Multiple industry groups are developing M2M platforms that promise to improve interoperability and to support market growth in the M2M sector. Which of these will prove most useful to M2M/IoT developers?
The problem of how to enable M2M devices, networks, applications and services to discover, connect and share data with each other securely and efficiently can be broken down into two parts: one, the wide range of available protocols; and two, a need for cross-sector interoperability.
A range of M2M application-specific protocols well suited to the requirements of resource-constrained M2M devices – for example 802.15.4, ZigBee, LoRaWAN, SIGFOX, 6LoWPAN, MQTT and CoAP – now exist alongside well-established standards such as Bluetooth, WiFi and GSM/GPRS.
As a result, the number of communications protocols an M2M developer might need to support has become large. This presents a challenge for M2M and IoT developers looking to interact with third-party M2M infrastructure.
M2M solutions have historically been developed as integrated systems for particular vertical-sector use cases – to monitor and control the functioning of HVAC systems in an office building, for example. But this creates a problem.The data generated by such systems typically lie isolated in siloes. It is difficult or impossible for customers to make use of data beyond the capabilities that are built in to the vendor’s system. They cannot carry out their own analytics on data or use a third-party application to interrogate different data sets that they may have.
Vertically-integrated development – incorporating devices, networks and application from a single vendor – makes it harder, and therefore less attractive, for third-party developers to create new applications that could deepen the value of an M2M system.
Effectively this approach limits the value of the overall M2M market.
The M2M sector is now moving away from vertically-integrated, stovepipe development and turning instead to a horizontal development model that facilitates interoperability, providing a better platform for future innovation.
Multiple consortia are creating platforms for better interoperability
Several different consortia, however, are developing their own solutions to this problem:
- AllSeen Alliance is responsible for developing the Qualcommm-created open source AllJoyn platform (under the aegis of the Linux foundation); initially focused on the smart home it has plans to expand to other verticals.
- OpenInterconnect Consortium (OIC) – with founder members including Dell, Intel and Samsung other members now including Cisco, GE Software, Honeywell, HP and Siemens – it is creating both a platform and a certification program; it is initially focused on the smart home with plans to expand to other verticals.
- Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) aims to speed adoption of the Industrial Internet by developing reference architectures within the OIC’s specification. It was founded by AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel.
- oneM2M is a service-layer platform designed to work across vertical sectors and comes with a range of vertical use cases built in to its specification. It was launched by seven international standards development organizations (SDOs).
- Thread Group is a certification and development consortium for its Thread smart home low-power wireless mesh networking technology emerging from Google’s Nest Labs alongside ARM, Big Ass Fans, Freescale Semiconductor and Samsung, amongst others.
Developers must choose carefully which of these options is right for them to adopt.
Of these consortia, oneM2M’s approach is perhaps the most distinctive in that it is has built interoperability across vertical domains into its specification from the outset.
This multi-sector approach may well end up providing a compelling reason for developers to adopt its platform.
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