Friday, March 28, 2014

Industrial Internet Group Launches: Founders aim to accelerate IoT interoperability

EE Times
Rick Merritt

3/27/2014 01:20 PM EDT

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM, and Intel officially formed the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) to accelerate work on areas such as interoperability standards for the Internet of Things in industrial markets. Just what the group will do and when remains a work in progress.

"As we speak, 20 people in our architecture and technology groups are meeting to define case studies and the architectures needed to address them," said Richard Soley, executive director of the IIC and chief executive of its host, the Object Management Group, speaking in a press briefing today.

That work will form the basis for defining what "priorities to ask standards organizations to address" to fill gaps in existing standards, Soley said. The IIC also hosts a security work group, and as for when first deliverables of any kind appear, "we don't have those answers yet, but we are in a hurry [to get them]," he said.

Another early step is choosing specific test bed projects in the group's five broad focus sectors -- energy, health care, manufacturing, transportation, and government. "This is not just about paper standards, but creating real test beds that show products working together to solve real problems," said Bill Ruh, a vice president at GE, leading the company's IoT efforts. (GE coined the term Industrial Internet in a 2012 white paper.)

With the much-touted promise of 50 billion diverse Internet-connected devices by 2020, "the problems are very large and require many different companies to come together to create reference architecture and interoperability," said Tony Shakib, vice president of Cisco's new IoT group.

Today, "duplicative engineering... limits scale and efficiency," said Ton Steenman, vice president of Intel's IoT group. "If we could modularize and standardize it more it would help -- we need to do that together as an industry," he said, suggesting a need for standard data formats and analytics.

The group expects a flood of new members from a variety of industries and countries in coming weeks. The first three beyond the founders are Mitre Corp., PrismTech, and Real-Time Innovations. Members pay from $2,500 a year for academics to $50,000 a year for companies with more than $50 million in revenues wanting a committee seat.

Besides the five founding companies, the group's steering committee has four seats open, two for members from industry and one each from a startup and academia. The three-year seats will be filled "by vote of the general membership within each respective level," according to the group's website.

Word of the work on the consortium broke last summer. The group had its roots in workshops hosted by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, which kicked off a similar effort specific to smart grids in 2009.

The problems the group aims to tackle are broad and deep. Today IoT deployments use a wide variety of general and industry-specific communications and data standards and proprietary technologies. Finding commonality among them has been one of the great challenges dogging the nascent field.

Just how much impact the IIC group can have rationalizing Babel of protocols and formats remains to be seen.

— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times

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