “For smart cities to become IoT operators and fully realise its value, a horizontal platform is needed. Such a platform must be able to easily onboard new use cases defined by application and device type from any industry and manage the entire ecosystem from the time the application is on-boarded until it’s removed. In addition, the platform must support scalability and lifecycle when devices become distributed by millions over periods that could exceed ten years.”

No small task then, Chris also adds, “Cities have to consider four priorities in their transformation into smart cities: transferring to a hybrid infrastructure, protecting digital assets, empowering a data-driven organisation and the increased mobility and engagement of their citizens.”

A real challenge cited by Chris is the fact that at the city level, innovation must permeate the entire organisation from local government policies to its daily operation on the ground. Solutions do not always have to be very complex, simplification can be a big driver.

Chris argues, “A global digital environment with enhanced interfacing of each individual brick (cloud, networks, servers, sensors, data storage, software, and applications) provides the necessary fluidity for accelerating innovation. Setting up a successful global digital environment for smart cities requires an ecosystem of complementary expertise, founded on human values and qualities.”

oneM2M Smart Cities paper

Chris also points to key messages from oneM2M’s white paper on the subject which underlines the fact that oneM2M’s framework, based on open standards and open API interfaces, enables city planners to sidestep ‘vertical’ rollouts that do not scale. Having a dedicated wireless mesh network to support a smart street lighting system, for example, can be highly inefficient.

The white paper also argues that whilst there might be some time-to-market advantage by opting a ‘siloed’ approach, through painful experience, authorities realise that vertical deployments are not sustainable if smart cities are to support multiple IoT use cases and enable data re-use. The paper argues that it would be much more cost-efficient if a single platform could support not only street lighting, but also related services such as street parking, waste management and traffic.

The paper also argues that dedicated devices, tied to an app and network, is another inefficiency. oneMSM says it would be much more cost-effective if sensors could multitask and generate data for different use cases. So, a temperature sensor positioned close to the street could be used not only as a tool for checking road conditions, but also a weather status/forecast tool. Single sensors like this would reduce deployment costs and cut expenditure on communications.

The white paper further points out that smart city architects are already thinking along ‘horizontal’ lines. Cities might still see a need to deploy a number of different networks, usually with different throughput and latency characteristics to suit the specific needs of different applications, but capital outlay would be reduced if the number and diversity of those networks were limited to a manageable selection. The paper concludes that this favourable outcome is more likely if the smaller number of networks deployed are used more efficiently. Accommodating different apps, for example, or meeting the needs of several city departments rather than just one stand-alone solution. A horizontal architecture makes all of this possible.

So, on a practical level, how would smart cities differ for the inhabitants?

Chris says, “Interaction would exist between disparate services now connected via a central platform, for example parking, linked to traffic management, to waste management collections. There would be ubiquitous connectivity available to connect citizens with each other, but also enterprises and services. Big data would be captured and used to improve services, operations, and citizen experiences – for example looking for trends and patterns in the data that identifies issues and solutions.”

Chris also predicts that with smart cities we will see more edge-computing where intelligence is pushed out to the network and not created centrally. For example, its way more efficient to create video analytics at the site of the camera, or ideally within the camera itself, that way, only the useful; data needs to go anywhere else. Also, intelligence can be created with very simple low power high efficiency sensors which detect movement, heat, light ect, and feed those small, but collectively very useful bits of info back to the network. Chris says that putting a simple sensor in a bin to inform when its full or not, may not the most exciting ‘vision of the future’ but could deliver huge efficiencies and environmental advantages.

Busan in South Korea is going full smart city
Busan in South Korea is going full smart city

Case study

One example where oneM2M’s approach has been employed is in Busan, the second-largest city in South Korea with a population of 3.6 million, which delivers more than 25 smart city services across a oneM2M platform. The IoT use cases are diverse, spanning community safety, traffic improvement, urban living and energy conservation. From school-zone smart traffic to location-based marketing services (using proximity beacons), Busan is a real hot bed of IoT innovation.

The South Korean government selected oneM2M after rejecting proprietary IoT platform solutions and other standards-based approaches that did not enjoy the same level of international backing. Previously, the government had relied on several IoT platforms, in each of the country’s main cities, to support different IoT use cases. oneM2Mm says this approach was eventually discarded as being too inefficient.

Another oneM2M advantage cited by the organisation is that all data, generated from sensors installed in the city, can be collected and shared. Citizens, service providers and innovative local start-ups can all exchange ideas and help develop a ‘smart’ Busan.

Power to the people?

It’s also vital to consider the impact on citizens, we all know city living can be stressful creating health and economic disadvantages. Chris says that potentially, if people can predict and avoid stressful situations, not being able to find parking or create more efficient routes and times when they need to travel etc, it would be beneficial.

One thing is for sure, we are really only at the very start of this process, there is lots more work to be done, on many levels a daunting amount, but smart cities are coming and they will change the way we live forever.

Southampton is one of the UK cities introducing 'smart services'
Southampton is one of the UK cities introducing ‘smart services’

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