Why Interoperability Matters to IoT

Timothy Winters, Senior Executive, Software and IP Networking
University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory

Marion Dillon, Technical Manager of Home Networking and IoT Technologies
University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory

Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the fastest growing areas in data communications. Gartner estimates the number of devices deployed to grow to 20.8 Billion by 2020 with an economic impact of 3 billion dollars in sales. This is an increase of roughly 14 billion devices over the next four years, doubling the amount of devices on the Internet today. Use cases for connecting appliances and systems to each other and the Internet are growing, driving this increase in devices. Users for IoT can be broken up into categories of Consumer, Enterprise, or Industrial, which each have different value propositions. At the core of this IoT revolution is the idea of connecting devices to make a task easier. This article will focus on the need for Interoperability on the consumer space since its a large growth area for IoT, estimating to grow from 4 billion devices today to 13 billion devices by 2020.

IoTConsumers want to be able to connect to things to allow them to automate everyday tasks. Consumer IoT companies market to the users who have internet-connected homes and lives. Use cases vary from televisions streaming your favorite show, a light bulb indicating it needs to be replaced, or controlling the temperature of your pool from your phone. Some devices are purchased directly by the consumer such as the TV or light bulb. Others are provided by a service provider or system manufacturer, for example the pool company will provide the user the devices to connect the pool monitor system to the Internet instead of having the user purchase the equipment themselves. This leads to a wide variety of networked things working together to communicate to the Internet for the benefit of the user.

The diversity of things on the network means that Interoperability, the ability for devices or a system to communicate effectively, is vital to the success of IoT. Networked devices need to work harmoniously for a good user experience, which includes device setup and securing the devices. Users don’t want to purchase a device with networked features only to discover during setup that these features don’t work due to incompatibility with another previously purchased device. Interoperability of the network devices is key to harnessing the many benefits of IoT.

To illustrate the need for interoperability we are going to use the example of streaming content to a television. The application provided by a content provider to connect to the cloud needs to work with the TV. In some cases the application doesn’t run directly on the TV but runs on a different device that is connected to the TV – a DVR or Chromecast, for example. The TV needs to be able to connect the home network so that it can find the content that the user wants to stream.

The TV or DVR must interoperate with a router in the home to make sure it is able to connect to the network and can communicate with the Internet. The home router could come from a service provider or be purchased by the user. It might be a combination of multiple routers working together to give the user a useable home network. The user might also want to be able to interact with the streaming content from a tablet device, either to rewind an important scene or just move the content to stream to the tablet. In this small scenario we have shown interoperability with five different components that are coming from a variety of manufacturers. While its possible to get most of these services from one provider, the user will want to be able to choose between content providers, televisions, tablets, and home routers. Interoperability of these devices makes that choice possible.

Another area of concern for users is the security of IoT devices. In protecting against exploits, IoT devices need to secure their communications. An IoT device usually sends sensitive information to IoT providers cloud platforms – information like if there is someone home (in the case of a door sensor or camera), or if the alarm system is armed or unarmed.

These exchanges must be secured to protect the privacy and safety of the users. With the addition of more IoT systems to customer premises, IoT devices will need to ensure interoperability is possible even when securing network traffic. There are many industry standards for IoT security protocols, so there are potential interoperability issues when devices implement different protocols. A situation where two devices, or a device and a cloud platform, cant communicate because they don’t implement the same security protocols or implement them poorly, must be avoided to protect against new exploits related to IoT devices. This will potentially lead users to disable security if they find their services don’t work when security is enabled.

IoT manufacturers and service providers need to make products that are secure against attacks and malware while maintaining the level of usability that users require. This includes planning for devices that may never receive regular maintenance and minimizing the attack surfaces for devices that will not be replaced. These are complex issues that skilled network designers and manufacturers need to incorporate into IoT deployments.

Companies that have not traditionally been networking companies now have to create products that integrate seamlessly and securely over the Internet and interoperate with other network elements. In many cases these companies have traditional staff whose skills are focused in areas other than networking. In the pool example that we gave above, the field staff from a pool company is not traditionally focused on being able to troubleshoot networking issues. They are experienced in making sure the pool flow monitor is functioning properly, but not in the inner workings of DHCP. Organizations like University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) offer expertise and testing in environments similar to those where the product will be deployed.

The UNH-IOL holds a large test bed of network devices that can replicate environments for consumer IoT solutions. From core and edge routers to home gateways, IoT systems can be verified in realistic deployments. This helps companies pinpoint issues that can occur when other vendors equipment is introduced. The IoT devices are tested for protocols related to addressing (IP, DHCP, DNS), transport (UDP, TCP), and the application layer. The UNH-IOL test bed is connected to the global Internet, so companies can test their deployed devices with their cloud platforms.

For this technical work the UNH-IOL employs undergraduate and graduate students from the University of New Hampshire. This serves as training, providing experience for their roles as future leaders in the data communications industry. While working with IoT devices, UNH-IOL employees need to have a comprehensive knowledge of networking using a variety tools to observe and pinpoint real network issues. Student engineers demonstrate skills in finding and communicating networking issues by writing the technical reports that the members of the UNH-IOL receive. This serves the wider IoT industry by providing companies with employees who are experienced in making Interoperability a reality.

For more information please visit www.iol.unh.edu

winters_timothyTimothy Winters:
Timothy Winters is a Senior Executive, Software and IP Networking, at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL). He works with companies from all over the world to develop broad-based, flexible testing strategies to cost effectively meet network interoperability requirements for the Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), Software Defined Networking (SDN), Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), Routing, and Home Networking.

Timothy is the United States Government IPv6 (USGv6) and IPv6 Ready Logo technical lead for the UNH-IOL. In this role, he oversees various aspects in testing of IPv6 technology, deals with various multi-vendor IPv6 testing scenarios and acts as a liaison between students and vendors during device testing and development. He was instrumental in the UNH-IOLs designation as an ISO-17025 USGv6 accredited laboratory.

Timothy has more than 15 years of experience as a UNH-IOL leader and his involvement with cutting edge technologies has led to outstanding achievement. He is an expert in routing protocols: Open Shortest Path First (OSPF), Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), and Protocol Independent Multicast (PIM), as well helping deploy the Moonv6 network in the early days of IPv6 as a connectivity specialist and deployment advisor. Passionate about innovation, Timothy has taken the lead for the IPv6 Forums IPv6 Ready Logo Programs. In addition, Timothy assisted with ISOC World IPv6 Launch by creating the criteria for home networking equipment manufactures to participate. Tim’s Recent activities include developing an IPv6 Ready for IoT, OpenFlow testing, SDN Interoperability, and co-authoring DHCPv6 updates for the IETF.

His ongoing collaboration with industry forums including the North American IPv6 Task Force, IPv6 Forum, IPv6 Ready Logo Committee, Open Networking Foundation, IPSO, CEA and SIP Forum demonstrates his dedication and persistence in developing new standards, as well as assisting commercial services providers, network equipment vendors and government agencies cost effectively speed go-to-market time for products.

dillon_marionMarion Dillon:
Marion Dillon is the Technical Manager of Home Networking and IoT Technologies at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL). Marion began to work at the UNH-IOL in 2011. She learned the basics of computer networking, IP technologies, and testing methodologies while working with the UNH-IOLs IPv6 Testing Services.

She helped launch the IPv6 Ready CE Router Logo test program in January, 2016. Marion serves as Project Stream Leader in the Broadband Forums Broadband User Services work area, working on the Broadband Forum TR-069 Certification Program. Marion is the technical lead for the UNH-IOLs IoT IP Testing Services in August, 2016, which is focused on promoting interoperability in IoT systems.

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