One of the biggest issues about creating a Smart City is that you can’t simply remove legacy systems and drop in a new infrastructure. Now that we are migrating to a new paradigm at the societal level, in this case the very automation of our community, we must create a development environment that enables an orderly transition from legacy logistics and infrastructures. Clear rules and industry standards enable coordinated development with a minimum of friction and wasted effort (Figure 1).
Piecemeal development is an enemy of progress, and competing proprietary solutions discourage adoption and increase cost. Only by having a standardized infrastructure can we develop a healthy competitive business environment where all can offer their solutions to the public. The operational nature of any given solution is not dependent on the interface. One can have the most amazing technology inside the box, but the outside of the box must be able to efficiently and effectively communicate with the other systems around it in a standardized manner.
There are many interface standards at the device level, both hardware and software. USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, CAT5, and others connect devices in a consistent manner, using an agreed interface. At higher levels, solutions start to diverge in intercompatibility. When it comes to Smart Cities, where almost everything is connected in some way to just about everything else, developing an interoperability protocol for all to use is an important issue.
The multiple heterogeneous technologies in a Smart City include Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS), the Internet of Things (IoT), Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs), Cloud Computing, autonomous vehicles, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), among others. All of these systems demand efficient networking and communication protocols to operate seamlessly together and provide the functionality demanded by the municipality.
Addressing this issue, the TALQ Consortium aims to establish a globally-accepted standard for management software interfaces to configure, command, control, and monitor heterogeneous outdoor device networks. Interoperability between Central Management Software (CMS) and Outdoor Device Networks (ODN) for several Smart City Applications from different vendors will enable a single CMS to control different ODNs in different parts of a city.
TALQ’s goals include enabling multi-vendor choice and an open platform for innovation and development, creating a common language for different Smart-City applications, increasing cost efficiency, and reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions. The proposed TALQ interface is a specification for information exchange, suitable for implementation in various products and systems.
The TALQ Specification
An open software (application layer) protocol, the TALQ specification describes an application language and protocol for operation and management of Outdoor Lighting Networks (OLN), a communication network of outdoor devices such as Light Points controllers, Gateways, Segment Controllers, and Sensors. A Central Management System (CMS) communicates with the OLNs to remotely configure and operate the system (Figure 2).
The TALQ effort began with lighting, as a major obstacle in smart outdoor lighting network development is the lack of a single protocol to manage various outdoor lighting systems. Because of this, municipalities hesitate to invest in these new technologies. A standard management interface protocol needs to support various kinds of network technologies, be it wired or wireless, to provide customers with as wide a selection of vendors as possible to overcome the fear of being locked-in.
TALQ Specifications includes features of lamp operation (such as dimming control), feedback (such as reporting of lamp status) and configuration (in order to set-up the system). The TALQ Consortium aims to define a globally-accepted smart-city protocol for central management software to configure, control, command, and monitor heterogeneous smart city device networks.
Recently, the TALQ Consortium certified 10 smart city products as TALQ compliant. After running a successful plug-fest event in Valencia, Spain, three Central Management Software (CMS) and seven Outdoor Device Networks (ODN) demonstrated interoperability by implementing the TALQ Version 2. The TALQ Consortium has a two-stage certification procedure: Test Tool Software to generate protocol reports, and an assessment by an expert Certification Work Group.
The 10 products that passed the TALQ Certification for TALQ Version 2.1.0 in the July 2019 plug fest session are:
Central Management Software (CMS):
CityLinx from BeeZeeLinx, France
City Vision from Capelon, Sweden
Smart Firefly from Uvax, Spain
Outdoor Device Network (ODN)/Gateway:
Citybox from Bouygues, France
Ki from Lucy Zodion, United Kingdom
Owlet IoT from Schréder, Belgium
Access Point System from Smartnodes, Belgium
CA-13 from Uvax, Spain
Trilliant TALQ Gateway from Trilliant, Canada
Witti TALQ Gateway from Witti, France
TALQ is an open industry consortium, which gives all existing and new member companies access to the detailed TALQ Specification, while also supporting them in their integration efforts. There are other organizations and companies offering their own solutions, but the nature of an open development environment helps foment healthy competition and increases the number of solutions presented to the marketplace.
The TALQ consortium and similar organizations may not be the final solution for Smart-City integration, but these efforts to create a harmonious networked community can only help the industry move forward. Using common communication protocols, a functional intelligent municipality infrastructure will enable us to achieve the goal of a true Smart City.