Digital Jersey’s ambition in the internet of things

Interview: Tony Moretta, CEO of the island government’s arm’s length organisation, says it wants to be a testbed for smart places technology

Jersey is a small place – the island covers just 45 square miles – but it has everything expected in a self-contained country. Aside from its national government there is an electricity company, a water company, an international airport, a passenger and cargo port, and a reasonably diverse economic base that includes financial services, tourism and a digital technology sector that currently employs nearly 3,000 people.

Tony MorettaTony Moretta says this makes an ideal testbed for smart place technologies.

“It has all the components of a country in a small space,” he says. “One of the benefits is that you can test something and easily scale it up to much larger countries.”

This reflects one of his priorities as chief executive of Digital Jersey, an arm’s length organisation set up by the States of Jersey government in 2013 to make the island an international centre for digital industries. While this involves efforts to foster start-ups and encourage multinationals to base some operations on the island, it is also taking it into work on smart places, despite being very different to the urban environments where most of the efforts are concentrated.

The organisation has recently taken a significant step in joining the Industry Specification Group City Digital Profile (ISG CDP) within ICT standards association ETSI. It is taking part in developing a technology roadmap to support the evolution of smart places, and offering Jersey as a testbed location for the development of internet of things (IoT) technology and the appropriate standards.

Access to infrastructure

“It is really about promoting Jersey as an ideal testbed for new technologies,” Moretta says. “You want a closed user group and environment, where everybody can get access to the infrastructure.”

He points to an existing asset, the Digital Jersey Hub, a physical space that provides an incubator for start-ups and collaborative working. The organisation is also building a dedicated IoT lab with a data platform to support it, and has real time trackers on the local buses and air quality monitors around the island.

“We are looking at building all the different types of IoT networks, such as LoRa, NBIoT, Sigfox,” he says. “One of the advantages of Jersey is we can build all of them and allow people to test the applications of IoT and the pros and cons of different technologies.

“Start-ups can come here, test out products, some will go away but some will decide it is a good place to base a business. There are different options, and in a larger company you will have to decide which one you’re using for national infrastructure, whereas we can provide all of them as a testbed.”

Local focus

Moretta says it has the capacity to complement the work done by Digital Greenwich, another member of the ETSI ISG CDP group, and is focused on projects that reflect local issues. These include fixing air quality sensors to buses to provide a more detailed picture of the situation around the island, and working with Honeywell, Jersey Water and Jersey Telecom on the use of smart water meters. He says there is the potential to do a lot more.

“In terms of the testbed it is early stages. We are putting together a package and will start to market it off island probably early next summer when we have the data platform, and will launch a package around our proposition.

“We would like the standards group to use it, and have invited it to have one of its quarterly meetings in Jersey.”

Digital Jersey is also focused on some of the local public service challenges. Moretta says that it faces the same transport issues as any smaller communities, with rush hour pinch points and questions around parking management, and is aiming to use its sensor network to understand the flow of traffic, and how buses and cycles are used.

Tourism impact

There is also plenty of interest in waste collection and air quality initiatives, and on a crucial issue for Jersey – the impact of tourism during its busy months.

“It’s about how you estimate the impact in the busier months of tourism on Jersey’s infrastructure,” he says.

“We also have a very data driven tourist industry, not just in terms of how they book holidays but in terms of how they behave when here. It’s about how you can use data on what people do and where they go and use it to improve the experience.”

The organisation has two other areas of focus: supporting the island’s fintech industry, which reflects the importance of its financial services sector; and digital health.

At the beginning the year it launched a Digital Health and Care Strategy in a partnership with the Health and Social Services Department, aimed at achieving the integration that is sought across the sectors. It has a series of initiatives underway, including the development of the Jersey Care Record, Jersey Health Database and a local digital health supplier hub.

Again, this has been related to using the island as a testbed for new products, aiming to bring in established businesses and encourage start-ups.

Win-wins

Moretta sums up the aim with these and the IoT tests as “looking for projects that are a win-win”, helping to solve local problems while creating economic opportunities on the island.

He also emphasises that Digital Jersey knows it can achieve a lot more by working with organisations from the UK and around Europe. He says it has a relationship with Digital Greenwich, has been talking with the Future Cities Catapult about possible projects, and sees involvement in the ETSI group as a step towards an international approach.

“We really wanted to demonstrate how serious we are about this space by getting involved with an international group. And standards are very important; governments and local authorities are only going to invest in this space if they see they can future proof the investment with interoperable standards.

“Also, when you have interoperable standards it starts to bring the prices down because you get economies of scale. We really do believe in what ETSI is trying to do here.

“We would like people to use Jersey as a testbed, because of connectivity and easy access to any of the organisations you would want to work with, and to see it leading to a strong IoT element of the digital sector in Jersey.”