How do you enable telecoms network infrastructure providers and asset owners to exploit network sharing in a secure way and even monetize it? The answer could simply be to create a pool of resources as a software layer stack on top of the network, tokenize the assets to create value with blockchain technology, and then create a marketplace.
This is what U.K. startup Weaver Labs is intending to do. In a recent podcast interview, Maria Lema, co-founder of Weaver Labs told us, “We have created a software product called Cell-Stack. This software sits on top of telecom infrastructure. It aggregates it all in a shared pool of resources with the objective of creating a network-as-a-service marketplace. What we do is we try and solve the problem of interoperability across infrastructure that is owned by different players and also different technologies such as IoT, Wi-Fi, 5G, satellite and also security. Adding a security layer on top that enables all of these bits and pieces of infrastructure to be interconnected in a secure way.”
Weaver Labs said making public assets discoverable and accessible requires digitization and aggregation of data and governance into one platform. Digitizing assets is a process in which all the asset attributes that are relevant for the infrastructure provider are collected in a digital asset management platform (creating a sort of digital twin version of the asset), and the rights to it are converted into a digital token on a blockchain network.
Ownership rights are transmitted and traded on a digital platform, and the real-world assets on the blockchain are represented by digital tokens. Making these assets such as lamp posts and traffic lights digitally accessible would now give them a commercial value that can be traded in an open marketplace. This is where NFT’s, non-fungible tokens, can become an innovative tool in solving these commercial challenges, according to the company.
These NFTs can record and guarantee provenance and value-add along a supply chain, allowing businesses to trust the identity, origin, and other specifications of a commodity. Combined with smart contracts, which can trigger things like automatic payments or other responses on the occurrence of future events, NFTs can, at least in theory, provide some protection against counterfeiting and other types of fraud.
By attaching NFTs to physical goods, an additional level of guarantee can be offered to distributors and consumers to prove that the goods in question are the real deal. Each public asset will have its own NFT which is designated to its owner and will be transferable to other participants in the supply according to the terms of trade that are set, for example, renting out a street lightning post for 12 months to a network provider at $50 per month.
Digitizing data in a 5G test network
In one example, Weaver Labs is working with Transport for Greater Manchester in the U.K. on a pilot project to aggregate and digitize all the relevant data used from the traffic lights and the controller cabinets to build the 5G test network used to connect the AI sensors to control the traffic lights. Getting all the data was an empirical process, which took months of planning with the following key challenges:
- There was no single repository of data about sizes, lengths, supported weights, availability of power and existing telecoms assets already mounted in the traffic lights and controller cabinets.
- There are different layers of ownership and technical servicing that makes it difficult to access information to properly plan and build a wireless network in a dense urban area. In addition, the access to the different authorization layers for different elements of the network is also a tedious process.
- It took several site surveys to collect all the relevant information, and each stakeholder had different layers of data requirements which ranged from structural information to electrical and electronic information.
- Using tools like Google Maps to “guess” where the wireless or IoT nodes can be placed may be sometimes a waste of time, since the data is not at all up to date and there cannot be any trust on the existing conditions of those public assets based on what the street view is showing.
Local authorities who own all these public assets would want to see digital twins created of them, to remove frictions in the future and facilitate wireless infrastructure to be mounted. Collecting this data can cut up to two-thirds of network planning times and adding the commercial layer with the use of NFTs and open marketplaces can cut up to 90% the time to secure sites to deploy telecoms infrastructure.
Weaver Labs said it sees a near future where such digital twins will be converted into NFTs where they are given a value and unique code and can be traded in an open marketplace of telecoms assets, such as the one it is creating with its own Cell-Stack cell network.
Enabling track and trace in a humanitarian project
In another project, Weaver Labs is working in collaboration with OroraTech as part of a Track & Trust consortium led by Datarella to tackle complex supply chain challenges that humanitarian agencies across the world face. The innovation developed by the consortium will ultimately allow agencies to track aid in locations that lack access to reliable communications infrastructure in a two-year project consisting of development and commercial trials.
Weaver Labs will be the open telecommunications partner in the Track & Trust project, which aims to deliver a scalable, cost-efficient communications platform and network combining satellite, IoT mesh and blockchain components, serving mostly supply chain use cases. The end solution will be a modular product that will provide a plug and play communication network that allows for end-to-end tracking of the supply chain. This will start from the initial supply of goods/aid and extend all the way to the last-mile shipments, even when limited or no telecommunication infrastructure is available.
After the initial success of a Kickstarter project, the consortium has expanded this target market to meet the needs of other sectors where goods require end-to-end tracking, servicing the agrifood supply chain, dynamic supply chain insurance, industry 4.0, and smart cities V2X sectors.
Maria Lema commented, “At a time when global supply chains are in crisis, this will bring innovation to where it is needed most, ensuring connectivity and for goods to be tracked in a trusted way.”
To enable traceability of shipments without being dependent on damaged or unreliable telecommunication infrastructure, the project leverages Weaver Labs’ Cell-Stack and its messaging system (lite-WireMQ), which is capable of extending many telecommunications systems. The already developed WireMQ asynchronous messaging system will be extended to support IoT and satellite to ensure the mesh network can seamlessly transmit messages across the two technologies, something already demonstrated in a proof of concept as part of the Kickstarter project.
Backed by the ESA (European Space Agency) business applications and space solutions program, Track & Trust integrates an efficient IoT protocol for transmitting geolocation, custodian transactions and GNSS metadata to a globally distributed ledger via satellite uplink. Cost reductions of an order of magnitude have been observed in similar projects and are projected here as well.
Yukitaka Nezu, co-founder and CFO at Datarella, said, “Track and Trust is a unique opportunity to combine blockchain with satcom and telecom technology to expand the range of supply chain monitoring capabilities. With Weaver Labs and OroraTech as our consortium partners and with the technical and financial support by ESA, we have a strong setup to make a success story out of Track and Trust.”
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