Global Standards in M2M

24 Apr. 2014
Author: Nicolas Damour

Global Standards: The Key to the Internet of Things (IoT)

It is no secret that the journey to establishing global machine-to-machine (M2M) standards—or the standards related to the “Internet of Things” (IoT)—has presented challenges for the M2M industry. It is perhaps not surprising considering the scope and sheer number of stakeholders involved—from communication service providers; to mobile computing and device manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), systems integrators, M2M solution providers and more.

Still, more than ever, the need for global M2M standards is vital, as they are an indispensable element for the realization of the Internet of Things in the same way that standards are what allowed the Internet and the cellular networks to exist today as we know them. The globally recognized standards body oneM2M was born out of this need for coordinated, unified M2M standards. And today, the resulting technical specifications that address how machines interact over communication networks into the cloud on a global scale are well underway, with the architecture definition frozen and work on protocols due to be finalized this summer.

M2M industry stakeholders around the world are placing a major emphasis on supporting oneM2M in a collective effort. In conjunction with oneM2M, there is a lot we can and must still do to support M2M application development and bridge the gap between the M2M and Web 2.0 worlds.


Opening up the telecom world and connecting with developers

Historically, there was a reluctance by the wireless telecommunications industry to “open up” and to let developers in so they could build M2M device applications over cellular networks. Although this is changing, to some extent the telecom world is still a “closed network” both literally and figuratively for a number of reasons.

Wireless networks are indeed more complex than fixed networks and also differ amongst themselves. Without M2M standards to govern the interaction and simplify their usage, providing a “direct” access to developers both makes it complicated to write applications and poses too great a risk to cellular network operators.

The telecom industry has typically been more comfortable communicating in an enterprise business-to-business environment, and has been less in sync with Web 2.0 communities. The result has meant a “gap” in the industry’s ability to effectively communicate with developers.  

This gap is one of the areas Sierra Wireless believes we can have an enormous impact on because of the unique nature of what we do. We are one of a small number of companies that has a true end-to-end offering, with one foot in the M2M arena—we are the leading M2M cellular module manufacturer in the world—and one foot in the Web 2.0/IT world with our AirVantage M2M Cloud Services platform.

From our perspective, bridging the two worlds—M2M-to-Web 2.0 or device-to-cloud—is crucial in supporting and sustaining M2M application development and fueling the growth of the IoT. And we are achieving this bridge also through our work with oneM2M.


Fostering Innovation

Developers don’t care about the intricacies of how a telecom network is built. Developers care about developing software applications: Useful ones, useless ones, funny, silly, robust, broken, unexpected and daring ones. It is through this broad array of applications where the innovation of the IoT will come from. We as an industry can create greater opportunities by engaging developers and wrapping the complexity of the networks in an easy-to-use “service layer” that presents them through APIs that look and feel familiar.

In this way, standards effectively provide a framework for the M2M industry to interface with the Web 2.0 community. From here, we are in a much better position to meaningfully engage developers and foster innovation by providing them with the freedom to experiment in their M2M application creation without the risk of impacting cellular networks.


Freedom of choice

We also recognize that there is no quicker way to dampen innovation than by forcing application development on one particular device or platform. M2M standardization makes possible flexibility, interoperability and freedom of choice.  This is also why we are so active in the open source M2M communities.

Although Sierra Wireless is quite unique in that it provides an end-to-end M2M platform, we have always approached our device-to-cloud strategy from an open source and interoperability position. Our Legato platform, for example, is built on Linux and is designed to simplify the development of connected M2M applications. Furthermore, building applications on Legato doesn’t preclude developers from working with non-Sierra Wireless technologies at all.


Simple, scalable and secure

When it comes to fostering M2M application development and the IoT, we see simplicity, scalability and security as key elements that can be delivered through the support of global standards.

We design our M2M modules and our M2M Cloud to make it as simple as possible for M2M solution providers to develop applications that are scalable and secure. Through this approach, applications can be brought to market more rapidly with lower development and deployment costs.

This strategy has also helped us become the leading M2M module manufacturer in the world as well as one of the very few truly scalable M2M Cloud platform providers to the size of the Internet of Things —i.e. billions of devices.

Today, our M2M cloud platform is being leveraged by roughly a million devices. While this number is not insignificant, this is only a fraction of what we believe is within our reach as we continue to support and aid in the development of global standards and deliver solutions that bridge the M2M and Web 2.0 worlds.

The oneM2M standard will be released right after summer this year. We see this as an exciting time and an inflection point in the future of the IoT. We would love to know what you think as well. What are your opinions on the subject, what do you expect from such a standard? What would you like read more about in future blog posts? Let us know what you think.

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