The Internet of Things needs standards

(Photo: Flickr / Mr.TinDC)E-ZPass RFID transponder mounted on the windshield of a car.

A consortium led by US technology giants will cooperate to create engineering standards to connect objects, sensors and large computing systems, which together are called the Internet of Things or IoT.

The group calls itself the Industrial Internet Consortium or IIC. It hopes to establish common ways that machines share information and move data. Creating standards for electricity levels within small machines, or the kinds of radio technology a railroad might use to signal track conditions can increase the size of the potential market and speed product development.

The aim of the project is to make people and data work together. Analysts noted that the means by which the IoT uses power and sends data around has been somewhat haphazard.

The White House and other United States governmental entities were also involved in the creation of the consortium, which is expected to enroll other large American and foreign businesses. Among the corporations that will take part in the effort are AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, IBM and Intel.

"As an industry, we've come to the conclusion that for the Internet of Things to really take off, we needed more interoperability, better building blocks and better standards," said Abhi Ingle, a senior vice president of AT&T's advanced solutions group.

In addition to approving standards and practices, IIC is expected to publish case studies, run forums and cooperate on new security practices.

Besides the member companies, other academics, venture capitalists and private equity investors are involved in discussions to standardize the IoT.

Analysts said the IIC came to the conclusion that if it were really going to move this forward, it would require that these systems would have to integrate off the shelf. There is also a government push behind the group.

"I don't think anything this big has been tried before" in terms of sweeping industrial cooperation, said  William Ruh, vice president of G.E.'s global software center.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) was seen as a prerequisite for the IoT in the early days. The premise was that if all objects and people in daily life were equipped with identifiers, they could be managed and inventoried by computers.

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