Global carriers back ‘City as a Platform’ initiative

30 October 2017 | Editorial


The TM Forum is coordinating carriers, vendors and cities themselves to set new standards for smart cities and has started out by recruiting signatories for its 10-point manifesto on its City as a Platform idea.

Carriers such as Etisalat, Fastweb, Orange and Tele2 are supporting the TM Forum’s smart-city project. They and a number of other companies, universities and local authorities have signed the industry association’s City as a Platform Manifesto. 

Launched at this year’s Smart City InFocus event in Yinchuan, China, the Manifesto sets out 10 key principles to bring private and public sector together when deploying digital city platforms – see panel. 

Data economy

All Manifesto signatories share a common desire to develop a new city-scale data economy that drives sustainability and inclusivity, by using digital platforms, said the TM Forum. Backers include cities from Atlanta and Chicago to Wellington and Yinchuan, plus the European Commission and the UN’s Broadband Commission. 

“The cities that use modern digital technology to create a better experience for each and every citizen, are the true smart cities. TM Forum’s city platform principles offer great guidelines to achieve this goal,” said Suvi Lindén, a former member of the Broadband Commission and former minister of communications in Finland.

The principles set out in the manifesto are intended to act as guide to those setting public policy and a design philosophy to unite the many organisations involved in each smart city programme, including large and small technology companies. 

“As the world’s population expands and cities become denser, smart city programmes are contributing to a better quality of life,” said Carl Piva, VP and managing director of the TM Forum’s smart city initiative. 

“However, technology by itself will not solve the challenges facing urban centres around the world. Instead a shared, collaborative approach between the public and private sectors is needed in the development of local data economies to create services that will improve lives.”

$1.5 trillion market

According to a recent study by Frost & Sullivan, the smart city market alone is estimated to be worth $1.5 trillion by 2020, said Piva. 

“In addition to a relentless focus on citizens, there is a huge untapped economic agenda to consider for city governments. Cities are, and always have been, the largest marketplaces on earth, and the time is right for cities to also develop digital marketplaces that benefit people living in cities. Cities are where digital ecosystems collide.”

Thierry Souche, senior VP of Orange Labs Services and group CIO, said: “Orange is thrilled to join this manifesto. The platform architecture and Open API definitions will unleash innovation and help cities to become truly smart.” 

While monetisation will become a focus, the fundamental goal of a city platform is to improve life in the city. Jamie Cudden, head of Ireland’s Smart Dublin, commented: “The manifesto’s focus on collaboration and openness will help cities to realise this ambition. In Dublin, we see the city-as-a-platform as a key enabler to develop evidence-based solutions that will enhance city living.” 

The City as a Platform manifesto

The full text is available from the TM Forum at tmforum.org, but these are the 10 points in the manifesto. 

1. City platforms must enable services that improve the quality of life in cities; benefitting residents, the environment, and helping to bridge the digital divide.

2. City platforms must bring together both public and private stakeholders in digital ecosystems.

3. City platforms must support sharing economy principles and the circular economy agenda.

4. City platforms must provide ways for local start-ups and businesses to innovate and thrive.

5. City platforms must enforce the privacy and security of confidential data.

6. City platforms must inform political decisions and offer mechanisms for residents to make their voices heard.

7. City platforms must involve the local government in their governance and curation, and are built and managed by the most competent and merited organisations.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. City platforms must support the principles of UN’s Sustainable Development Goal

11: Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.