There was more than a hint of irony when Professor Dr. Axel Sikora from the Institute of Reliable Embedded Systems & Communications Electronics at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences, spoke at the start of the M2M Summit 2016 on standardisation of the Internet of Things (IoT).
“Are we accelerating standardisation through diversity?” he asked rhetorically. Certainly, no-one in the audience seemed ready to suggest we are, says Jeremy Cowan. “Think of this,” he continued, “there are more than 200 different standards development organisations (SDOs).”
“Of course not!” he replied. “We’re still in a vertical integration age.” Sikora likened the current application integration model to vertical sticks of dried spaghetti, each stick representing another application that has yet to be integrated with those alongside it. The model he is aiming for is like lasagne, with integration of multiple applications in layers of activity — integration for billing, standards, customer care, and of course, security.
Ah, security. They say you’re never more than three metres away from someone discussing security. Or did I confuse that with something else?
Anyway, at M2M Summit in Duesseldorf you were never far away from an IoT security conversation. If you missed one, like buses, there would be another along in a minute. (That’s enough metaphors. Ed.)
As Prof. Sikora pointed out, we now have embedded systems such as airbags in cars that can be connected, in a way that was previously unimaginable. This can connect them to traffic lights, other vehicles, and to the emergency services.
Now take that technological complexity and multiply it by the number of applications there might be in a smart city. You could be integrating mobility, traffic control, the environment, transport systems, connected health services, and security systems.
Security is still the key concern
Yep. Security again. It was a theme running through comments made by Stephen Mellor, chief technology officer at the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC). Imagine the risks, he said, of a successful hacking attack on a chemical plant. Risks to the workforce, end users, the environment, and the business. Then imagine the financial costs.
As an aside, and contrary to popular belief, the IIC is not an American organisation. He pointed out that he’s British and it has an international staff. Nor is it a standards development organisation, the IIC evaluates and organises existing standards.
On the topic of IoT standards, Mellor said we need Top Down Requirements, allied to Bottom Up Experience. That’s the way to achieve the best standards.
Dr Oliver Gruen, president of bitmi, the Bundesverband IT-Mittelstand e.V. (Germany’s Federal Association of IT – for medium-sized Enterprises) was blunt in his assessment of the challenges facing standardisation. “Fragmentation and proprietary standards are a Show Stopper!” he said. “Open standards are required, to enable interoperable applications, and avoid vendor lock-in.”
Gruen also pointed to the need for Europe’s IoT sector to develop more platforms. Most, as he said, are now developed in the United States. There is big revenue in platforms; as he said,”Uber owns no taxis, AirBnB owns no hotels, yet within a few years they have both come to be worth billions of dollars. Just start.”
Even the expert panel on IoT standards worked its way round to discussion of security for the internet of Things and the Industrial IoT. “Our number one concern should be security,” said Stephen Mellor of the IIC. “If, heaven forbid, there’s a major industrial accident (involving IoT) and the public feel we haven’t done enough then we’re dead!”
Andreas Neubacher, CTO SGP-SIM at T-Mobile International Austria added, “We are looking for Open Standards to be the glue in IoT.”
Rainer Kallenbach of Bosch summed it up neatly as four challenges facing M2M and the Internet of Things. “They are connectivity — getting the data; applications — finding useful results from the data; data security and privacy; and interoperability — co-operatin within and between ecosystems.”
The author is Jeremy Cowan, editorial director & publisher of IoT Now and IoTGlobalNetwork
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