Standardising the Internet of Things: What the Experts Think

Standardising the Internet of Things: What the Experts Think

Kai Jakobs, Thomas Wagner, Kai Reimers
DOI: 10.4018/jitsr.2011010104
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The paper reports findings of a project that aimed at making initial recommendations on how the standards setting processes for the Internet of Things can be adapted to provide for a level playing field for all stakeholders. To this end, the opinions of experts in the field were compiled through a survey and a ‘study with Delphi elements’.
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Introduction And Motivation

The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) will represent a paradigm shift in communication: initially, communication occurred between living beings. With ICT, this was complemented, and to some degree replaced, by communication between humans and machines (e.g., through word processing), by communication between humans enabled by machines (e.g., telephones or e-mail), and by machines communicating with each other (e.g., in B2B e-business). The next step will see communication between ‘things’ (e.g., the cooker with the fridge, or the shopping cart with the till), without any human intervention.

To deploy these technologies beneficially for all stakeholders, internationally agreed standards will be a sine-qua-non. This holds all the more as it may be assumed that they will have an unprecedented impact on the environment within which they will have to function. The broad application of RFID technologies, and eventually the IoT, will change people’s lives perhaps even more dramatically than ICT have done so far. The standards setting process will need to reflect this in some way.

Thus, the assumption underlying the project ‘Standardising the Internet of Things’ was that standards setting bodies (SSBs) will need a certain level of legitimacy to develop standards acceptable. And that, as a consequence, it will become essential that all stakeholders can contribute to standardisation activities towards the IoT, and voice their respective requirements and concerns. Specifically, this broad active participation shall be possible in practice – in theory (i.e., through their policies and bylaws), the relevant SSBs do not exclude any stakeholders.

The overall objective of the project was

To make initial recommendations on how to adapt the standards setting processes for the Internet of Things to stakeholders’ requirements

More specifically, the project

  • Did a comprehensive state-of-the-art analysis with respect to current standards-setting processes and a classification of different stakeholders’ in these processes,

  • Identified the major standards setting bodies of the (future) IoT standardisation environment,

  • Developed typical sample application scenarios for the IoT,

  • Did two empirical studies to compile further up-to-date information and views,

  • Developed recommendations on how standards setting bodies (SSBs) can be aligned, and their processes modified, to accommodate the requirements of the IoT.

This report will focus on the latter two aspects1.


The Studies And Their Findings


Neither have all stakeholders in the standardisation of the IoT been created equal, nor do they exert an equal level of influence on the process. Specifically, the ‘Third Estate2’ in standardisation, i.e., primarily SME user companies and consumers, hardly ever have the opportunity to make themselves heard.

We carried out an exploratory survey and a ‘study with Delphi elements’. For the former, a semi-structured questionnaire sent to around 80 experienced standards setters, with typically 6 – 12 years of relevant experience. The vast majority gained much of this experience through working in ISO JTC1 SC31. Many have also been active in EPCglobal. In total, we received 12 replies (including 3 from ETSI, EPCglobal and CEN).

The ‘study with Delphi elements’ comprised two rounds. While the study consisted numerous Delphi elements. it did not ask experts to evaluate the probabilities of different scenarios. Rather, the study presented an application scenario of the IoT, and asked for the experts’ views on different aspects in relation to this scenario. The second round analysed those answers of the first round for which very diverging views had been expressed. We asked those questions again, showing the experts the results of the first round, and gave them the opportunity to adapt their answers and/or comment on their responses. We also added some new questions in response to answers and comments given in the first round. In total, 26 experts (standardisation researchers or active WG members) volunteered. Of these, 20 actually participated in round one; 17 in round two.

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