A Standard World
There are 4 main approaches to product development:
- norms & standards
- forums & associations
- proprietary solutions
- open source
While each of these approaches is a trade-off between time-to-market, development costs, obedience to regulations and intellectual property, etc., a general trend can be observed. New technologies are explored by the academic community (which typically follows the open source model), while start-up companies commercialize their own proprietary interpretation of the technology. As the technology matures, standards are created which feed on the lessons learnt from those early contributors.
Normative standardization documents are elaborated by a community, publicly available without any discriminatory conditions and published by Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs). SDOs publish standards which rely upon national or international regulations.
Service Providers benefit because they can design, develop and operate a wide range of services, while making no assumption on the underlying but standard-compliant, heterogeneous technologies.
Vendors benefit because they can access markets more easily with standard-compliant products, at the risk of blurring competitive differentiation. When a technology matures, proprietary technologies tend to restrict themselves to niche markets (at best).
Customers benefit because they can access a wide range of services without the burden of being tied to a given service provider or technology.
The IEEE is one of the leading standards-making organizations in the world, through the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA). IEEE standards affect a wide range of industries, from power and energy to information technology and telecommunications. The IEEE has close to 900 active standards, with 500 standards under development.
The IEEE usually standardizes the PHY layer of the transmitter and the MAC protocol rules. The following IEEE standards are applicable to the Internet of Things:
- IEEE 802.15.4 (technology used by ZigBee and IETF 6LoWPAN)
- IEEE 802.15.1 (technology used by Bluetooth/WiBree?)
- IEEE 802.11 (technology used by WiFi)
IEEE standards are complemented by "standards" developed at the IETF for higher layers. The Internet Engineering Task Force is a unique point in the standardization world. Since it formed in 1986, is has never been approved by the US government. The IETF is composed of individuals, not companies, and follows the following rules: "We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code." D. Clark, 1992.
The IETF meets 3 times a year, and gathers an average of 1,300 individuals. The more than 120 active working groups are organized into 8 areas, while IETF management (including area directors) is chosen by the community.
The IETF usually standardizes above the wire/link and below the application. Within the IETF, working groups are formed to work on a given topic. Typically, one individual will come up with a clever idea and submit an individual draft (there is no moderation to submitting an individual draft). A draft can be updated multiple times, and each update is valid for 6 months, after which it disappears. If a draft is appreciated, it is typically adopted as a working group after rough consensus from its members. There, again, it can be updated multiple times. When the draft is finalized, it goes through the process of becoming an Request-for-comments, the equivalent of a standard at the IETF.
The following IETF working groups are applicable to the Internet of Things:
- IETF ROLL standardizes the routing protocol, i.e. the distributed algorithm which finds the multi-hop path connecting the nodes in the network with a small number of destination nodes.
- IETF 6LoWPAN standardizes the mechanisms for an IPv6 packet to travel over networks of devices communicating using IEEE802.15.4 radios.
- IETF CORE studies an application protocol solution for embedded context transfer using appropriate interaction models and a compact binary format compatible with UDP.