Push is on to bring standardization to the Internet of Things

Industrial Internet Consortium works with Object Management Group and other bodies to open up the world's devices to communication and data exchange.

OMG, Dr. Richard Soley is at it again. The chairman/CEO of the Object Management Group (OMG), which led the way in standardizing many of the web services seen in today's enterprise architectures, has set his sites on the next great frontier: the Internet of Things (IoT). He is also now executive director of the the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), a two-year-old organization which seeks to bring order and sanity to the chaos we associate with IoT.

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

I recently had a chance to pick Soley's brain on the IIC's plans and progress, and the full Q&A can be found at Real Time Insights (RTInsights).

The IIC is not a standards organization in itself, but rather, a facilitator of testbeds for bringing together major technology providers and manufacturers to collaboratively design, build and measure industrial-strength IoT solutions. The learnings from these testbed projects will then be handed over to established standards organizatons, such as the OMG, which will then "set about standardizing solutions that will make Industrial IoT solutions reliable, repeatable and secure," says Soley. OMG and similar groups will then take the lead in establishing "semantic integration standards in a couple of dozen vertical markets, including manufacturing systems."

IIC's testbed partners are a who's-who of Industrial IoT advocates -- including Bosch, Cisco, EMC, Fujitsu, GE, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Infosys, Intel, and National Instruments. To date, IIC now oversees nine testbeds, covering smart grid, predictive maintenence, tracking and controlling tools and components, and machine-to-machine communications.

The challenge with IoT -- and by extension, the Indusrial IoT -- is achieving standardization on a network scale. "Most standards organizations today, when faced with the needs for interoperability and portability standards to support the Internet of Things -- especially IIoT -- focus on middleware - moving bits and bytes from place to place on potentially huge and complex networks of sensors, data analysis engines, and actuators," Soley explains.

Middleware is familiar ground for OMG, he adds. "OMG's DDS and CORBA middleware standards are deployed in literally billions of systems today, from mobile phones to banking systems, air combat sensor and firing integration systems, to operating room systems, and thousands of other applications."

The problem in IoT, Soley continues, is to attach meaning to data moving around the network, outside the reach of traditional middleware. "Semantic integration is a much more difficult problem," he states, adding that this challenge is "exactly what OMG has been focusing on for the past 15 or 20 years, publishing not only standards to integrate semantics -- like the Ontology Definition Metamodel, or ODM and the related Model-Driven Message Interoperability or MDMI standard, [as well as] generic systems modeling languages like UML, SysML, BPMN and UPDM."

The Industrial IoT -- which extends computing and data exchange beyond the boundaroes of enterprise infrastructure to potentially just about every piece of machinery on the planet -- needs similar, unifying protocols that will enable any device to exchange data with any other system or device. The IoT "badly needs more of these semantic standards for integrating information on huge networks of analytics engines, sensors, and actuators, and that is exactly what OMG is up to," Soley relates.

Stay tuned.

(Disclosure: I am a regular contributor to RTInsights, mentioned in this post.)

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