Consortium offers industrial IoT comms guide

February 28, 2017

rick.merritt-February 28, 2017

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Confused about the many competing communications technologies for the Internet of Things? The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has a tool that might work for you.

The Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework (IICF), released today, is a kind of decoder ring for an alphabet soup of communications-software components. It provides a generic model for categorizing them as well as guidance for how to map specific standards into the model to ensure that developers have a complete offering.

“The goal is to accelerate IoT adoption and eliminate confusion about connectivity,” said Rajive Joshi, co-chair of the group that started work on the IICF in November 2014 and received contributions from 24 people in 20 organizations.

The document focuses on high-level standards well above the physical and media-access layers. It uses the often-cited image of the internet hourglass in which the narrow neck represents the Internet Protocol, with expansive innovations above and below it.

“We are making the assumption that IP is essential from an implementation viewpoint. We are trying to clarify layers above the network transport and below the applications layer and creating syntactic interoperability there,” Joshi said.

He defined syntactic interoperability as an agreement on data types and the like as the order of fields in a packet. The document suggests that today’s technologies generally can be expected to deliver this level of interoperability as a minimum baseline.

One of the biggest new elements in the work is the creation of a framework level above the network transport and below the applications layer. It’s at this framework level that engineers can do much of the work of getting different IoT networks to talk to each other, Joshi said.

The IICF lists 10 core requirements for a framework such as supporting APIs, security and resource discovery, and exception-handling mechanisms. “Some standards do a better job than others offering the framework functions, and many frameworks are ad hoc or proprietary,” he said.

The IICF lays out 10 core requirements of a communications framework. (Image: IIC)
The IICF lays out 10 core requirements of a communications framework. (Image: IIC)

A four-page worksheet in the IICF provides a template to help developers make sure they have the elements of an interoperable software stack. Finally, the IICF gives six examples of specific software stacks that use existing industry components to fill out a model.

“People have done this in ad hoc ways, but we’re trying to build a market place and industry convergence around a connectivity framework and what should be expected from it,” he said.

The IICF is the third major document from the group. It released a general industrial IoT reference architecture in 2015 and followed it up with a security framework last year.

The overall IIC will reconvene for its next quarterly meeting in Reston, Virginia, soon to determine which area it will focus on next. “Several different ideas have been floated, but a decision is not firmed up yet … we’ll try to pick a direction from several proposals on the table,” he said.

Originally published on Embedded's sister site, EE Times: "Industrial IoT gets comms guide."

 

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