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ETSI has a go at giving IoT some context

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ETSI has launched a new Industry Specification Group which will focus on the development of IoT for smart cities applications and beyond.

The Context Information Management (ISG CIM) will focus on developing specifications for a common context information management API, data publication platforms and standard data models. In other words, it will standardize the technology which will act as a clearing-house for publishing, discovering, monitoring and maintaining data. The aim will be to provide context to the growing surge of information which is now available.

While it might be obvious to a human, providing context to a machine is imperative. A computer deals in definite, therefore knowing a room is 4°C is useless unless context is paired with this data. What temperature is the room supposed to be? What actions should be taken if this increases or decreases? It may seem obvious to us, but unless there is a system to pair data to context, IoT will be an expensive mess of numbers.

“With the rapid development of technologies such as Big Data, semantic web, complex workflow or autonomous decision making, the need for interoperable context information is becoming huge”, says Lindsay Frost, convenor of ETSI ISG CIM.

“The ISG CIM will specify protocols running ‘on top’ of IoT platforms and allowing exchange of data together with its context, this includes what is described by the data, what was measured, when, where, by what, the time of validity, ownership, and others. That will dramatically extend the interoperability of applications, helping smart cities to integrate their existing services and enable new third-party services.”

While there are numerous applications for the group to consider, one of the more obvious and pressing would be smart cities. The smart cities concept has long been positioned as the poster-boy of the IoT revolution, though progress has been slow to date partly due to a lack of regulation and standardization.

Although many companies have moved swiftly forward, developing new technologies with other-worldly efficiency and engagement benefits, the importance of regulation has been underplayed. This could be seen as the Huawei Customer event in September, where the team highlighted numerous case studies heralding the benefits of IoT but was unable to appreciate a lack of regulation and standardization would potential turn decision makers away from committing to such expensive technologies.

Smart city decision makers are public sector employees and therefore answerable to me and you. They are spending the tax-payer’s cash on technologies which need to benefit the whole community; the expenditure therefore needs to be highly justified and accountable. Buying kit which hasn’t been subject to the rigour of standardization will make these decision makers nervous. Who wants to commit to an expensive sensor or piece of software which is made redundant when the standards are actually released?

This is only one example of working groups which need to be developing in light of the all-encompassing nature of IoT, but it’s a good starting point. The five ETSI members of the new ISG CIM are Easy Global Market, imec, NEC, Orange and Telefonica, who will also collaborate with other working groups including ETSI TC SmartM2M and ETSI PP oneM2M, as well as external groups such as the Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC) organization.

In other ETSI news, the team has announced its first Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) interoperability Plugtests event, which will start on January 23. During the two-week intense testing phase, interoperability tests will focus on validating ETSI NFV Release 2 end-to-end capabilities including management of descriptors and software images, as well as life cycle management of network services and virtual network functions.

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