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The strategic value of oneM2M standards across IoT application sectors

Ken Figueredo Issue: North America I 2016
Article no.: 9
Topic: The strategic value of oneM2M standards across IoT application sectors
Author: Ken Figueredo
Title: Founder
Organisation: More With Mobile
PDF size: 201KB

About author

Ken Figueredo is the founder of 'More with Mobile’. He focuses on business innovation and strategy consultancy projects in the M2M/IoT market. Ken has recently been working with several companies that are commercialising IoT-platform services and solutions based on the oneM2M standard. He was an early adviser to the GSMA in formulating its new-markets strategy which is currently operating as the Connected Living market development campaign. At present, Ken is involved in market-entry planning in the healthcare, industrial internet and intelligent-transport sectors as well as IoT strategy and implementation projects for several multi-country mobile operators.

Article abstract

Today, we hear that every company needs an IoT strategy. The prevailing mantra is that “everything that can be connected will be connected”. Many companies are experimenting with IoT applications and partnering with IoT service delivery partners to address the most pressing application opportunities. Like its Internet counterpart, however, the commercial IoT market has a long way to go before it approaches maturity. To avoid wasted investments, is well worth reflecting on the strategic issues that companies need to address as they craft their long-term IoT plans.  

Full Article

According to many market forecasters, we are on the cusp of a flourishing, Internet of Things (IoT) era which promises many billions of connected devices and several trillions of dollars of new economic value. To put this into perspective, forecasters believe the IoT economy will grow to roughly the same size as today’s US economy within a matter of a decade.

The claims about a new industrial era are reminiscent of the late 1990s and the emergence of the commercial Internet. At that time, there was plenty of advice for established businesses to rethink their 'bricks-and-mortar’ business models in favour of eCommerce strategies. This meant having a web presence with an on-line retail and service fulfilment capability. Many companies jumped on the bandwagon. Over time, however, companies discovered that they needed to find ways to integrate the capabilities of eCommerce service enablers (e.g. for content management, secure payments handling, fulfilment, site analytics etc.) into their changing business processes.

Today, we hear that every company needs an IoT strategy. The prevailing mantra is that “everything that can be connected will be connected”. Many companies are experimenting with IoT applications and partnering with IoT service delivery partners to address the most pressing application opportunities. Like its Internet counterpart, however, the commercial IoT market has a long way to go before it approaches maturity. To avoid wasted investments, is well worth reflecting on the strategic issues that companies need to address as they craft their long-term IoT plans.

Three challenges stand out in particular. Firstly, companies need to balance the need to implement IoT applications quickly against the risk of overlooking new business opportunities. For example, it is easy to focus on the technical challenge of adding connectivity to a device to create a connected service. It’s also convenient to go with the accepted wisdom that IoT applications involve infrequent transmissions of small data quantities. This point of view might justify a low cost and limited functionality solution.

However, our experience of the Internet shows how a simple web presence evolves into a dynamic one (more data, updated more frequently) and eventually into an interactive one (dynamic data, customer interactions, transaction processing etc.). These evolutions are fundamentally about new business opportunities rather than technological advances. The same business drivers will apply to many IoT applications. The implication is that companies need to make judicious technology choices in the context of a durable IoT architecture. The alternative is to provide for technology upgrade and replacement costs in their business plans.

Secondly, while the focus of many current day applications is on vertical-silos, the longer term trend is for interoperability and cooperation across multiple applications. In practical terms, many individual silos will interact by sharing either hardware (i.e. one sensor feeds multiple applications) or application data (e.g. a smart parking application might cooperate with an intelligent transport application in a smart city framework). IoT application developers and service providers will need suitable tools to manage application-enabling resources. Examples include: security and access control services; permissions for data sharing; and, charging mechanisms to match usage to payments. The means of delivering these capabilities will involve platforms that offer business- and operational-support services. Ideally, these services need to be highly re-usable (i.e. common service-enablers that can be deployed across multiple verticals and use-cases) to avoid the high-costs of application-specific solutions.

The third challenge relates to standardization. Specifically, there is a need to ensure that software components and hardware devices from different suppliers can function within a single IoT application and, eventually, across multiple applications.

Standardization is also important if users are to have access to a competitive supplier base. This is a key driver of the scale economies that will lead to affordable, end-user solutions which, in turn, reinforce IoT adoption dynamics. Standardization across a competitive supplier base also mitigates the risk of locking into a single vendor solution.

In 2012, a group of international standards development organizations (SDOs) anticipated the need for a common architecture and a set of service enablers for interoperable M2M and IoT applications. These SDOs launched a standardization partnership called oneM2M which has grown to eight global partners: ARIB (Japan), ATIS (USA), CCSC (China), ETSI (Europe), TIA (USA), TSDSI (India), TTA (Korea) and TTC (Japan).

The oneM2M partnership fostered a collaborative effort with input from about 200 member organizations to release the first version of the oneM2M standard in January 2015. Within nine months, over 20 companies participated in an interoperability testing event to validate different company implementations of the standard.

The oneM2M standard employs a simple horizontal, platform architecture comprising three layers - applications, services and networks. To understand the benefits of a common, horizontal platform, consider the simple case of two silo applications, in an industrial manufacturing plant. Their respective connected devices (App 1a/b and App 2) communicate via separate local, middle-ware layers (MW1-L and MW2-L), through local- and wide-area networks to their remote, middleware layers (MW1-R and MW2-R) and eventually to their corresponding back-end business applications (App 1 and App2).

The conventional silo architecture is sub-optimal. It entails hardware duplication (e.g. middleware servers) and customized software elements. Moreover, there is no provision to share data resources across application silos without some form of customized, systems integration.

The alternative is to standardize common service enablers across the individual silo applications to create a harmonized architecture where inter-operability is a central design principle. The first step in meeting this objective is to create a common middleware layer, in effect a horizontal platform, to handle the service functions necessary to support multiple IoT applications. The middleware layer (common services entity) provides an abstraction between applications and communications networks leaving service providers in each domain to focus on their core competencies.

At the application layer, each IoT device, sensor, gateway and cloud server contains an Application Entity (AE). These AEs have to enable a wide range of devices, each of varying capabilities. In some cases, AEs also have to interact with server platforms (called “nodes”) that operate as hubs for multiple end-point devices or sensors. A node might be an aggregation hub for several hundreds of smart meters in a neighbourhood deployment, for example.

In addition to new devices with advanced features, IoT applications often need to accommodate legacy devices which are unlikely to include modern-day, IoT design and operational features. The oneM2M standard handles such mixed-device situations.

The middleware service layer entity within the oneM2M architecture is the Common Service Entity (CSE). It resides within each server or device platform and provides a standardized interface. This allows applications to access commonly required M2M/IoT services such as store and forward, discovery of data across applications, notifications, and interactions with other applications. The CSE exposes an easy to use Application Programming Interface (API) to the AEs, thereby facilitating the development of oneM2M compliant applications.

At the bottom of the three layer model, the oneM2M standard abstracts multiple IoT connectivity technologies. One of its advantages is to enable applications that are agnostic to the communication networks, while still benefitting from specific capabilities exposed by the underlying network(s).

The standardized service layer, between applications (where data processing occurs) and networks (where communications capabilities reside), reduces the interoperability burden on the application layer. This architecture also accommodates plug-in capabilities including security-management and value-added service modules. In the case of IoT security, this arrangement offers a means of providing a third-party security service to application developers, relieving them from the intricacies of implementing security in their applications. An additional benefit of oneM2M’s service layer concept is that it facilitates interoperability with existing technology modules such as device management, for example.

oneM2M’s standardization efforts are beginning to take hold in the commercial market. South Korea is arguably the market leader after it inaugurated a national, IoT Master Plan in 2014. One of the outcomes of S. Korea’s plan is OCEAN ('Open allianCE for iot stANdard’). This initiative was established under the auspices of KETI (Korea Electronics Technology Institute) with the aim of sharing a oneM2M standards based, open source IoT platform to improve the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises locally. Over 150 members play a role in developing code for the oneM2M-based IoT server platform, openMobius and IoT device platform, &Cube. There are also parallel open-source activities beyond S. Korea’s efforts through the Linux Foundation’s OpenDaylight project and the Eclipse Foundation’s OM2M project.

In the rest of the world, major corporations such as HP Enterprise, InterDigital and NEC are promoting oneM2M platform solutions in diverse markets such as the enterprise sector as well as healthcare, intelligent transport and smart city applications.

The success of any standard is to recognize new requirements and to reflect these in a long term release road-map. Work is already underway on Release 2 of the oneM2M standard which will include support service to manage contextual data, in effect a value-added form of raw sensor data. Release 2 will also include new policy functions through semantic interoperability for home and industrial domains, and end-to-end security including dynamic authorization.

oneM2M’s activities provide significant assurance to developers, solution providers and users of IoT applications. oneM2M’s operating model builds on a heritage of standards development within the mobile industry. It leverages a proven track record of continuous innovation and the incubation of a vibrant supplier eco-system. Both of these are key dependencies for the highly affordable communication services that serve the majority of the world’s population. No other industry initiative can point to such a standardization track record. By replicating these accomplishments, oneM2M will make an equally significant contribution to the IoT market.

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