May 23
Catalyst projects spark the imagination


The TM Forum Live 2017 event in Nice last week was buzzing with activity and as usual, both stimulating and thought provoking. Leaders from all walks of the communications industry joined together to discuss the latest hot topics including network virtualization, 5G, Internet of Everything and which parts of the value chain service providers can expect to deliver across the digital ecosystem. With an enterprise hack and eight conference tracks, 32 catalyst projects involving more than 100 companies, there was certainly a lot going on.

We heard from keynote speakers including Shankar Arumugavelu, CIO of Verizon Wireless talking about the need to reinvent every aspect of business to enable digital transformation; Deborah Sherry, General Manager and CCO, GE Digital Europe who highlighted the importance of collaboration; Nick Willetts, CEO TM Forum who talked about creating new opportunities for service providers through digital transformation; and Alpna Doshi, GCIO Business Transformation & IT Worldwide for the Dutch company Philips on healthcare innovation and the digital journey.

Interestingly Philips, better known for consumer and lighting products, are divesting its lighting division to focus its business on digital healthcare. Alpna explained how Philips have extensively collaborated in TM Forum initiatives to help create a digital healthcare ecosystem which helps overcome partner compliance issues. She said business transformation is a never ending journey and the healthcare industry badly needs to change. Digital healthcare challenges include the need for secure, ubiquitous access to healthcare systems and information, affordable services particularly with an aging population and a higher quality of healthcare. Predictive care and analytics will also play an important role in the future.

Catalyst projects stole the limelight

More than ever I think the catalyst projects stole the show, with some amazing collaborative projects, each one involving up to ten partners, including their respective champions (network service providers) and participants (vendors, universities, local authorities and consulting companies). TM Forum’s catalyst projects set out to take theoretical concepts, some of them quite complex, and quickly turn them into working proof-of-concept demos that show the key capabilities of the concept. Leveraging best practices and open APIs developed by the Forum, these projects not only help drive innovation but also bring together groups of partners to form collaborative working groups who can pool their ideas and expertise. Proving that an idea can actually work despite some of the real challenges in making it happen is the ideal way to overcome hurdles and move ideas into practical examples which can later be commercialized.

Seven out of the thirty two catalyst projects were awarded honors at the event. Two of my favorite catalysts were ‘Logical Factory: Virtualizing Manufacturing for Agility’, and ‘Dynamic Asset Management for SDN/NFV Transformations’.

‘Logical Factory: Virtualizing Manufacturing for Agility’ is a catalyst project involving six partners, BT, Telecom Italia and TWI (Champions), and Infosim, Infosys and EnterpriseWeb (Participants). The project builds on a previous catalyst called ‘Smart Industrial Manufacturing: Robots as a Service’ and aims to construct an automated supply chain to track high value low volume items across multiple distributed manufacturing locations. The project will utilize the TM Forum open digital APIs to implement a robust logical factory providing traceability and monitoring of the manufactured items across three separate facilities leveraging process automation.

‘Dynamic Asset Management for SDN/NFV Transformations’ is a catalyst project involving five partners, Orange (Champion), Subex, ESRI, Teltech and Riverbed (Participants). The catalyst uses digital analytics to provide an investment intelligence model that provides ongoing, real-time decision data to help operators make the right decisions on software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) transformations across both large geographic regions and more specifically (in this second phase of the project), metro areas. By prototyping and modelling various virtualized network functions such as vCPE (virtual customer premises equipment) and SDWAN (software defined wide area networks), the analysis provides operators with a clear roadmap of investment based on operator ROIs.

TM Forum continues to demonstrate industry thought leadership with real practical examples of exciting collaborative projects through the catalyst program. For more on the TM Forum and the catalyst projects see TM Forum.

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