Standards make the world go round, establishing alignment and trust in otherwise unmoderated and unmanaged technologies. These initiatives, however, take time and can be noticeably absent in newer innovations. For example, cloud computing has been on the market for some time; yet only recently have emerging best-practices and standards begun to take shape. More concerted efforts have been underway for M2M and IoT innovation, due to the widely known security and safety implications of M2M/IoT-based ecosystems. With the number of connected IoT devices estimated to hit 50 billion by 2020, there has never been a more critical time for emerging standards. Smart objects produce large volumes of data. This data needs to be managed, processed, transferred and stored securely.
The use of standards
- ensures interoperable and cost-effective solutions
- opens up opportunities in new areas
- allows the market to reach its full potential
The more things are connected, the greater the security risk. So security standards are also needed to protect the individuals, businesses and governments which will use the IoT Building interoperable IoT solutions is a real challenge. From sensors and actuators in the field to backend systems, there are many aspects of an end-to-end solutions where it is important to rely on standards:
- Protocols used to implement the device-to-device or device-to-server communications,
- Device Management protocols to allow remote control of IoT devices and gateways,
- Gateways and Servers interfaces.
While Open Standards are key, we believe that it is also important to make available open-source implementations of such standards, to encourage adoption of such standards both by IoT developers and the IoT industry at large.
IoT communication standards
Network communications is core to the IoT. It’s about how these devices talk to each other, as well as to centralized servers. And the standards to which you should pay close attention deal with communications at the most primitive levels.
The Wi-Fi Alliance has introduced the term “Wi-Fi HaLow” as the designation for products incorporating IEEE 802.11ah technology. This standard operates in frequency bands below 1 GHz, which translates into longer-range, lower-power connectivity to Wi-Fi-certified products.
Bluetooth is another popular communications protocol for IoT devices. The version of Bluetooth for the IoT is a low-power version called Bluetooth Smart (or Low Energy). It’s expected to add a longer range and support for mesh networking capability, where each IoT device acts as a communication node that relays communication from itself and other nodes back to a central control system.
Z-Wave, another IoT communications standard, is more of a de facto standard than a traditional one approved by a standards body or industry consortium. It’s a low-power mesh networking technology licensed by Sigma Designs. Zwave operates at 908.42 MHz in the US (868.42 MHz in Europe), and enables a single mesh network to support up to 232 nodes.
ZigBee, developed by the ZigBee industry alliance, is another mesh network based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard that’s designed to be used in low-power home devices. The technology defined in the ZigBee spec was purpose-built for the IoT, driving communications with less expensive devices.
This strangely named standard is an IPv6-only version of IEEE 802.15.4 mesh networking. It grew out of “the Internet Protocol [that] could and should be applied even to the smallest devices.” This means that low-power devices with limited processing capabilities should work and play well with IoT systems.
Launched in mid-2014 by the Thread Group, the royalty-free protocol is based on various standards including IEEE802.15.4 (as the wireless air-interface protocol), IPv6 and 6LoWPAN, and offers a resilient IP-based solution for the IoT. Designed to work on existing IEEE802.15.4 wireless silicon from chip vendors such as Freescale and Silicon Labs, Thread supports a mesh network using IEEE802.15.4 radio transceivers and is capable of handling up to 250 nodes with high levels of authentication and encryption. A relatively simple software upgrade should allow users to run thread on existing IEEE802.15.4-enabled devices.
NFC (Near Field Communication) is a technology that enables simple and safe two-way interactions between electronic devices, and especially applicable for smartphones, allowing consumers to perform contactless payment transactions, access digital content and connect electronic devices. Essentially it extends the capability of contactless card technology and enables devices to share information at a distance that is less than 4cm.
Key Standards for M2M
Interoperability becomes a crucial factor for the success of the technology. Standards play a key role in ensuring devices are designed with interoperability in mind. Standards allow for devices to be designed independently and still work together. Without standards in place devices may not be interoperable at all or interoperable with different specs. This would require integration, which could increase the time and cost associated with the development of the product.
Device Updates and Security
The creation of common M2M/IoT standards is crucial for maintaining a device’s operational integrity in the field. Shared protocols will enable the remote management and updating of disparate devices, streamlining crucial tasks such as applying critical security updates and patches.
Manufacturers can use the AllJoyn framework to create their own custom apps for onboarding devices onto a Wi-Fi network, complete with control and notification services. The AllJoyn protocol’s codebase has since been released to the Linux Foundation with the forming of the AllSeen Alliance — a group dedicated to using and promoting the standard. AllSeen consists of many technology heavyweights, including Cisco, Microsoft, LG and HTC, among others.
IoT standards bodies
It’s actually quite hard to figure out exactly which organizations are true IoT standards bodies and which are industry groups. Some are consortia trying to set IoT standards, others claim they are standards bodies, but in effect they are committees made up of industry heavyweights.
“Defining identity and privacy for the next generation of smart objects.” IPSO is an open, informal and thought-leading association of like-minded organizations that promote the value of using the Internet Protocol for the networking of smart objects.
“A cross-industry consortium dedicated to enabling the interoperability of billions of devices, services and apps that comprise the Internet of Things.” Qualcomm kicked this off as AllJoyn and then handed the source code to the Linux Foundation, from where the AllSeen Alliance was born.
“An independent open community whose members are committed to building an open sustainable ecosystem around public, royalty-free and implementation-driven software platform standards that will ease the development of new smart applications in multiple sectors.”
“A consortium and standard to drive secure and interoperable IoT for industry and cities.” The Hypercat specification allows Internet of Things clients to discover information about IoT assets over the Web. With Hypercat, developers can write applications that will work across many servers, breaking down the walls between vertical silos.
Open Interconnect Consortium
The OIC is a consortium, announced only a week before Thread, focused on creating a standard specification and an open source project to address the push for interoperability of IoT devices.The OIC wants to connect the next 25 billion smart devices that are expected to emerge by 2020 by defining a full and standard communications framework to enable all applications over a broad range of vertical markets.
The Open Group Internet of Things Standards
The Open Group has published two IoT standards, and a Semantic Interoperability standard that is appropriate for use in connection with the Internet of Things, although it has more general applicability:
Open Messaging Interface (O-MI)
The O-MI fulfills the same purpose in the IoT standards as HTTP does for the Internet. Typical examples of exchanged data are sensor readings, alarm or lifecycle events, requests for historical data, notifications about availability of new data, changes to existing data, etc. Just as HTTP can be used for transporting payloads in other formats as well as HTML, O-MI can be used for transporting payloads in almost any format. XML might currently be the most common text-based payload format, but others – such as JSON, CSV, etc. – may also be used.
Open Data Format (O-DF)
The O-DF represents information about things in a standardized way that can be understood and exchanged by all information systems that manage IoT-related data. In the IoT, information about a product or a “Thing” is often distributed over many different devices, systems, and organizations. The O-DF can be used for publishing the available data using ordinary Uniform Resource Locator (URL) addresses. O-DF structures can also be used for requesting and sending published data between systems, notably when used together with the O-MI Standard.
Open Data Element Framework (O-DEF)
The O-DEF enables basic units of data to be classified, so that equivalences and similarities between them can be determined easily. This simplifies the development of interface software and contributes to improved management and organization of data. While it may have other applications, the O-DEF is primarily intended for deployment within extended enterprises, and by groups of collaborating enterprises.
Challenges to IOT
The possibility of tracking and surveillance of people by government and private agencies increases as the devices are constantly connected to the internet. These devices collect user data without their permission, analyze them for purposes only known to the parent company. The social embrace of the IOT devices leads people to trust these devices with collection of their personal data without understanding the future implications.
Even today, the internet is not available in many areas of the world. This fact is not just relevant to developing countries, but also to several areas in Northern Europe and America where there is no internet coverage. The whole concept of IoT lies on constant and reliable connectivity.
IoT focuses on connecting more and more devices together. This causes more entry points for malware. Devices that are less expensive have greater risks of getting tampered with. Just focusing on solving technical issues to keep people’s data safe is not enough. We must move further than that. A firm trust must be established in the consumer’s and business user’s mind. Only then will we be able to overcome this hurdle.
Legal Regulatory and Rights issues
There are no concrete laws present which encompasses the various layers of IoT across the world. The gamut of devices connected to each other raises many security issues and no existing legal laws address such exposures. The issues lie in whether current liability laws will extend their arm for devices which are connected to the internet all the time because such devices have complex accountability issues.
Inter-operatability standard issues
In an ideal environment, information exchange should take place between all the interconnected IoT devices. But the actual scenario is inherently more complex and depends on various levels of communication protocols stacks between such devices.
The OEM’s producing industry ready IoT devices will need to invest a lot of money and time to create standardized protocols common for all IoT devices or else it will delay product deployment across different verticals.
Complexity In Integration
Today there are multiple platforms, numerous APIs, and protocols available for IoT integration. This causes a confusion around the evolving standards which leads to slow adoption. Slower adoption and unanticipated development resource requirements are causing delays in delivery and additional funding for IoT projects.
The Need for Open Standards
The IoT consists of a lot of individual devices with their own specifications. At this stage, that hardly matters, but a time will arrive soon when further growth will require that smart devices can communicate with each other. Yet, although much of the IoT is likely to be built with open source software, universal standards and protocols lag behind the development of smart technology. The few efforts that exist tend to be specific to a technology, such as Eclipse IoT, and tend to focus on applying existing standards or protocols to smart devices rather than being developed for the new demands of the IoT. Without a greater degree of cooperation, the growth of the IoT is to be slower than it could be.