Sweden mediating between east & west

"Within two years, by 2017, an international reference architecture for IoT shall be in place," explains Sara Norman, Project Manager at the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS). Standardisation is highly sought-after by many companies who are plagued by uncertainty regarding what will apply in the future. Meanwhile, a growing number of initiatives and collaborations are developing between individual companies and within industry associations.

"Many companies would prefer standards to be in place now already," says Sara Norman. "It is only then that we can move from the hype surrounding IoT to large-scale idea realisation. A reference architecture with a common basis describing how time, unique identities, etc. are to be managed provides assurances and creates open solutions on which to build."

Standardisation efforts are carried out within the framework of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), of which Sweden's SIS is a member. The work is being performed under considerable transparency, and while aspirations to reach a consensus are perceived as a major strength, this can also lead to a certain amount of stagnation in the process.

"If we do not reach an agreement by 2017 – which is when the work is to be completed – the project will be mothballed," says Sara. "But this isn't as dramatic as it sounds. In all probability, a new project will be initiated which will expand on the progress made up to that point, but it would delay the introduction of a common standard."

The main obstacle to reaching an agreement at present is the tug-of-war between China and the USA.

"To make a long story short, China is attempting to promote its own model as standard. They have developed a national reference architecture consisting of six different IoT domains. And they want this to become the international standard, while the USA and many other nations do not share this view."

Far-reaching Swedish influence

In reality, a Swedish expert holds far-reaching influence over the final content. Östen Frånberg from the Luleå University of Technology is currently formulating the unified standards.

"That Sweden is playing such a critical role in such an important international matter is not as strange as it may sound," claims Sara. "We are perceived as a relatively neutral party in this context and are known for taking everyone's best interest into consideration – not only our own. This also enables us to make our voices heard during these meetings.

"The hope is, despite everything, that the IoT standards will be in place by 2017, and it's actually only then that we can begin to discuss the Internet of Things," says Sara.
"Of course, there are many things already connected today, but these only constitute small IoT oases which do not communicate with each other. This is why it is imperative that the standards are established, because – until then – all we really have is an Intranet of Things."

What is a standard?

"A standard is a shared solution to a recurring problem, so as to minimise technical trade barriers. In other words, it is a document which specifies how to employ a certain procedure so that benefits can be gained from doing the same thing in many parts of the world, thereby simplifying and enabling comparisons."

The intended benefits in having a reference architecture for IoT include better interaction between IoT systems, which will result in greater functionality and economic robustness.

WHAT IS SIS?

SIS – the Swedish Standards Institute – is a non-profit member organisation and the Swedish representative within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

A standard is established after a proposal from a country. In the case of IoT, the initial proposal originated with China, but the USA independently put forth a proposal pertaining to IoT reference architecture within Supply Chain. At present, four internationally recognised commissions exist relating to secondary standards within the framework for this initiative. A unified basic standard must be applicable to all, and this is what the tug-of-war is about.