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  • Huawei

    Integrated AI Creates the City as a Platform

Welcome to the Keynote series for New Horizons, the podcast channel for Huawei’s ICT Insights Magazine. Please join us as we listen to tech industry experts and thought leaders. Today we’re at the 2018 Smart City Expo in Barcelona, Spain listening to Joann O’Brien, TM Forum Vice President for APIs and Ecosystems. She explains how TM Forum ‘Open API Manifesto’ is creating a flexible digital architecture for delivering real-time Software-as-a-Service capabilities for agile Smart Cities worldwide. Let’s sit back now and listen to Joann O’Brien to tell us the whole story!

Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you to Huawei for inviting me here today. It’s a great pleasure to kick off the talk today about ‘city as a data platform.’ So, today, what we’re seeing is that AI has become a reality in 2018. And, this has been a journey which has started a very long time ago, way back in the 1800s when Thomas Bayes, who created an essay regarding predictive analytics, really set the foundation of AI way back then. Along with that, Boole, who you all will know, provided the Boolean logic around the same time. Boole was a professor in University College Cork where I am from. I’m very fond of that legacy. And, really, when we underpinned AI way back in the 1800s, but it took until today for it to become a reality. 2018 is the first time — we had some hype around the 2010’s, where we had Watson beating Jeopardy — so, we’ve come out of the hype, and we really believe, and we’re seeing it here today, particularly under the Huawei stand and some other stands, where AI is genuinely creating efficiencies for cities.

What I want to talk to you about is really moving that to the next level of city as a data platform. We’re seeing that business value is being genuinely created. We have Gartner predicting, in the region of 1.2 trillion dollars of business value generated through AI in 2018. With that growing to 3.9 trillion by 2022. This is the foundation. But, of course, AI really relies on data. We need data, we need more data in order to realize more of these values.

Platforms are basically enabling monetization of data through IoT, video, geographic information systems, et cetera. Geographic information systems in video is kind of a newer area to this, where we’ve seen that cities are applying AI and these technologies to increase, say, for example, parking revenues where video is being used to capture the number plate of cars and, in a much more seamless way, are actually creating an infrastructure freer — a visually aesthetically pleasing — environment, and actually massively increasing the revenues from things like parking services and getting much higher degrees of compliance.

So, really it’s between IoT data and potential unlocking of other types of data that the growth of services and the growth of business value is being seen. The statistics are here — 3.6 trillion dollars expected to be received or seen realized in value by 2030. This is a massive business opportunity. However, we need to focus on the actual value, the actual services.

At the moment, it’s believed really that IoT is being led by retail, where retailers are actually using IoT services to create a much greater, intimate customer experience, with healthcare and supply chains, really, the next in line. And now, also we’re seeing Smart Cities completely embracing IoT and data. We believe it’s really part of the fourth industrial revolution, right? Where artificial intelligence, data, APIs, flexible architectures are creating an open dynamic ecosystem. It is compared to the invention of the steam engine, with regards to the impact that it will have on economic growth.

For cities who are already very economically viable, that’s probably a given that they will embrace AI. But it’s also a very important opportunity for newer cities, or cities that feel economically challenged right now. AI, and education of AI, and data and IoT can actually help a city to come out of economic deprivation. That is being embraced by groups like the World Bank and the World Economic Forum. This is a real opportunity. It’s a game changing period in our era.

It’s believed that 70 percent, that’s two-thirds of all companies, will implement some form of AI by 2030, and that most big organizations will underpin much of their infrastructure with AI over the next 20 years. AI being a 200 billion (dollar) opportunity to the industry, but there are a number of fundamental challenges going on at the same time, right? There’s 90 percent of the world’s data has been created over the last two years. This is exponentially growing by 10 times between now and 2025. But there’s only 1 percent of data that’s actually being used to create insights to make change, and that’s something that we need to fundamentally change, right? You need to embrace that data and actually use it to create intelligence.

So, there’s the factor of using the data that we have, but also creating more useful and clean data for the future. There are a number of aspects here. One is, it’s believed that IoT has grown up with a lot of fragmentation to date. We need to break down that fragmentation. In some sense, it’s believed that the genie has already left the bottle. However, we do need to work together collaboratively in order to realize seamless movement of data across different types of services in the future. We will need to create IoT-type standardization in order to achieve that. There are a number of companies and organizations like ourselves, TM Forum, who are working to create IoT standardization to enable that seamless movement of data in the future.

We are a not-for-profit organization. Huawei would be a member company of TM Forum, on our board. They influence our technical direction and strategy. We work collaboratively with over 850 member companies globally. What we develop is proven and tested by many different experts across cities and also across industries. What we’ve created to date is this whole series of tools that cities can use in order to, one, monitor where they are under smart journey. They can benchmark where they are today, not only for themselves, but also in comparison to other cities. They can use a whole series of open standards like open APIs and data models. They can use tools like ecosystem mapping to determine new types of services that can create and map information and financial flows of data.

We also created what we call the Open API manifesto. This set out a whole series of principles under which a whole number of cities have agreed to. There’s over a 140 signatures that are made up of industry organizations such as the UN. Huawei is also a member. The EU, as well, are all supporting of the manifesto. The basic principles of this manifesto really are three things. The livability: Is this a good place to live? Is there congestion in my environment? Can I move freely around the city? Workability: Is it easy to get access to this critical infrastructure and services that I need in order to compete with high quality jobs across the globe? And sustainability: Am I driving towards a carbon neutral environment? These are the principles that all of these companies and cities have underpinned and agreed to drive towards. They’re very, very good.

I would like to add another one to that and that’s learnability. Is the city data-driven and learning from its environment? Is it using the data available? Is it driving those efficiencies, those resource efficiencies, into the environment so that they can massively increase the efficiency of that city into the future?

Where our focus is today, the things I’ve talked about are the things we’ve been doing for the last five years. Our focus really today is breaking down the silos of data. Moving from static data to real-time data and being able to merge — to not only apply AI on specific types of services, but be able to apply AI and other cloud technologies to the integrated data across different types of services. That requires a whole series of standards behind those services in order to be able to get that level of interoperability and to be able to extract insights at an aggregate level.

We’ve also developed what we believe is a flexible architecture. It’s called the Open Digital Architecture within TM Forum. You can Google it. But it’s really about creating functional capabilities for cities and then delivering them as SaaS services. In doing so, you get a huge amount to reuse from those services, because they’re exposed to common APIs. We’re seeing a lot of that evident in the types of services that we’ve seen here today, with Huawei, with the smart metering and smart lighting — all the different types of infrastructure underpinned by a single platform and infrastructure. Having a capability and functional model like that, creates a flexible mechanism to manage lots of different types of services.

Yesterday, we announced, in order to help break down these silos of data, we announced a collaboration with a group called FIWARE. The reason we did this is TM Forum has been developing information models for many years. We have a legacy of nearly 30 years of creation of information models in the telecommunication space. Over 90 percent of the world’s operators are using the information models of TM Forum, plus processes and other things. However, the information models are the critical aspect to enabling interoperability and seamless movement of services across operators around the globe. We were seen as an important group, which can bring the capabilities to enable ecosystem-level interoperability by delivering open standardized APIs and data models.

We’re just kicking off this initiative. We announced it yesterday, and we’re just now kicking off this initiative. We’ll work collaboratively with cities and the Open & Agile Smart City organization, which represents over a 120 cities. This is really a building together of industry and cities to deliver seamless movement of data, right into the future, which will drive, really, the data economy.

We’ve seen from Huawei, this excellent presentation upfront, where we are so impressed to see the level of efficiencies that have been gained using the whole collaboration of education, infrastructure, platform, standardized APIs, and data models, and really, really delivering excellent new services. The next level really is the application of AI across many different types of services.

Just briefly, who we are, we’re a not-for-profit organization, so completely independent, work collaboratively with many different organizations at a city level, (and) other industry verticals. We run proof-of-concept collaborative projects. We host them in our lab, which allows the rapid innovation using open source technologies and our own technology, such as APIs, which are freely available to the public. This allows, really, a degree of collaboration and standardization. We completely believe in underpinning interoperability with standardization.

Also, we’ve been working in Smart Cities for a number of years now, hosting Smart City events in China, but also in Europe, and our collaboration will continue. But our focus for the next six months or so will be on breaking down those siloes of data, creating a seamless movement of data to allow us to grow well beyond that 1 percent of extraction of insights from data. By then, we will actually really realize the data economy.

Thank you for your time. We’re all about moving beyond the 1 percent, breaking down the silos of data, and creating learning cities. Thank you.

Thanks for listening to this episode of New Horizons. Please be sure to click on the link below to read a full transcript of this keynote speech. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe and be sure to share with your friends on social media. For more information on Huawei’s products and solutions, please visit Be sure to tune in again soon for more great guest interviews and stories. And as always, thanks for listening.


Joann O’Brien’s career spans over 20 years in technology, ranging from consumer electronics, telecommunications mobile switching to OSS/BSS and more recently to industry collaboration. Joann is currently the Vice President of TM Forum’s Open API initiative, chair of the API Steering Committee and lead for the Open Hack program. Joann has significant experience leading complex large-scale transformation programs for a number of organizations. She has a mixture of technical and management background, enjoying both equally; she has a BS in Information Technology majoring in Telecommunications from Dublin City University and MBA from Open University.