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Interoperability Is Key to Unlocking the Internet of Everything

The Internet Protocol for Smart Objects Alliance focuses on how devices can communicate with each other.

The Internet Protocol for Smart Objects (IPSO) Alliance formed with the goal of using IP to connect Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The organization came about as an outgrowth of my work on ZigBee and low-power wireless access networking. I believed that IP could and should be applied to even the smallest devices, well before IoT rose to prominence.

In 2008, I met with companies such as Cisco Systems, Intel, Atmel and others to discuss the benefits of using open standards to create the IoT, and the IPSO Alliance was born. In its first few years, IPSO focused on promoting the benefits of IP, such as security, management and scalability.

The Work Ahead

In the past few years, with IP and an open-standards model becoming broadly adopted for IoT devices, the IPSO Alliance transitioned from promoting the reasons to use IP to highlighting how to use the protocol. The Alliance’s recent work includes the IPSO Smart Object Model, which allows devices to interoperate and define semantics so that devices can communicate with and understand each other.

So what’s next? To truly realize the potential benefits of IoT, objects must have identity, privacy and security. While the IoT offers great potential to improve our lives, in reality, there are potential trade-offs such as security breaches and loss of privacy. Right now, companies are rushing IoT devices to market to secure market share. However, many of these products don’t address privacy concerns such as who owns the data, how it is tracked or managed, and ultimately who can monetize it. IPSO will focus its efforts to address these issues next.

There is no single owner in the IoT, so we need to make multiple architectures work together and ultimately establish a framework of systems that creates a chain of trust. A major benefit of IP is that it has security protocols involving encryption and key management readily available, and can be applied to building smart objects and the IoT.

Embedded Identity Management

A critical part of securing IoT devices is establishing identity and maintaining the product lifecycle. Fundamentally, embedding encryption chips into hardware is relatively simple; it’s the use of encryption keys and management that is the challenge. With this in mind, IPSO is approaching privacy issues one piece at a time. We are starting with identity management by attaching a privacy policy upon creation of a data object and then assigning a unique immutable identity to it.

As is always true with technology, there is no one solution. However, IPSO remains committed to its roots, and so remains committed to the use of IP and to open standards. This is the only way the industry will find solutions that can work across all devices and across the entire IoT.

Jan 21 2016