A new community-based initiative is building best practice positions on IoT deployment in urban environments.
Animated by the notion that “All of us are smarter than any one of us,” a new research initiative is drawing on the wisdom of the crowd to explore IoT and its potential impact on the urban landscape. IoValue: Intelligent Cities is one of six working groups that was launched late spring by Toronto-based boutique research firm InsightaaS with a mandate to develop best practice guidelines on the implementation of advanced IoT technologies. The working group’s ultimate goal is to drive urban efficiency, productivity and sustainability by building awareness and education on the obstacles and opportunities that can be won through IoT adoption.
The crowd source approach to mustering, mediating and disseminating expert perspectives on technology deployment is not unique to the treatment of IoT in the city context, rather, it is a research process first developed – and proved out – by InsightaaS to create best practice guidance on cloud adoption and optimization. Established with a steering committee of 17 in April 2015, The Toronto Cloud Business Coalition connected thought leaders from key stakeholder constituencies – including IT and business management in enterprises and SMB companies, global IT vendors, Canadian (and global) “Born in the Cloud” XaaS providers, ecosystem/channel firms, academics, VCs and corporate finance firms, and other cloud experts who don’t fall neatly into the defined categories – in 10 working groups focused on subject areas defined by the community as issues that were critical to industry advance. Since launch, the TCBC has grown to a community of 100+, has finalized best practice positions in 10 areas (a compilation entitled “Building Cloud Value: A Best Practice Guide, 2016” has just been published in book form), and has embarked on 12 new working group topics for this year that dig more deeply into the financial aspects of cloud.
So what accounts for the success of this approach? When community members were asked midpoint between year one and two working group sessions what they most valued in the community-based meetings, it was the opportunity to reconnoitre on topics of common interest with professionals from a diversity of disciplines/industries who could offer multiple perspectives out of different experiences – a heterogeneity of opinion and information that is best aligned with the needs of complex technology deployments for input from business, tech and other visionaries.
But beyond the participants’ ability to learn from ‘like but different’ peers is the quality and utility of output. Traditional market research (disclaimer: InsightaaS is an active practitioner!) offers a wealth of data on market evolution that is critical to vendor positioning and sales/marketing strategy, but it assumes analyst omniscience, a position that is increasingly problematic in today’s world where information growth increases at exponential rates. It is also of questionable use to the enterprise technology user who is looking for ‘how to’ on building the business case, technology deployment, and change management associated with ICT implementation. TCBC documentation, on the other hand, is aimed at providing insight to the technology user, and on distributing best practice guidance freely and as widely as possible through member networks, a position that argues ‘value through ubiquity’ rather than the ‘value through scarcity’ approach that is more common in walled-garden content firms. Technology adoption is accelerated if more rather than fewer people have access to content.
A key component in the community model’s knowledge diffusion is the CIA-Plus meetup, a series of short panel and in person networking sessions that rotate focus across “Cloud”, “IoT” and “Analytics” (as opposed to Central Intelligence), and look to understand the relationships between these technologies. The topic for the most recent CIA+ event held at the end of June was “Building the IoT Ecosystem,” and the session featured introductory remarks on “consortia as the new middleware” from Cisco, and insight from panelists from the ORION network (consumerization and M2M mean sources of IoT innovation will be diffuse), sponsor Red Hat, which is building relationships in the IoT space (open source is the foundation for IoT solutions which combine multiple platforms), from the Schulich School of Business (business case comes first), and from Ingram Micro which is actively developing integrated frameworks for vertical IoT solutions.
This vertical focus is a fundamental requirement in the creation of repeatable IoT solutions, and city platforms have proved to be one of the focus areas where visioning has been especially fertile. Think IoT, and images of smart traffic and parking management, smart transport, smart infrastructure (water, energy and buildings), and connected innovation accelerators are not far behind as urban managers are now engaged in real projects across the globe aimed at resource conservation, sustainable development and new services for citizens. If “smart city” is an older concept with a venerable history in academic investigation, the fact of “intelligent city” is being reinvigorated by new technology capabilities enabled by the analysis of massive data that is now generated through the increasingly pervasive instrumentation and connection of “things.”
Intelligent cities, which may be distinguished from smart cities that are connected by their use of data driven decision making, occupies a key place in the newly formed IoT Canada Coalition. Modelled on the TCBC in terms of working group process, the IoTCC consists of six working groups that are each either vertically focused or that address a specific challenge in IoT:
- IoValue: Intelligent Cities
Intelligent Cities combine smart connectivity with information sharing to unleash new potential in environmental standards, operational management and in the creation of new citizen services. The group will address some or all of: identifying business value, creating the business case, documenting service delivery requirements and opportunities, sourcing strategy and process management that includes metrics and milestones.
- IoValue: Intelligent Industry
Sensors have been in place in industrial environments for decades, but IoT requires a new approach that integrates IT capabilities with legacy systems. Do technologies and communities on the IT/OT divide collide or coalesce, and what can be done to build IoT collaboration on the shop floor?
- IoValue: Intelligent Customer Experience
IT’s expanding perimeter is creating new opportunities for customer interaction. IoT technologies capture and deliver information in ways that enable entirely new approaches to understanding customer preferences and delivering solutions. What kind of new structures need to be in place to enable responsive, standardized support for customer transactions?
- Privacy and Security
As the source of new service delivery and unprecedented intrusion into the personal realm, monitoring and management of personal data in IoT is a curse and a blessing. Securing this data, as well as data from complex business and industrial systems, takes on added weight in IoT solutions as the consequence of failure may impact regulatory compliance or critical physical infrastructure. What plan and processes can be put in place to ensure privacy and security across vulnerable, interconnected IoT solutions?
- Backing the Winner(s) in Building the IoT Stack
IoT solutions are built through the combination of connectivity, sensor technologies and data analytics. But how do these combine, what new IT architectures must be drawn, and how can implementers negotiate the explosion of demand and supply in this burgeoning field to ensure not only that solutions work together, but that they have adopted market winning standards?
- The IoT Ecosystem: Definition and Development
More than any other IT solution, IoT “takes a village” to deliver. Customer needs span sensors, networks and networking, security, analytics, core storage and processing and a dizzying array of controlled devices. How do suppliers need to collaborate to deliver ‘whole systems’ meeting IoT customer needs?
A foundational principle of the cloud, IoT and analytics approach is that working group direction hails from the community itself, rather than from its organizers. At a high level, these topics are a synthesis of the multiple suggestions advanced by the IoT steering committee which met this April, and represent a starting point for conversation and for the elaboration of an agenda for best practice document creation. So far, the Intelligent Cities working group has tackled definitional issues, electing, in a nod to frameworks developed by the ICF, to treat ‘city’ as community that encompasses public and private sector innovation, and to extend its physical boundaries to reflect the integration of intelligent cities into the broader global village and to better align scope with the global nature of IoT technologies. The agenda for further discussion is not yet set and expected to evolve with community formation – to create a ‘living best practices document’ that captures the momentum and tremendous change that will mark this emerging opportunity in urban development.
InsightaaS continues to recruit new community members. Interested parties are welcome to connect with the author at mary.allen@insightaaS.com