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IoT standards: Do we have more than what we need?

24 Nov 2014  | Richard Quinnell

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Some of the issues the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) are presently trying to address include interoperability and the easy exchange of data. To ensure those attributes, a set of commonly accepted standards will be needed. From the breadth of standards currently available, one is surely bound to fit the bill. Or is there a need for another one to be established?

Fostering standardisation within the IoT is not a simple issue. Take wireless connectivity, for example. We have numerous wireless standards in existence that are well developed and time tested. Bluetooth, WiFi, ZigBee, cellular (CDMA, GSM, LTE, etc.) and DECT are all being used in IoT designs.

The same is true of communications protocols. There are TCP/IP, MQTT, HTTP, CoAP and a host of others in contention for sending messages and data between IoT devices and the cloud. Even in the data analysis side of things we have SQL and Hadoop as database options.

So there are plenty of standards. But that hasn't stopped the industry from trying to create new ones to address IoT issues. The latest wireless standard Weightless has been created, for instance. Industry groups such as the Allseen Alliance and Open Home Gateway Forum have put their bid in for standards within their industry segment.

Official standards bodies have also weighed in. The EU came up with its IoT-A reference architecture. Now the IEEE Standards Association is trying to come up with its own IoT reference architecture. Groups such as the ITU and NIST are also keeping their options open for getting into the standards discussion.

It may well be that a new set of standards will be needed for the IoT. After all, it is a new application of technology with its own unique set of needs and challenges that existing standards may not address. Or perhaps these new standards efforts are less about solving unique problems and more in the nature of efforts to gain commercial advantage by being first in line to understand and utilize a new standard.

But it may also be that there are enough standards already out there and what is needed is agreement on which set of standards are to be followed for the IoT. It is equally likely that a different set of standards will be in play for different use cases of the IoT, with applications such as industrial machinery using one set while telemedicine uses a different set. After all, if different types of applications have no need to share their data, then there is no reason to saddle them both with the same set of standards.

This is not an issue that will be easily resolved. There are technical reasons to favour one approach over another for various applications, and economic reasons why various groups wish to promote their own set of standards. And there are genuine differences of opinion on what needs to be standardised and how.

What's your take on IoT standards? Do you think we have enough and should get on with choosing a set, or do we really need something new to be created?

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