TM Forum aims to end smart city chaos with ‘City as a Platform’

The TM Forum has announced a manifesto for the ‘City as a Platform’, aiming to bring some coherence to the multitude of technologies, standards and use cases which are bringing chaos to the smart city movement.

Many so-called ‘smart city’ initiatives actually focus just on one or two spot applications, with no platform in place to integrate others in future in a collaborative way. Some, like the UK’s Bristol is Open project, are taking a more holistic approach, with common cloud platforms, data analytics, connectivity and applications programming interfaces to tie all the use cases together.

But these remain the exception rather than the rule, something TM Forum hopes to address with its manifesto for “open and collaborative” smart city development. It is promoting the idea of a common platform on which cities can build a federated data exchange ecosystem which would help share learning and data, reduce cost and risk of deployment, and generate far greater value than the sum of the systems’ parts.

The manifesto has initially been endorsed by 40 major cities, along with regional and international government bodies, telcos, vendors and associations.

Carl Piva, VP and managing director of TM Forum’s smart city initiative, told TelecomTV: “What isn’t happening in smart city development yet is that the data isn’t being utilised in a curated ecosystem sort of a way, and this is where the Platform Manifesto comes in. It’s about making this into a system where you have multiple data producers and multiple data consumers who can operate within that ecosystem and make ends meet.”

“The platform manifesto is about growing a data economy, and that’s a tremendous, multi-trillion dollar opportunity if they do it right,” he added.

The manifesto sets out 10 key principles which the Forum says would bring together private and public operators around open digital city platforms based on standard APIs.

These are:

  • City platforms must enable services that improve the quality of life in cities; benefitting residents, the environment, and helping to bridge the digital divide
  • City platforms must bring together both public and private stakeholders in digital ecosystems
  • City platforms must support sharing economy principles and the circular economy agenda
  • City platforms must provide ways for local start-ups and businesses to innovate and thrive
  • City platforms must enforce the privacy and security of confidential data
  • City platforms must inform political decisions and offer mechanisms for residents to make their voices heard
  • City platforms must involve the local government in their governance and curation, and are built and managed by the most competent and merited organisations
  • City platforms must be based on open standards, industry best practices and open APIs to facilitate a vendor neutral approach, with industry agreed architecture models (see below for examples)
  • City platforms must support a common approach to federation of data or services between cities, making it possible for cities of all sizes to take part in the growing data economy
  • City platforms must support the principles of UN Sustainable Development Goal 11: Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

“We have more than 40 initial signatories and we think those make a snowball and a really good starting point. We think the snowball is going to roll and get bigger,” concluded Piva.