Lack of Standardization can Halt the IoT Juggernaut

-By Devarajan Ganesan, Associate Vice President, HCL Services

In discussions with enterprises that are in the process of implementing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in their businesses and also with those who are fence sitting to see which way the wind blows, one thing that stands out – along with concerns with security – is the lack of standardization. With the rapid growth of the IoT market, most IoT solution providers have been building all components of the stack – from hardware devices to relevant cloud services –i.e. the ‘IoT solutions’. As a result there is a lack of consistency and standards across the cloud services used by different IoT solutions.

Researchers and service providers are concentrating on the important horizontal dimension of IoT – as the objects move from one application sector to another, the mechanisms for sensing and actuation, connection, communication, security and privacy should function seamlessly and without redundancy.

Some of the key issues constraining the acceleration of IoT adoption :

  • Open standards are key enablers for the success of wireless communication technologies (like RFID or GSM), and, in general, for any kind of Machine-to-Machine communication (M2M).
  • Without globally recognized standards,the expansion of RFID and M2M solutions to the Internet of Things cannot reach a global scale.
  • The need for faster setting of interoperable standards has been recognized as an important factor for IoT applications deployment.
  • Clarification on the requirements for a unique global identification, naming and resolver is needed. Lack of convergence of the definition of common reference models, reference architecture for the Future Networks,
  • Future Internet and IoT and integration of legacy systems and networks is a challenge that has to be addressed in the future.

The lack of common standards and platforms inhibits widespread, efficient IoT adoption. Different standards, connectivity patterns and stages of maturity heighten security risks with availability of multiple touch-points for hacking. Further, competing standards, vendor lock-in, proprietary devices and private networks make it hard for devices to share a common security protocol.Common standards by definition mean better security, whereas different standards, connectivity patterns and stages of maturity will allow IoT hackers to be successful.

As the industry evolves, the need for a standard model to perform common IoT backend tasks, such as processing, storage, and firmware updates, is becoming more relevant. In that new model, we are likely to see different IoT solutions work with common backend services, which will guarantee levels of interoperability, portability and manageability that are almost impossible to achieve with the current generation of IoT solutions.

It becomes challenging for IoT companies to agree on common interoperability protocols and standards for sharing and protecting data, and for the hardware sensors that collect that data. For example, if an IoT arterial blood gas monitor is infected with malware and being used for data exfiltration of patient records and can’t communicate with systems to warn of an impending patient health event, what’s the point of it being network connected?

According to practitioners and security experts, lack of loyalty to one IoT common standard for connected devices in other business environments is a major barrier holding back mass adoptionof this technology. Gartner argues it’s the sheer number of IoT use cases that contribute to a wildly divergent number of approaches to solve IoT problems, which creates interoperability challenges and, ultimately, security gaps.

While part of the problem is that there are no universally agreed-upon standards, another hurdle is that there are so many IoT standards being developed that it will be difficult for a single standard to gain widespread acceptance. Examples of IoT-relevant standards include the Linux-backed AllJoyn, Intel’s Open Interconnect Consortium, IEEE P2413, and the ITU-T SG20 standard for smart cities.

The result is that it’s hard to get devices to work together without common standards. A lot of enterprises are looking primarily for a stable and flexible connectivity stack that lets them “mix and match their sensors and backends depending on their preference.” The sheer number of platforms available can be overwhelming, which can make it difficult for developers to find a foundational layer of baseline connectivity.

A common, universally accepted standard is “absolutely critical” to create an app ecosystem that makes the best use of all the connected IoT devices. However, there is likely room for more than one standards, in the vast ocean of IoT-led opportunities.

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