Why the IoT needs standardization

Interview with Sangkeun Yoo, Convener for ISO/IEC JTC 1/WG 10: Internet of things

The internet of things (IoT) is already part of our lives. It’s penetrated our smart cities and homes, agriculture, automotive/transportation, energy management, entertainment, healthcare, industrial automation and retail environments. It comprises billions of connected, sensorized devices and systems which help to simplify work and personal tasks. As it grows, the different systems and platforms will need to be interoperable, which can be achieved through standardization.

Many devices and systems of Smart Cities are part of the IoT
Many devices and systems of Smart Cities are part of the IoT

IEC and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) established ISO/IEC JTC 1: Information technology, a joint technical committee (JTC) which produces International Standards for information and communication technologies (ICT) for business and consumer applications.

Sangkeun Yoo, Convener of ISO/IEC JTC 1/Working Group 10: Internet of things, has worked at the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) in Korea, in the area of standardization, since 2001. With extensive experience in RFID and sensor networks research, he has expanded more recently into IoT and digital manufacturing.

How the IEC contributes to IoT technology

e-tech: What do you see as the main added value of ISO/IEC JTC 1 to IoT?

Yoo: The IoT is not a stand-alone technology itself, rather a concept of a vision encompassing a lot of information technologies, such as communication, networking, identification, security and so on. IoT standardization must be understood from the viewpoint of how to integrate and incorporate these technologies into a single vision. ISO/IEC JTC 1 deals with information technology. Over the years, many subcommittees (SCs) have been established to cover new information technologies.

As part of IEC and ISO, JTC1 has, technologically speaking, the capacity to bring very well-balanced IoT International Standards to the market.

In light of the importance of the IoT and these evolving technologies, in November 2016, the decision was taken by the JTC 1 Plenary to transform WG 10 into ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 41: Internet of things and related technologies. Its secretariat will be with IEC. This subcommittee will serve as the focus for the JTC 1 IoT standardization programme, including sensor networks and wearables technologies. It will also provide guidance to JTC 1, IEC, ISO and other entities developing IoT-related applications.

e-tech: What are the main highlights of WG 10?

Yoo: WG 10 was established two years ago with the development of ISO/IEC 30141, Internet of Things Reference Architecture (IoT RA), which is now at the Committee Draft (CD) stage. WG 10 is currently developing ISO/IEC 20924, Definition and vocabulary for the Internet of Things, as well as the Proposed Draft Technical Report, ISO/IEC PDTR 22417, IoT use cases, for collecting different types of use cases from various application domains. WG 10 has also recently begun developing a framework of interoperability for the Internet of Things Systems (ISO/IEC 21823-1). Given that the IoT has such a broad scope, IoT RA was seen as a starting point for establishing a common understanding among WG 10 members, who come from different backgrounds and as a guide for future work. It has reached the CD stage, and I expect it to be published as an International Standard before the end of 2017. JTC 1 will then be able to begin new IoT work.

e-tech: What do you see as the main standardization challenges for IoT?

Yoo: I always emphasize the most important thing for IoT is to provide interoperability, because many technologies and stakeholders are involved in a wide range of application domains. WG 10 has a work item for the framework of interoperability (ISO/IEC 21823-1) and is expecting other subsidiary items, such as network interoperability and semantic interoperability.

Wearable technology and markets are rapidly increasing as one of the IoT application domains. In this case, we have to look carefully at what is going on in this area and prepare a strategy for wearable technology standardization. The new IoT subcommittee is expected to create a study group for wearable technology at its first plenary this year. Following this, wearable technology standardization from the IoT point of view will be managed appropriately under ISO/IEC JTC 1.