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How far are we from a unifying standard for the Internet of Things?

Last week, seven major telecom operators formed an alliance to create a common M2M management platform.  It’s not exactly a  standard, as all seven providers  — KPN, NTT DoCoMo (DCM), Rogers, SingTel, Telefónica (TEF), Telstra, and Vimpelcom (VIP) — use the same M2M management platform supplied by Jasper Wireless, but it’s a start, and paves the way to interoperability among a large section of the world’s carriers.  

However, these carriers current customer base is tiny, compared to what will happen when things begin to communicate with each other, or so we have been led to believe. Devices will be connected by technologies from Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee to a range of 2G and mobile broadband networks. So just how easy will it be to ensure that a device can connect to a particular network at a specified time? The answer, presently, is not very. 

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the Telecommunications Industry Assn. (TIA), and the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) in the U.S. are working on the problem, together with their counterparts in Japan, Korea, and China.

The issue of fragmentation among bands and technologies won’t be going away anytime soon but what these global bodies are attempting to develop is a common “service layer” that can be embedded in every M2M device, making it compatible with M2M application servers hosted by any global operator. This requires a business arrangement with each carrier and also a common protocol.

An alliance, such as the one formed last week, can have multiple benefits. It could, for instance, solve Amazons’ predicament with the Kindle. At present,  the Kindle only has one home network, AT&T, which means that if a user is in a country not served by the company, download fees would apply. However, if AT&T were to join the alliance (it’s also a Jasper Wireless customer), download charges could be waived. 

Ad-hoc standards currently seem more feasible than a common one but if the industry bodies can negotiate a way for M2M devices to be device carrier and network agnostic, there’s the lucrative prospect of a massive acceleration in the development of things untethered to a specific carrier, platform or server. The alternative is  many internets, each with its own separate sets of things and associated complexities for users. Not an ideal standard. 

 
Comments

Comments

3 people have had something to say so far

There is a real tendency to misuse the term M2M, when really one means machine-to-network. Cellular is not the answer for M2M although it has a role in machine-to-network. Machine-to-machine (M2M) requires a different approach and one that surely a single standard will never fulfil - its applications and uses are far too diverse.
Posted on 23/07/12 09:33.
anonymous anonymous
I agree with David. I can't see M2M ever relying on a single standard. Different machines will require connections at different distances at different polling intervals. One standard will not work for the extreme range of connected devices.
Posted on 23/07/12 09:56 in reply to David Bartlett.
There is always a compromise with one-size-fits-all 'standard', in my world, very low power is a critical requirement. However, the idea of a configurable service layer for network interface to provide the optimal connection relaibility and data security would be great.
I am less concerned about the network access protocol, I'm more concerned about semantics of the data which is transferred. Without such industry-driven sematics non-proprietary end-to-end M2M is a long way off.
Posted on 23/07/12 12:40.

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