The world of machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is becoming more complex. Solutions are moving from single-purpose devices that transmit data to an application in the network and receive commands from a network application to the Internet of Things (IoT). However, solutions permitting multi-purpose devices and collaborative applications can become chaotic.
Recognizing this challenge, global standardization initiatives for the Internet of Things are already underway. These efforts will:
- Expand the applicable device ecosystem and reduce deployment time with standards-compliant devices and applications requiring little or no customization
- Provide an ecosystem that readily allows applications to share information and experiences
- Assures a secure communication environment for user privacy and confidentiality
So what is M2M?
M2M can be defined as a communications terminal independent of human interaction communicating with a core network or another terminal for the purposes of automating services, as described in Figure 1. One such example is alarm monitoring on a house. The monitor is wired into the security service while the alarm system communicates through the core network and provides real-time notifications.
Applications such as these have been with us since the 1970s and the architecture has remained quite static. Devices in the field continue to communicate with an application in the core network for a specific purpose.
M2M architecture paradigm shift
Fast forward to 2014. What’s changed is that the network is now providing advanced capabilities such as 3GPP Machine Type Communication. We are beginning to see an M2M paradigm shift to the Internet of Things. Powered by the M2M infrastructure, the IoT is fundamentally changing the way devices and applications interact.
As illustrated in Figure 2, we can see the progression of the collaboration of devices and applications using technologies enabled by the M2M architecture. In much the same way, we can see the progression as people collaborate more on the social Web or use the Internet, with Web 2.0 technologies, to conduct their business.
The architecture driving the new Internet of Things is enabled by the capabilities of the M2M communications Service Enablement Layer. Drawing on the benefits of global standardization efforts, such as the oneM2M technical specification, the M2M communications industry is striving to meet the challenges it faces today.
For example, Figure 3 illustrates a wide range of machines and terminals communicating, among other things, the power level in your car to your smart phone or the security status of your home. It also enumerates the M2M architecture challenges for multi-purpose and collaborative applications.
The road ahead
With this shift to the multi-purpose collaboration of “things”, such as pedometers, storage containers and energy meters, some challenges remain:
- Security: privacy and confidentiality are difficult to provide and enforce
- Ecosystems: collaborative environments for application development are not available.
- Data exchange formats: formats are incompatible within and across industry domains.
Global standards bodies are defining all collaborative aspects across application frameworks in order to enable application development—in addition to providing an execution ecosystem and definitions of interfaces for application providers and device manufacturers. For example, the Home Gateway Initiative (HGI), W3C, Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and oneM2M are standardizing a common IoT vocabulary and associated templates so “things” are described in contexts that suit their varying purposes.
Overcoming privacy and security obstacles for the Internet of Things
It’s critical to maintain privacy and confidentiality of the information source while still providing the necessary semantic context during the exchange of information. So much so
that if privacy and confidentiality isn’t designed in up front, on top of the security capabilities provided by the enabling M2M infrastructure (including authentication, access control, data protection), the benefits of the IoT cannot be fully realized. As a result, the ability to provide rights to the information source and anonymize the semantic information are two of the security obstacles that standards bodies, such as the W3C, IETF, ITU and IEEE are actively addressing.
OneM2M standards body is consolidating these semantic vocabularies in a framework that lets applications efficiently discover, exchange and analyze semantic information across industry domains while ensuring privacy and confidentiality of the semantic information sources.
Standardization of the Internet of Things may appear to be a major hurdle. However, if these standards organizations are successful, the benefits to the IoT will make it well worth the effort.
-  The Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems
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