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IoT Standards: a oneM2M Follow-UP

A couple months ago I did a survey of Internet of Things (IoT) standards – or, more accurately, activities moving in the direction of standards, since it’s kind of early days yet.

And in it, I was a bit harsh with one standard… oneM2M. I found it dense and somewhat hard to penetrate, with language that didn’t seem clear or well-explained. The status at the time – and currently (for a bit longer) was as a candidate release, taking input.

To their credit, they accepted my cantankerous grumblings as input. I had a conversation with their Work Programme Management Ad-Hoc Group Chairman Nicolas Damour, at his suggestion, and we talked about some of the specific questions I had raised in my coverage. The general take-away was that the language could be made a bit more expansive for readers not from narrow domains.

Doing this can actually be tricky, since standards tend to have two kinds of content:

  • “Normative” content: this is the standard itself, the rules. It says what you “must” and “will” and ‘”shall” and “may” do. Changes to this must be well thought out and voted on. You can’t make changes willy-nilly.
  • “Informative” content: this is background material intended to give context or examples or perhaps even discuss the thinking that went into the standard: why was one approach approved over another? It’s much easier to make changes here. And if there’s any confusion between what the informative and normative sections say? The normative language always trumps.

A glossary is one good example of informative content, and we agreed that it was a reasonable place to make some clarifications. There might even be room for some glosses concerning how some tough decisions were arrived at. Overall, it was a productive conversation – showing a flexibility that’s not always a hallmark of standards organizations. (After several years of hard-fought work, it’s understandable that a group might resist a bit when outsiders propose last-minute changes… I didn’t perceive this during our talk.)

There were two specific things that I raised in my coverage.

  • One was the missing definition of a “reference point.” It turns out that, for people in the telecom world, this is a familiar term, codified by the ITU. It’s what the rest of us might call an “interface.” Problem is, the word “interface” means a lot of different things, so in ITU-land, it refers to an API or a specific physical interface. A reference point indicates an interface between systems, but in a more generic way, and one that could admit multiple protocols. Perhaps “boundary” is a better word than “interface.”
  • I questioned the definitions of “field” vs. “infrastructure” domains. In retrospect, this seems clearer: the field refers to deployed devices, and infrastructure means the Cloud or servers. The reason this seems clear now is because I’ve been specifically thinking about that with respect to “IoT Ring Theory.” Before that, it wasn’t so clear. To me, anyway.

They’re taking input through the end of the year, so you still have time to review and make suggestions. You can find the latest candidate release here (via FTP).


Note: there’s a page on the website with an earlier release that says that comments had to be in by Nov. 1, not by the end of the year… but I checked in, and that was for an earlier round of comments. You can still provide input. There’s also an explanatory webcast here.  

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