Standards are vital in a connected world

IEC drives latest IoT technology trends

The ubiquitous internet of things (IoT) comprises billions of "sensorized" and connected devices and systems, which are used in many industries, including agriculture, energy management, healthcare, industrial automation, smart buildings, smart cities and transport.

Moving from the cloud to the edge
Decentralizing computing closer to the edge will enable high-speed data processing, analytics and shorter response times (Photo:

Mobile connectivity has greatly expanded, so that we can be connected anywhere, anytime, while the number of connected, low-power sensors and devices continues to grow. Minuscule sensors, industrial robots, vehicles, smart buildings, medical and other wearables are all part of the IoT.

As more businesses adopt IoT, the complex systems and platforms required for it to function efficiently will need to be interoperable, reliable and secure.

Building an effective IoT ecosystem

IEC produces consensus-based International Standards which help achieve this for many parts of the soft- and hardware that make up the IoT. IEC also operates four Conformity Assessment Systems for electric and electronic products, systems and services, known collectively as electrotechnology.

In November, Gilles Thonet, IEC Head of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Standards, presented the critical role International Standards play in fostering a competitive and attractive IoT ecosystem, during IoTBuild.

This annual event covers many aspects of the IoT ecosystem, including platforms, connectivity, applications, messaging systems and middleware, security and edge computing. Designed to help navigate these complicated technologies, participants can discuss real use cases and find solutions to their IoT issues.

From the cloud to the edge

Speaking at the session Accelerating IoT Market Adoption through International Standardization, Thonet highlighted the need for standardization as everything becomes connected and huge amounts of data are collected by IoT devices and systems.

These data are exchanged between systems, stored and analyzed so that they can be understood and add value to products and services. ISO/IEC JTC 1, the IEC and ISO Joint Technical Committee on information technology, already produces Standards which help facilitate data management and interchange, user interfaces and cloud computing.

However, in order to enable and realize the true value of the IoT, the development of edge intelligence is pushing processing for data intensive applications away from the core of the cloud to the edge of the network, where automated analysis happens at a sensor, network switch or other device.

"IEC has produced a White Paper, Edge Intelligence, which explores market potential and vertical use case requirements, analyzes gaps and produces recommendations for adopting edge intelligence technologies. It also looks at current trends in cloud computing, mobile networking, IoT and other domains like smart manufacturing, video analysis for security and safety, automotive, intelligent city furniture or virtual reality."

Smart becomes intelligent – adapting environments to needs and preferences

The advancements in machine and deep learning, and reliable voice recognition, are changing how we interact with machines and go about daily life. Interfaces are evolving from typing to speaking to machines, in order to access places or find information. Devices are no longer just smart or connected; they are becoming intelligent. They can learn from interaction with users, service providers, and from the interactions with all devices in the network.

"The IEC is developing Standards to define a common terminology and architectures for IoT, which will support interoperability between devices and systems anywhere in the world," said Thonet.

The increased use of AI is opening up new markets, for instance the development of apps that are much easier to use by the elderly, disabled, or less tech-savvy. The IEC Systems Committee for active assisted living (SYC AAL) issues helps to enhance safety, security, privacy and cross-vendor interoperability in the use of AAL systems and services. It also works towards improving usability and accessibility through standardization.

Following on from this and in light of the boom in fitness and medical wearables in the last five years, in 2016, IEC expanded its work scope to cover wearable electronic devices. It is currently working on Standards for patchable, implantable, edible and electronic textile materials and devices. As aging populations increase and healthcare systems become overstretched, medical devices monitoring certain conditions will help improve efficiency by reducing the number of physical doctor visits. This is an added benefit for the less mobile.

Safe and secure connections

Along with the many conveniences IoT technology brings, come risks, namely cyber security breaches.

The need to protect personal data is greater than ever with the digital transformation of industries, such as healthcare, finance and smart buildings, with their connected systems, including access, automation, temperature regulation, energy efficiency and more.

Concluding his presentation, Thonet described some of the work the IEC does towards ensuring data security and privacy.

The IEC Advisory Committee on information security and data privacy (ACSEC) coordinates activities and offers guidance to technical committees on information security and data privacy. It also provides a venue for exchanging information between the IEC and other standards developing organizations relevant to its scope.

The scope of work covered by ISO/IEC JTC 1 is broad and includes Standards for cards and personal identification which allow people to access buildings. It has also produced a series of Standards for IT security techniques which define a common language for IT-related threats, help protect information in the cloud, offer integrated solutions for services and more.