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F-Interop: your questions answered

Posted 8 Dec 2016

Thinking about applying for the F-Interop open call? IoT expert Alistair Munro, recently retired from Airbus Defence & Space, explains more about what’s involved, how your IoT ideas can benefit and answers your burning questions.

Interoperability has a host of benefits from sharing data, increasing business opportunities for vendors to improving infrastructure, resulting in reduced costs and improved efficiency for platforms and services.

However there are various challenges to be faced; the IoT domain is highly fragmented with significant investment in legacy technologies, which means a number of vendors are convinced that interoperability undermines their selling points and investment in products.

IoT interoperability connects a vast diversity of devices and media with each other, sharing data in a multitude of formats and building applications and services. This is no mean feat.

IoT communities are addressing this fragmentation by developing protocols to connect things together, including common data formats and ontologies that capture the intent and semantics of applications.

It takes a lot of time and effort to test an implementation. Plugtests bring implementers together to discover problems. Once the problems are fixed, the plugtest is reconvened and then the cycle begins all over again. Plugtests are vital throughout the testing process, as there is a risk that important IP rights could leak or that weaknesses are revealed to competitors.

How will F-Interop help to mitigate these problems?

F-Interop will integrate platforms developed by the European Commission’s Future Internet Research and Experimentation (FIRE) programme to make reference implementations of mainstream IoT standards accessible to IoT communities, offering ‘Testing as a Service’ (TaaS).

TaaS will virtualise the plugtest, turning it into an online event with remote participation. This makes it easier and quicker to conduct actions, particularly if they are frequently repeated. It will also assure the confidentiality of test results and facilitate devices’ certifications of compliance.

Why should I take part?

F-Interop aims to validate TaaS functionality to develop new test suites within the current TaaS, as well as develop new tools to extend the TaaS capabilities.

Successful F-Interop applicants will gain early access to the TaaS platform, influence the way it develops, and have the opportunity to create intellectual property to support their own business development. The impact of the applicant’s business model is imperative to the selection criteria, as this will help to guarantee sustainability of the developed solutions beyond the scope of the project.

F-Interop candidates should:

  • want to develop their engagement with new and emerging IoT communities
  • be developing their own interoperability
  • potentially already be involved in the diverse existing stands efforts

What’s my business model and how do I reply to the open call exam question?

Your business model must align with the impact F-Interop has to reach. Here’s an example answer to the Open Call exam question:

I’m interested in extending the TaaS capabilities because it lets me develop tools and expertise that fit my own ideas about interoperability. These outcomes suit my business model and highlight the impact on me as an SME and on IoT stakeholders.

How do I identify a partner to work with?

Start a dialogue with F-Interop to identify specific partners that can best support the proposal. Participating in Digital Catapult’s online Q&A webinars (next one being on 9 December, 2:30pm GMT) can be a good way to untangle such requirements.

How will my proposal be assessed?

The criteria that assessors will use are similar to those used by the European Commission in evaluating proposals to H2020. They are described in Section 6 of the guidelines; an extract is shown below.

These criteria give more details about what assessors will look for in each of the major categories:

  • 1 indicates relatively low importance and 4 indicates relatively high importance. No weight means very low importance.
  • “Test design” has no weighting for “Innovative dimension” because a project in this category will be expected to use the F-Interop platform, not to extend it.
  • The criterion “potential number of users/participants” indicates how the needs of existing communities are addressed.
  • “Relevance for SMEs” has no figure for the “SME Report” as projects will be evaluating platforms’ usability, not the value that it can deliver to users.
  • “Geographic location” encourages applicants from all EU states to apply.
  • “Impact for standardisation communities” means applicants should focus on protocols currently under standardisation or existing standards.
  • “Turnover of the applicant” is given a high weight, but only in the category of “SME Report”. It may favour applicants with significant growth who are potentially able to do the platform evaluation more comprehensively.

The F-Interop Open Call hopes to attract proposals relevant to new and emerging IoT communities, but the results should also be applicable to those currently in scope. Tools and test targeting protocols still in the academic research stage will have little effect on industrial communities in the short term.

The proposal you submit to F-Interop is much shorter and simpler than a full H2020 Research and Innovation Actions proposal. Nevertheless, the limited space you have must be used to maximum effect to address the assessment criteria.