Has the IoT Standards Train Already Left the Station?

The Harvard Business Review has an interesting blog post from last week that looks at the effort to develop standards and promote RFID (Radio Frequency ID), a kind of Ur-technology for our current Internet of Things.

Writing on the HBR blog, Thomas Davenport and Sanjay Sarma note that the effort to develop RFID standards, led by MIT’s Auto-ID Labs, provides a possible model for the development of cross-vendor standards for the Internet of Things.

The involvement of big tech vendors may have already made the development of Internet of Things standards impossible.
The involvement of big tech vendors may have already made the development of Internet of Things standards impossible.

However, the authors caution that it may already be too late to achieve consensus on standards to govern Internet of Things communications, given the heavy investment of large and wealthy technology companies in the standards process.

One of the most successful elements of the RFID standards effort, which developed and promoted the EPCGlobal standard, was close collaboration between academics, technology vendors and end users.End users of the RFID technology – notably retailer WalMart, Procter & Gamble and the Department of Defense – were able to provide feedback on proposed standards and tailor them to suit real-world use cases. The effort to develop EPCGlobal was also aided by a lack of competing RFID standards bodies.

Alas, neither of those elements is at work in the IoT space, where competing consortiums have proposed no fewer than three standards to govern IoT communications and other interactions.

[Read more Security Ledger coverage of Internet of Things standards.]

“The IoT, unfortunately, already has too many standards bodies, and in most of them technology vendors play perhaps too prominent a role,” the authors conclude.

Even with broad agreement on RFID standards, the standard development moved slowly. More than 15 years after it began, adoption of EPCGlobal and RFID technology is still moving ahead slowly.

The IoT’s more diverse ecosystem and bottom-up demand from start-ups and others will likely mean that movement towards standard interfaces and communications moves more quickly than it di for the RFID standard. Still, experts believe any IoT standards will require collaboration and adoption across complex ecosystems, and an array of technology and organizational changes within every participant.

There are numerous security and privacy standards groups for IoT. They include the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC), backed by Dell, Broadcom, Intel, Samsung, Wind River and Atmel and the AllSeen Alliance, a group of 50 companies including Qualcomm, Microsoft, LG, Haier and others.

Read more via Setting Standards for the Internet of Things.