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The Internet of Things Comes Alive through Smart Objects Interoperability
There has been a lot of attention in the last few years on the next leap for the Internet – how the real world and its tangible things become first class citizens of the Web. The term used is Internet of Things, or IoT for short.
One can argue that IoT is already here (in part anyway) via the existing use of RFID and M2M services. But these deployments are, at best, more a collection of Intranets of Things.
A true Internet of Things will require IP in the tiniest devices that monitor or control real world objects, and that services and data from these devices are somehow available more openly for applications to make use of. The use of standard IP and Web technologies will ensure that device costs are driven down and that application development and use will be significantly simplified.
Key Technologies of IoT
Technologies for realizing IoT devices have already been around for years, and have been standardized by the IETF, starting from the lower layers of the stack and moving up. Today, we have IPv6 as a foundation running over links such as those found in mobile networks (2G, 3G and LTE) as well as low power local area sensor networks such as IEEE 802.15.4/6LoWPAN.
The current focus is on getting the application layer capabilities in place. We firmly believe that the REST paradigm is the way forward for integrating Smart Objects on the Web and the Internet. To this end, we are contributing to the work in IETF on defining a new protocol for REST in Smart Objects called CoAP – Constrained Application Protocol. In its simplest explanation, CoAP is a binary HTTP with simplified transport capabilities. The Working Group in IETF performing this CoRE – Constrained RESTful Environments – is also working on other necessary capabilities, such as proxying between CoAP and HTTP, web resources that are self-describing, resource discovery, capabilities for off-line and sleepy devices, as well as security to name a few.
Interoperability of Smart Objects
One key feature for IoT is to ensure interoperability of various Smart Objects including their seamless integration with applications and services.
Last week, the IPSO Alliance, which is an alliance of companies and organizations promoting and spearheading the development of IP in Smart Objects, held a successful interop event at its member meeting in Paris, France. The focus of the interop was on application layer capabilities. Past events included interoperability tests of IPv6 devices over different physical layers.
On test were services based on CoAP, such as reading sensors, doing actuation, and resource publication and discovery. To this end, the alliance had, in addition to the various relevant IETF drafts, also defined a dedicated interoperability-oriented application layer profile. The purpose of this profile was simply to be able to test interoperability between real and proper sensors and actuators. The profile made it possible to provide basic sensor and actuator service descriptions and naming.
Eight different member companies and organizations participated in the event with a number of implementations for various sensors and actuators, including smart plugs, light bulbs, temperature, luminosity sensors and others. Many of the devices ran the open source ContikiOS coming out of SICS.
Ericsson was there to try out our own implementation of an OSGi-based combined IoT gateway/localized application server. We had it running on the SPEAr320 gateway reference design platform from STMicroelectronics with whom we have been collaborating for this event. On top of the platform, we have developed CoAP support, HTTP proxying that exposes services running on constrained devices to the cloud, as well as capabilities for local storage of sensor data and discovery functionality, i.e. a Resource Directory for those familiar with the subject. The gateway interfaced the devices using 6LoWPAN over IEEE 802.15.4 radio, and also acted as a border router for RPL.
As can be seen by the smile on the face of Ryoji Kato from Ericsson Japan, all tests were very successful!
Even though IPv6 makes it possible to run IP end-to-end, we believe there are many reasons for having gateways. One obvious reason is to be able to connect IPv6 devices to the IPv4 internet. There are also benefits in application layer gateways depending on the deployment scenario. Protecting Smart Objects from DoS attacks that may drain batteries, being able to provide localized services in Smart Buildings, interworking with legacy devices, or local sensor data event filtering and aggregation are all typical examples.
The IPSO Alliance
As mentioned, the IPSO Alliance is an alliance of 60+ companies and organizations from North America, Europe and Asia that shares a vision of using IP for Smart Objects. The mission of the alliance is to promote the use of IP in these Smart Objects and to perform events like the mentioned interop. Ericsson actively contributes to the alliance by having me, Jan Höller on the Board of Directors and Jari Arkko as Chairman of the Technical Advisory Board.
For more information on the values of using IP in Smart Objects and what the different mentioned technologies are all about, please check out the publications and white papers from the IPSO Alliance. And do please join to enjoy the benefits of being among friends!
-- Jan Höller