While the Internet of Things (IoT) may connect our devices, smart cities are launching increasingly disparate applications that need help connecting together the mess of data being generated.

In a commentary on The Stack, Comptel IoT specialist Veli-Pekka Luoma argues that telecommunications operators, or telcos, are perfectly suited to play the role of great communicator between the disconnected IoT applications that are proliferating across connected cities.

See also: Are telecoms being overlooked in smart city deployments?

“Operators have the chance to be the glue that stitches data from separate IoT applications together,” said Luoma. “Telcos can be the catalyst that spurs knowledge sharing, benchmarking and the development of best practices across IoT initiatives,”

He says it is vital that these IoT platforms better share resources in order for smart infrastructure to reach its efficiency potential.

“An internet-enabled suite of services, supported by real-time data analytics, could improve life for citizens in the areas of health, transportation, energy efficiency and more,” he said.

Luoma says it’s possible to develop effective strategies to get disparate smart city initiatives working in concert, and to tap the insights their harmony will produce

“Take a few steps back and you’ll quickly see the wide swath of vertical markets already engaging with IoT applications across global cities: health, energy, education, public safety and governance,” he said. “Imagine if each of those applications were connected, and cities had an opportunity to aggregate and analyze all of that information. What kinds of insights could be drawn, to the benefit of the entire city?”

Data – not the connection – is ultimately the future opportunity

However, he says the smart city opportunities of the future will not be just a connectivity play, but will be found in the powerful data that will emerge.

“Real-time data analysis and management is at the heart of the operator opportunity in the IoT, but especially in smart cities,” Luoma said. “After all, IoT-enabled devices are just like every other source of data, such telco networks or mobile apps, which operators already tap for customer insights.”

He sees telcos as being familiar with the concept of “horizontal platforms” that enable management of smart city technology, as they are similar to the service platforms operators currently use to look at data across different sources.

“Applied at the scale of a smart city, these urban operating systems rely on real-time data analytics to reveal the patterns of life within a city,” he said.  “Authorities could then look across real-time contextual data from vertical IoT applications to optimize and improve city life.”

“Ultimately, operators can serve as managers of the platforms cities use to aggregate and analyze disparate IoT data in real-time, to the benefit of everyday citizens.”

Donal Power