Chaos Theory of Standardization in IOT

Pierluigi Paganini May 07, 2016

There are numerous standards being followed currently in the IOT space to connect various devices but no single global framework is followed.

As Chaos theory focuses on the initial condition of every event meaning that their future behavior is fully determined by their initial conditions, I feel that the IOT scenario is also currently at an initial juncture where we have an opportunity to control the situation before it goes out of hand. There are numerous standards being followed currently in the IOT space to connect various devices but no single global framework is followed.

Like the TCP for internet or the IPV4/6 for connectivity which has become the global standard. We have seen the telecommunication and internet revolution simultaneously happening which has fueled various innovations and has made life much more convenient. Even though 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G technologies along with Internet have been globally standardized, the IOT which uses internet as a platform has not yet been standardized. The objective of IOT standardization is to create one language for IOT communication. Even though historically many technological standards have been standardized to a global standard, the IOT world is in a state of chaos and is actually diverging into many individual standard formats than converging into one. Think of the data that were recorded in the cassette tapes and VCR system. Their formats are not compatible in today’s data format and hence obsolete. This will “distinguish past from the future, by marching away from the chaos, the randomness, and moving towards stability. This is why standards are necessary”. (Campbell, J., 1983. Grammatical Man, A Touchstone Book, Simon & Schuster, Inc., page 265.)

The way hierarchy structure in an organization reduces the data analytics time as only the managers data have to be analyzed as each manager manages few associates. Therefore less data analysis saves time and hence cost. Most economics theory is based on saving time. Most of the ecommerce startup like online grocery (Food tech startup) or cab aggregators like Uber focus on saving time using mobile apps hence save effort and cost.

Standardization will in turn save enormous amount of time and cost. One of the major changes in this space has been triggered due to the declining cost of sensors and cloud storage.

In the world of standardization in IOT, there are many wicked problems. To make people accountable and fix the issues, one standard is imperative. There has been very significant shift in new technology adoption. From innovation to adoption of a technology there are series of events that unfold. Before I explain this shift, let me start with a ‘why’ by asking why IOT standardization now? There are 3 reasons why there is a need for standardization of IOT now.

  1. 99% devices in the world are not connected. This means that the timing is perfect. Timing was the key for Uber and Airbnb launch and hence the success factor.
  2. 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and 2 trillion in revenue means that demand will only rise and hence streamlining is the key.
  3. In 2013-14, approximately 2 billion USD invested in IOT startups in Silicon Valley alone. This only shows that the IOT industry is going to be in the early adopter stage. Hence early adopters of common universal standard is crucial right now as the timing is perfect as 1% of devices in the world is currently connected.

Protocols for interoperability have to be standardized for ease of communication. Each sensor generates data which has to communicate with every other device. Different naming and addressing standards will lead to device searching issues. Hence talking to each other in the same language is of prime importance. The narrative of the English language gaining dominance as the global language supports my argument of having a universal IOT language for communication.

Now talking about the power game of who can influence the standardization process. How standardization will work? Or probably should we be asking will it ever work? To kick start this complex initiative I strongly propose a global campaign for ‘IOTism’. Currently we are witnessing an IOT ecosystem which lacks strong global IPR rules, neutral governance and a balanced participation or representation. The solution to this problem would come from game theory. Without an unbiased authority or a policy maker, it will be impossible to have a truly global IoT ecosystem.

How and what would the governance of the IoT be like? Will it be a state-led agency, or a group under the supervision of the UN, or an industrial consortium? Currently the various power players in the standards world like ITU, ICANN, IEEE, OIC, W3C, ISO, ITEF and industry verticals standard are present who wants to influence a larger pie. Applying Game theory to IOTism for adoption of ONE universal theory – If everyone adopts the standard at the same time, it will be successful. Need of the hour is to bring all institutions together and frame an IOT standard together.
IOT Chaos Theory

Currently by the end of 2015, IOT Industry market is around 0.8 Trillion USD. The true market value of the IOT industry would be created only if there is integration of all IOT standards into just one. If I assume approx. 400 current standards, then IOT standardization values= 0.8/400= 2 Billion. This per capita or per standard value bring down the efficiency of the IOT industry as a whole. Therefore if and only if the IOT standard share is 1, then the IOT market value can be maximized.

The way a Governance Risk and Compliance (GRC) Automation platform or tool in Cyber security space has a basic foundation which has workflow, dashboard, application linking, access and role management etc and any use case or application module can sit on top of it. Similarly IOT TRUST foundation could be common globally. Any organization/industry is free to map their customized processes on top of the base foundation framework. This will control the input and output of data. Hence achieving a universal standard and a contextual technology layer wrapped on top of it.

Also it is imperative to understand that once the IOT standardization is achieved, there should be a smooth transition strategy like a migration roadmap plan for the previous standards (currently approximately 450 IOT standards exists) and not just leave on the market to decide the adoption. The responsibility of this group would be to think ahead of the curve and make the necessary changes to the framework to be compatible and accommodative for future innovations. IOT is an extension to human organs and hence the game of IOTism to ORGANism should be played very responsibly. We should keep in mind what happens to humanity when there is technological singularity! Else the next world war could be fought over standard Information of Things!


Written by: Deric Karunesudas

Deric karunesudasDeric Karunesudas is currently working with a global MNC in the Sales domain handling Cyber security business. He has a technical delivery background working with organizations like Deloitte and Wipro where he has executed end to end information security projects. He is an active member of Information Security Forum (ISF). His proposal paper on “Internet of Things” was selected for ISF Copenhagen World congress Nov 2014 and Atlanta World Congress 2015. He is a technology enthusiast and has keen interest in Entrepreneurship.

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Edited by Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Standards, Internet of Things)

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