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1 March 2019

MWC Roundup: Smart City

Telensa – new Qualcomm-based smart city edge-processing sensor hub

Telensa’s connected lighting platform has smart city ambitions, and to this end, Keith Day, VP Marketing, outlined how the company was getting involved with the UK’s Urban Data Project, as it tries to move up the stack from just offering the backbone technology that can power a smart lighting deployment.

Day outlined how Telensa’s customers would express the desire to go beyond just simple lamp-post-based sensing, but that they were held back by the need to have a comprehensive data-trust infrastructure – especially in this post-GDPR world. To this end, Telensa has begun a partnership with the city of Cambridge, to test the new Qualcomm-based sensor hubs – which pack video and mmWave-based radar, leveraging Qualcomm’s edge-processing features to reduce the backhaul requirements for the network. As Day said, the biggest cost for these sorts of IoT networks is the data backhaul, and so edge-processing to sift the data before transport makes a big difference.

Day outlined how this sensor data could be used for traffic, footfall, and dwell-time analysis, but also how these readings could inspire strong anti-surveillance feelings. This is, according to Day, where Telensa’s City Data Guardian (CDG) platform can come in, as a way to provide the sorts of data-protection assurances that one would expect in a trusted platform.

This platform should provide the means for a city to control who has access to its data sources, creating a data marketplace of sorts, over which the city still retains control. The Cambridge partnership involves Microsoft, whose Azure IoT platform plays a pretty crucial role. We touched on the fact that there have been a number of attempts to create IoT-focused data marketplaces, but Day countered, saying that Telensa is intentionally moving slowly here, ensuring that cities are able to properly adopt the Urban Data Policies needed to protect their citizen data.

As for the hardware costs, we anticipated that the price of these new sensor hubs could be prohibitive, but Day said that this concern was one of the main drivers for going with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform – that its heritage in the smartphone world would ensure that prices were more along the hundreds rather than thousands of dollars mark. This is particularly important in the smart city market, where volumes are still very low, and so can’t be relied upon to drive the per-unit price down sufficiently. Day said that this market was still a long way from commoditized hardware.

Solace – enterprise message brokers with a background in finance

Solace was manning the booths in Hall 8.0, a hall that was increasingly devoid of IoT vendors this year (a growing trend, apparently), and we swung by to check what exactly a financial message broker was doing on our turf. It turns out that the sort of communications infrastructure that powers about two-thirds of the top banks, and their data distribution and authorization traffic, is quite applicable to the IoT.

To this end, Solace is hawking its message broker appliances (data-center hardware) to IoT-type deployments. The demonstration on show was powering Singapore’s buses and taxis, a project that scale to include private cars in the near future. Thanks to Solace’s publish-subscribe (pub-sub) systems, creating networks that can process IoT traffic in the relevant groups seems to have been a breeze.

An example of this was Mercedes-Benz’s remote unlocking and control application, which apparently used to suffer from a near-eight-second latency when a customer tried to unlock the car using the Me smartphone app. Using Solace’s appliances, this is now a sub-second process.

For Solace, the IoT is still a relatively new expansion, but one that seems quite organic. After all, the IoT is still just data – and whether you are using a system developed for banking or one for industrial networks is something of a moot-point – as long as it works in the field. Solace’s presence here is an interesting example of how companies can come to find themselves with a pretty capable IoT tool on their hands, without setting out entirely to do so.

Chordant – InterDigital spin-out complete, data marketplaces emerging

Recently spun-out from InterDigital, and having attracted some Sony investment too, Chordant’s Vanja Subotic, Head of Strategic Partnerships, outlined how the company’s IoT and transport projects have progressed. oneTransport has been going well, according to Subotic, with its recent involvement in the UK’s Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) testbeds of particular note.

Chordant’s aim with oneTransport is to create a data marketplace, acting as a platform on which companies can trade data. We asked how this marketplace strategy was panning out, as there are a fair few similar projects, and while it is not generating hundreds of millions in revenue, Subotic said she was pleased with the progress so far. The company is also deploying private marketplaces for some buyers, and these sorts of projects could later evolve into incorporating third-parties.

With transport as one major focus, Chordant is also pursuing operators, pushing its oneM2M platform. To this end, strategic partnerships are Subotic’s main focus, with recent examples including Deutsche Telekom’s IoT Optimizer, and Teradata, which used Chordant as a data aggregator, before performing analytics functions.

As for oneM2M customers, Chordant is focused on smart cities, but there is some overlap, as about 80% of the smart city use cases involve transport. These span traffic, parking, and air pollution, but also some more niche ones, such as tourist board strategy planning, which are not smart city in the conventional sense, but certainly fall under the same remit. oneM2M is well-suited to the heterogenous networks used in smart cities.

On the topic of public-sector data marketplaces, Subotic noted that the public sector is well accustomed to buying data from private sellers, but that the reverse isn’t true – as the public-sector data sources are typically not of a high enough quality or confidence. Most public-sector types are interested in selling data, aspiring to do so as Subotic put it, but there is significant tension in the data privacy aspects.

For the more vertically-focused marketplaces, such as those CAV deployments, the value lies in being able to compare your own data with that of the third-parties. In the CAV world, this means testing the operational data from the vehicles against data pulled from monitoring infrastructure on the road – so that you can purchase an outside perspective. oneTransport acts as a hub here, consolidating the data from the CAV pilot projects in the UK, which are getting some government funding.

In time, the automakers that are taking part can decide to add their own sensor data to the marketplace, and control what access their rivals will have. Subotic sees scope for expanding oneTransport into rail and marine applications, especially via combining data sets from different realms and creating a new value from the joined-up picture.