Aurindam Bhattacharya, Group Leader, C-DOT

Aurindam Bhattacharya, Group Leader, C-DOT

Smart solutions are impacting the lives of citizens along with better infrastructure and smart governance. To­ge­ther, these are defining the smart cities of today. However, the proprietary siloed implementations of so-called smart solutions in smart cities are causing more harm than good for the sustenance of smart cities. The need now is to take a hard look at the issues, bottlenecks and solutions.

Typical smart city solutions

The requirements and characteristics in terms of data, frequency, latency and levels of security are quite different for these solutions and therefore, the connectivity options also have to ensure that the cost of connectivity is optimized. It is now a well-understood fact that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) play a pivotal role in the Smart Cities. In majority of Smart Cities, ICT  is used in the following ways:

  • Implementing IoT applications that involve the use of sensors/actuators
  • Web based portals and associated applications
  • Integrated Command and Control Centre in these smart cities as the common operations and maintenance hub.

Of late, IoT applications have been quite rapidly changing the way people live and the worldwide growth in Internet usage and broadband (with declining costs) have given a boost to IoT. The adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), referring to devices, sensors and actuators that are embedded in physical objects, is maturing very fast. IoT technologies are being used by public and private organizations to improve the livability, quality, and sustainability of our homes, our communities, our cities. According to Statista, the number of IoT devices worldwide is forecast to almost triple from 8.74 billion in 2020 to more than 25.4 billion IoT devices in 2030. According to Growth Enabler, Smart Cities are the largest users of IoT as shown in the figure here.

However, despite the intent to create Smart and Sustainable Cities, the stakeholders of the Smart Cities have not been able to experience the growth of these cities with the desired results particularly with the smart solutions involving IoT. Owing to the proprietary, non-standardised deployment of solutions, the smart cities are facing many issues like lack of interoperability, data sharing, vendor-lock-in and security etc. Where on one hand the ecosystem is expected to experience massive growth, the industry and the authorities both are concerned about the issues and challenges arising due to lack of standardization.

Given below are some of the essential needs for sustainable large-scale deployment of M2M/IoT Solutions

  • Interoperability of applications, devices, networks and also semantics.
  • Mandatory testing and certifications of all devices and applications along with a mandate for a standardized practice of robust security framework for all IoT/M2M devices and applications w.r.t. Device Security, Authentication, Authorisation, Communication Security, Data Integrity, Data Privacy and Lawful Interception etc.
  • A standardized framework where no unauthorized device (sensor or actuator) or even application is allowed to communicate. This is because of the fact that compromised sensors and actuators can cause havoc to the entire ecosystem. In a proprietary vendor locked-in scenario such fears and apprehensions are very difficult to be assuaged.
  • In case of real-world implementations, there would be variety of M2M/IoT applications catering to the each vertical/domain. For example, a smart street light application may be using devices and technologies which are suitable for one geographical location. Another smart street light application may use different technology and therefore it is necessary that they integrate with each other seamlessly so that the management of these devices (street lights in this case) become uniform.
  • Any application development which requires a painstakingly long development lifecycle is rarely acceptable to small players (including start-ups) as they would mean higher cost and unfavorable competitive environment for them. This favors only the large players as they are able to push dated applications and technologies to the market in a vendor locked-in scenario. Moreover, such solutions are never cost-effective and lack innovations.
  • In real world M2M/IoT Deployments, it is essential to have data sharing among divergent applications. This not only eliminates the need for exclusive and duplicate deployment of sensors, but also reduces a lot of burden on the network resources. Data sharing also enables efficient management of divergent Applications. However, in case of proprietary implementations, such sharing is controlled by the vendor.
  • For any technology area, the sustainability of a solution lies on its ability to withstand and accommodate change i.e. it should not curb innovations. A standardized practice which promotes innovations is the one which is going to survive the test of time and would witness the economies of scale.

How oneM2M fulfils all these requirements

To meet these numerous requirements, oneM2M, the global standardization body for IoT/M2M, has developed a horizontal framework based on open standards and open API interfaces. This horizontal framework provides the common service functions needed by all business applications across divergent vertical use cases thereby exposing the standards compliant APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) which can be used by the application providers to build sector specific applications at a much shorter timeframe because of the fact that the developers need to focus only on the business applications and not spend their time, energy and resources in developing these common functions which eventually bring down the cost significantly.

Furthermore, because oneM2M is based on open standards, it would prevent vendor lock-in and users would reap the benefits of a much larger and more price-competitive ecosystem. By adopting oneM2M, deployment of IoT solutions in the cities would be much more cost-efficient, especially as apps and devices proliferate. Another huge benefit of oneM2M is that legacy implementation, through the development of adapters, can be brought onto the oneM2M horizontal platform without disruption.

Another standout oneM2M feature is that it can encourage smart city innovation. By exposing open data subsets and IT-friendly Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to app developers, which do not require them to know details of the underlying network, they can focus entirely on app logic. Simplicity of this sort means that oneM2M will appeal to a much wider app developer community than proprietary IoT systems. App developers will have a much larger addressable market and enjoy the benefits of being able to re-use code.

To illustrate oneM2M’s end-to-end framework and the benefits of standardization in complex and evolving systems, consider the example of smart street light solutions. This use case illustrates the basic components of an IoT system beginning with connected devices and the flow of data to a dashboard and control application. This use case can also evolve over time to interoperate with other deployments in a city, such as an Intelligent Transport System, Solid Waste Management System and Women Safety Application etc. As we know in practice, no city deploys all Smart Street Lights in one go. It is rather done in a phased manner and may span over a long period of time. As an example, the deployment might include street lights in three different locations, each using a different connectivity technology (cellular NB-IoT, LoRA and SigFox). Gateway units for each of these subsystems act as the interface, or Interworking Proxy Entity (IPE) in oneM2M terminology, to supply IoT data into a oneM2M based cloud IoT platform.

The oneM2M standard is agonistic to use case or industry vertical.  This open framework of oneM2M and agnosticism to network or technologies, allows for interworking with any technology/standard. As such developments designed to increased market adoption and reduce complexity from one vertical such can be easily adapted for use in another.   For example, the Smart Device Template (SDT) schema, originally developed to establish a common syntax for Smart Home device models and spur innovation and integration in Smart Home applications, is also applicable for use in Smart Cities.

The SDT is the cornerstone of an abstraction layer approach for various IoT domains, comprising both schema and a set of modules. An abstraction layer isolates applications, both in the cloud and in the field, from the multiplicity of local network protocols and device drivers, enabling applications to communicate easily and with a common information model with smart devices, regardless of technology type or the communication protocol used by the device.

However, oneM2M also provides deeper interworking with other standards like 3GPP, OPC-UA, OCF and Modbus to name a few. As an example, the interworking with 3GPP by virtue of oneM2M’s interfacing with Service Capability Exposure Function (SCEP) of 3GPP core, enables features like Non-IP data delivery and device triggering with which constrained NB-IoT user equipment can be triggered and communicated over the control plane of the 3GPP network thus saving power and network resources.

The Smart City, however has more data ingestion points than from IoT sources alone and therefore the architecture must be inclusive of that.

CCSP – C-DOT’s common service platform

The C-DOT Common Service Platform (CCSP) for IoT based on oneM2M standards is a software platform which contains the horizontal Common Service Layer for the IoT applications of various domains and multiple industry use cases. CCSP offers a standards-based approach to develop and deploy solutions in IoT/M2M with ease, significantly reducing the application development time and deployment lifecycle.  CCSP is agnostic to the underlying hardware, Operating Systems or connectivity technologies and enables secured data sharing between divergent applications using standards based interfaces.  CCSP supports 12 Common Service Functions (CSFs) as per oneM2M Release 3 (see sidebar “Features of CCSP”).

CCSP provides RESTful resource-oriented APIs (Create, Retrieve, Update, Delete and Notify) and supports both XML & JSON data formats. It also supports advanced functionalities like Flex Container, Service Subscription, Service Provider Restrictions, Time Series Data, Field Device Configuration, Announcement across oneM2M Nodes and 3GPP Interworking for Non IP Data Delivery etc.

Interfaces Supported

  • 3GPP T8 interface supported,
  • oneM2M Mca, Mcc interfaces supported over HTTPs, CoAPs and MQTT

oneM2M based IoT Applications from C-DOT

Along with the CCSP platform, C-DOT has also developed various oneM2M based solutions and have also assisted the industry partners in the development of oneM2M standards compliant solutions.

Key takeaways

After burning their fingers by implementing siloed proprietary solutions, city authorities have realized that for sustainability and agility of the Smart Cities, they cannot rely on traditional ways of doing things. Vertical rollouts, where each IoT use case is propped up by a dedicated network, use case-specific data exchange mechanisms, and single-use devices, do not scale.

With solutions which make cities isolated entities or cocoons, would not be able to sustain the pressures of agglomeration and rapid urbanization. Interoperability, Data Sharing and Security can only be achieved by oneM2M based implementations. With oneM2M based platforms like CCSP, cities will not be locked into proprietary ecosystems that limit technology choice and increase costs over time. This will also give the opportunity to local technology providers, both small and big, to be able to create oneM2M compliant innovative solutions in a very short time and deploy without any constraints.

For a Smarter world CCSP (& oneM2M) is the way to go.