Key Considerations in the Development of an IoT Architectural Framework
The ongoing convergence of operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) is playing a key role in driving IoT adoption across a wide range of industries. Information technology has been applied in operations increasingly over the past thirty years. It has been applied in operational equipment, and in more recent years information technology has been used to integrate operational departments such as manufacturing, order entry, accounts receivable and payable, general ledger, purchasing, warehousing, transportation and human resources. Still, that process faces its own issues, as the analyst firm Gartner claims, "The relationship between IT and OT groups needs to be managed better, but more importantly, the nature of the OT systems is changing, so that the underlying technology – such as platforms, software, security and communications – is becoming more like IT systems."
This OT/IT convergence is taking place across a number of vertical industries even while they continue to independently develop devices, systems, and applications to leverage the benefits of IoT in their respective fields. At the same time, the trend to better utilize more unified platforms is emerging, revealing the beauty of the IoT: joining previously independent vertical segments, to produce a broader, standardized, multi-domain unified platform – one that promises to streamline and even incentivize IoT development and implementation.
Numerous examples prove the point. eHealth was originally set up to serve the medical field, and has quickly become a platform with powerful crossover applicability easily adapted for Smart Me and Smart Home applications. Smart Cities can now support electric vehicles being charged by power grids distributed throughout the city. These scenarios demonstrate the horizontal benefits of IoT solutions by delivering compelling benefits to multiple verticals while enriching the benefits by providing informational crosspollination. Smart cities, homes, and workplaces; e-health; resilient, self-healing power grids; digital factories; cleaner transportation; immersive entertainment – these are just a few areas of economic opportunity to benefit from the increased interoperability and portability that a standardized IoT architecture brings. This explains the general consensus that strengthening the horizontal nature of the IoT is beneficial to pursue. So, what key considerations should we weigh?
The IEEE Standard in development, P2413 – Standard for an Architectural Framework for the Internet of Things – builds on the horizontal value of the IoT by recognizing the evolving transformational integration and convergence across technology and application domains as the starting point for an extensible integrated architectural framework. The P2413 Working Group has identified that doing this effectively requires a blueprint for data abstraction and the quality "quadruple trust” that includes protection, security, privacy, and safety.
Power consumption due to communication is rapidly moving into the spotlight, IoT devices in many cases have limited power resources and need to conserve energy to prolong battery life or minimize power-supply requirements. Recently a new trend, hybrid networking, has emerged. The IEEE 1905.1 was developed for the gaming and infotainment sector to allow devices to independently determine and select the best network protocol and media for data transmission. It is only natural to imagine the next step and include power-consumption metrics that would enable choosing the best network protocol for data transmission under varying power-consumption scenarios are associated with specific application requirements.
The reality is that as the IoT develops – and produces a significant increase in data flows among the devices and subsequently an increase in power consumption due to transmission of application-related data – having devices and applications capable of hybrid network access will be key to maximizing energy conservation. What’s more, the protocols themselves could also be adapted for lower power consumption so that current ones, such as Wi-Fi, which are designed for live, “continuous” communication to maintain network connectivity, can be enhanced to consume much less power when they are simply operating to avoid being “dropped” from the network.
Greater application awareness is another related concern demanding attention. As sensors and monitoring devices become more capable of handling multiple monitoring functions, identifying and prioritizing the different data elements being gathered and analyzed will allow transmitting data at the lowest power consumption, and with the necessary quality of service. Fostering increased application awareness fits well within the goals of IEEE P2413, where it can play a major role by enabling cross-domain interaction and platform unification through increased system compatibility, interoperability, and functional exchangeability.
Overarching architectural framework
Today, there are many groups working independently to develop IoT standards, each demonstrating great examples of innovation. Many of these initiatives are often somewhat specialized. IEEE P2413 defines an overarching architectural framework to promote cross-domain interaction with the goal to aid system interoperability and functional compatibility, and further fuel the growth of the IoT market. The architecture and reference model for IEEE P2413, designed to reflect the convergence of IT and OT as well as the horizontal nature of IoT, has been created from the onset to provide a simplified path forwards to create universal standards for the IoT as a whole.
There is sound reasoning behind the development of IEEE P2413. When looking to past standards initiatives, it’s clear that what’s needed to create viable global standards for the IoT is a conscious and continual collaboration between all parties involved. In effect, IEEE P2413 can become a great meeting place for many industry groups to join forces and work together in order to build ecosystems that successfully and effectively leverage the power of all “things” and the body of work that already exists today.
We are at an evolutionary crossroads in shaping and driving the IoT forward and moving quickly toward an increasingly connected world and the benefits it can bring makes this a historically exciting time. As the IoT moves into its next stage it’s clear that next-generation applications will require a data abstraction blueprint and a set of basic building blocks that can easily create multi-tiered systems. By providing these common elements, IEEE P2413 will help minimize industry and vertical market fragmentation, ease implementation of cross-domain applications, and ensure the IoT achieves its full potential on a global scale.
Oleg Logvinov is the Director of Special Assignments in STMicroelectronics’ Industrial & Power Conversion Division. Mr. Logvinov is also chair of the IEEE P2413 "Standard for an Architectural Framework for the Internet of Things" Working Group. He currently serves on the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) Corporate Advisory Group and the IEEE-SA Standards Board. He helped found the HomePlug Powerline Alliance and is the past President and CTO of the Alliance. During the last 25 years Mr. Logvinov has held senior technical and executive management positions in the telecommunications and semiconductor industry. Mr. Logvinov has nineteen patents to his credit.
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