Setting standards for IoT collaboration and communication

General Manager, Internet of Things, IBM

When you talk about the Internet of Things (IoT), what exactly is a “Thing?” Basically, one sensor equals one Thing—but beyond a few very simple devices, that is never the reality of it. Mobile devices today incorporate 20 to 30 sensors, a next-generation home includes hundreds, automobiles have thousands and an airplane is made up of 6 million parts from 3,000 suppliers. The data from all these sensors is then compiled, shared, compared and enriched (we hope). This means all parties must reach a consensus—before any harm occurs—that the process of ingesting, securing, comparing, analyzing and enriching is done in a way that everyone can share and benefit from this wealth of IoT data.

Why we need standards

Using a single standard for connectivity is a primary concern for the IoT. Just as in the early days of the Internet, no single, reliable and secure way to connect to the IoT exists. One of the most significant challenges the IoT ecosystem faces is the ability for connected things to speak a compatible language between each other and the cloud. Without standards, growth in the forecast adoption of IoT solutions will be constrained. Creating an industry standard is slow, hard work—but when it finally becomes established, new industries can be created. Another major inhibitor to IoT success is a seamless connectivity process across divergent devices, ensuring that once the information is received, an agreed-upon data model exists to record the results.

The IoT ecosystem needs a common language as smart things must be able to recognize, communicate and interact with each other regardless of manufacturer, type (OS or embedded), transport or use. A shared framework makes billions of interconnected things possible. Common code makes implementation easy, speeds time to market and makes application simple. For this reason, it’s equally important to base the application programming model on open standards such as Cloud Foundry. The broader the standards, the more open the market, which increases the number of people who can help at the beginning, middle or end of an IoT project. Standards enhance the value of a community that is driving an IoT that works for all. 

Collaborating to provide a new way to use the IoT

Focusing on the importance of working together, IBM recently announced a new collaboration with National Instruments to demonstrate condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance through a test bed for industrial IoT environments. IBM and National Instruments are creating a test bed that provides use case validation for enterprise IoT environments. Leveraging its relationship with the Industrial Internet Consortium, the IBM cloud-based environment combines National Instruments’ monitoring and data acquisition capabilities with IBM’s advanced analytics tools to help organizations across industries better monitor complex automation devices, predict failures and reduce maintenance costs. It's providing a new way to test real-world IoT applications. 

IBM also strengthened its commitment to open source and the need for IoT standards by announcing participation in the AllSeen Alliance as a community member and in the Open Interconnect Consortium as a platinum member. These two groups are poised to accelerate the IoT industry-wide focus on device connectivity. IBM is joining these groups to promote the need for an open environment where billions of devices can discover, connect, communicate and interact directly with other devices, regardless of brand. By joining these organizations, IBM's goal is to accelerate the dialogue and simplify the development and deployment of applications and devices in an IoT environment.