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Building The Internet of Things: Business-Relevant Standards Activities

Author Maciej Kranz discusses the importance of business standards in relation to IoT.

I recently spoke with Max Mirgoli, executive vice president, World Wide Strategic Partnerships at IMEC, a world-leading research organization in nanoelectronics. He sums up the current standards situation this way:

“With the advent of fast and simple connectivity, improvements in image sensing and other advanced sensing capabilities which can be tied together with simple yet powerful algorithms and apps, the IoT revolution has already began. We are starting to see early successes in smart manufacturing, autonomous connected cars, and smart grids, but the lack of convergence on standards can slow the adoption. The good news is that pretty much all the major industry players recognize that without common standards, none of them will fully realize the economic potential of IoT. Thus, with the emergence of standards such as 5G, I am optimistic that the industry will band together to solve key technological and architectural challenges of IoT via common standards and interoperability.”

I couldn’t say it better myself. Standards efforts are important. With so much at stake in IoT, we want to avoid standards chaos and standards wars whenever possible. Remember the video industry’s Betamax and VHS wars in the 1980s and 1990s? Or, even before that, the audiotape recording wars, when audio cassettes and 8-track tapes fought it out? Standards invariably benefit everybody. The same will be true with IoT, but even more so. What follows is a brief summary of the main standards initiatives that are important to businesses embarking on IoT. This is by no means a comprehensive list. It’s also subject to change as standards eff orts emerge, depart, and evolve.

Horizontal Standards Efforts

  • IEEE has kicked off a specific IoT initiative . “IEEE has a long-standing track record of driving technology transitions through standards and interoperability. IEEE IoT Initiative is a multifaceted undertaking that brings together industry, academia, entrepreneurs, and investors,” said Oleg Logvinov, who leads the industry engagement track for the initiative. He went on to tell me that “from the creation of the standard for an IoT Architectural Framework (IEEE P2413) to closing the gap between policy and technology development (IEEE Internet Initiative), IEEE is taking a very comprehensive and ambitious approach to fostering the creation of an IoT ecosystem based on open standards.”
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Study Group 20 is developing IoT standardization requirements that will initially focus on smart city applications.
  • oneM2M Consortium is defining standards for a common M2M service layer to connect devices with M2M application servers. It targets business domains such as connected transportation, healthcare, utilities, and industrial automation.
  • In both the AVnu Alliance and the IEEE, the industry is developing a set of standards around Time Sensitive Networking (TSN). “Time Sensitive Networking aims at building a foundation for more open, easily accessible, and highly secure real-time control systems for the IoT,” explained Georg Kopetz, member of the Executive Board at TTTech, an early pioneer of TSN. “For customers with mission critical applications, TSN offers real-time guaranteed latency, low-jitter and zero congestion loss for time critical traffic in converged networks,” he added. As I discussed before, real-time analytics and apps are one of key drivers of IoT. That’s why guaranteed network latency or delay that TSN offers is so important. TSN is enabling a standard-based approach to many use-cases from connected vehicles to the motion control applications on the factory floor.

Industry Consortia

  • IIC  is working to accelerate IoT development and adoption in the industrial sectors to interconnect machines, business flows, intelligent analytics, and people at work. It has created reference architectures, established a range of innovation test beds, and is now identifying core standards, as well as gaps and requirements for future work. “The IIC has become the global consortium for Industrial IoT collaboration. With the membership of over 250 companies and 20 testbeds, the Consortium is evolving its Industrial Internet Reference Architecture and forging close collaboration with the Industrie 4.0 consortium,” Paul Didier, Cisco’s representative to IIC told me.
  • OCF is defining connectivity and interoperability requirements for connecting billions of devices. It is driving interoperability for device-to-device, device-to-infrastructure, and device-to-cloud communication by defining specifications, as well as creating open-source code and a certification program. This is a must-do to integrate billions of devices, sensors, and the data they generate into IoT solutions in a scalable way.
  • OFC, mentioned earlier, is developing an open-fog computing architecture for distributing computing services and resources close to users and endpoints to meet the growing demands for local computing in IoT. It will be releasing its reference architecture as this book reaches bookshelves.
  • OPC Foundation is leading the efforts on data interoperability, manufacturing processes, and equipment in the automation domain via its Unified Architecture. Thanks to its track record as an industry neutral forum, it is attracting new participants and expanding its scope across the entire technology stack. I expect it will continue to strengthen its role as the place where the industry gets aligned.

Industry-Specific Standards Bodies

  • ODVA has been working tirelessly since the 1990s to champion open standards in the automation world and to migrate existing industrial automation standards to IP and Ethernet while ensuring interoperability with legacy protocols.
  • ISA is tackling a wide range of standards issues, certifications, education, and training for the automation industry.
  • PI, the umbrella organization for PROFIBUS (Process Filed Bus) and PROFINET (Process Field Net), is driving both sets of technologies.

It may seem as if we’re sometimes taking two steps forward and one step back in terms of standards, but in general I’m very optimistic.

The proponents of open standards clearly have momentum. Just visit the Hannover Fair, the largest industrial trade show on earth, and you’ll see all of the devices proudly displaying their new standard Ethernet or wireless interfaces. The next step is for the customers to actually turn off the I/O interfaces and proprietary/specialized networks on their smart devices and start using such standards-based connections. So it’s only a question of when, rather than if, open standards will become the norm in IoT.

Excerpted from BUILDING THE INTERNET OF THINGSImplement New Business Models, Disrupt Competitors, Transform Your Industry by Maciej Kranz. Copyright © 2016, Wiley.