Enabling Things to Talk

Enabling Things to Talk is the title of a new book co-edited by IBM scientist Dr. Thorsten Kramp. It's goal is to make sure "things" and people speak the same language when it comes to the the hot topic know as the Internet of Things.

The book, available for free download, is a result of The Internet of Things - Architecture (IOT-A), a consortium of academia and industry funded in September 2010 by the European Union under the FP7 framework. It’s goal is to create an architectural reference model envisioned as the foundation for the Internet of Things -- the much-hyped idea of a globally interconnected continuum of devices, objects and things based on wireless technology, which includes everything from smartphones to sensors. The Internet of Things is the backbone of what has come to be known as Big Data.

Kramp and his colleagues have been developing technology called Mote Runner to make the Internet of Things easy of use, so his choice in the consortium was obvious.

“The Internet of Things has been talked about for many years, but each industry and vendor uses a different language and different technologies, which in the end hinders growth,” said Kramp.

“The IOT-A was designed to standardize everyone from the vocabulary we speak, to the protocols we program.”

His role in the project was to provide the platform for the use cases, and develop and verify the specifications for wireless sensor platforms, which enable the devices to talk to each other. Using Mote Runner, the IBM the team published specifications for an embedded virtual-machine byte code, platform APIs, and protocols, as part of IOT-A.

He adds, “Mote Runner has been used in the wild for a few years now, so we have a good idea of what users need from both a software and hardware perspective.”

Communicating between the Internet of Things

A reference architecture is a fundamental, yet critical piece to drive the Internet of Things, as it defines a common language and standards for everyone from users to manufactures.

“When the Internet first started to become more mainstream, protocols and communications standards needed to be built to enable computers to connect via modems, as an example.

“Our reference model is providing the same thing for the Internet of Things. Just getting everyone to use the same vocabulary is important. In telecommunications, what they call a base station, I call a gateway and this causes confusion -- but which can easily be resolved,” said Kramp.

After defining the reference architecture, the consortium of 12 partners and a key industry stakeholders group drafted several demonstration scenarios to test the concepts.

One of the case studies, “Cool Chain Monitoring Pilot,” used the IOT-A for the identification and tracking/traceability of refrigerated goods containers (which must be kept at -28 degrees Celsius). Another demonstration included near field communication by using smart pallets to track goods from manufacturing to on-the-road transport.

Enabling Things to Talk is a compendium for Internet of Things. Now the task at hand is to roll it out so the concepts can be adopted,” said Kramp.

Connect with Thorsten Kramp on LinkedIn.

Enabling Things to Talk - Designing IoT solutions with the IoT Architectural Reference Model 1 Bassi, A.; Bauer, M.; Fiedler, M.; Kramp, T.; Kranenburg, R.; Lange, S.; Meissner, S. (Eds.) 2013, VIII, 331 p. 131 illus., 116 illus. in color is published by Springer Open and is available for free download or in hardcover for $60.

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