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Intel, IBM among founders of Industrial Internet Consortium

28 Mar 2014  | Rick Merritt

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The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) took off officially with founding members AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel. The group aims to accelerate work on areas such as interoperability standards for the Internet of Things (IoT) in industrial markets, but the specifics and timeline are still waiting finality.

"As we speak, 20 people in our architecture and technology groups are meeting to define case studies and the architectures needed to address them," said Richard Soley, executive director of the IIC and chief executive of its host, the Object Management Group, speaking in a press briefing today.

That work will form the basis for defining what "priorities to ask standards organisations to address" to fill gaps in existing standards, Soley said. The IIC also hosts a security work group, and as for when first deliverables of any kind appear, "we don't have those answers yet, but we are in a hurry [to get them]," he said.

Another early step is choosing specific test bed projects in the group's five broad focus sectors—energy, health care, manufacturing, transportation and government. "This is not just about paper standards but creating real test beds that show products working together to solve real problems," said Bill Ruh, a VP at GE, leading the company's IoT efforts. (GE coined the term Industrial Internet in a 2012 white paper.)

With the much-touted promise of 50 billion diverse Internet-connected devices by 2020, "the problems are very large and require many different companies to come together to create reference architecture and interoperability," said Tony Shakib, VP of Cisco's new IoT group.

Today, "duplicative engineering... limits scale and efficiency," said Ton Steenman, VP of Intel's IoT group. "If we could modularise and standardise it more it would help—we need to do that together as an industry," he said, suggesting a need for standard data formats and analytics.

The group expects a flood of new members from a variety of industries and countries in coming weeks. The first three beyond the founders are Mitre Corp., PrismTech and Real-Time Innovations. Members pay from $2,500 a year for academics to $50,000 a year for companies with more than $50million in revenues wanting a committee seat.

Besides the five founding companies, the group's steering committee has four seats open, two for members from industry and one each from a start-up and academia. The three-year seats will be filled "by vote of the general membership within each respective level," according to the group's website.

Word of the work on the consortium broke last summer. The group had its roots in workshops hosted by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, which kicked off a similar effort specific to smart grids in 2009.

The problems the group aims to tackle are broad and deep. Today IoT deployments use a wide variety of general and industry-specific communications and data standards and proprietary technologies. Finding commonality among them has been one of the great challenges dogging the nascent field.

Just how much impact the IIC group can have rationalising Babel of protocols and formats remains to be seen.

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