Lack of Standardisation: Is it Impacting IoT Deployment?

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If we look at this from India’s perspective, there are very few standards that are defined in the IoT space

The Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere, influencing every aspect of life. With the use of smart sensors and actuators, several things around us are connected to the Internet, making our lives simpler and better. This latest phenomena in digital space is also offering mind-boggling market opportunities for the industry. According to Boston Consulting Group, the IoT market is estimated to reach US$ 267 billion by 2020.

Considering its influence on public life and large-scale implementation, there arises the need for standards and protocols that’s specifically meet the requirements of IoT applications. There are several consortia – primarily driven by government agencies, industry giants and standards bodies – working on designing IoT standards. Though there are some standards at global level, they have not been properly enforced due to limited large-scale implementation.

If we look at this from India’s perspective, there are very few standards that are defined in the IoT space. Local standards bodies are almost negligible in the country and there is hardly any presence from India in global standards groups.

The Government of India, however, came up with a draft IoT Policy Document in 2016 to address the issues related to IoT and to create a US$ 15 billion IoT industry in India. The draft also mentioned about standardisation of IoT and creating national expert committee for developing and adopting IoT standards. But there is still lot to be achieved on this front.

However, the question arises: Is the lack of proper or common standard for IoT impacting its deployment and the industry? To find out, EFY Group look into this crucial subject from the industry’s viewpoint.

Need for a common standard

According to Ajay Gupta, Global Head – Smart Cities and IOT at Tech Mahindra, “Development of technology standards is one of the major challenges faced by IoT industry.”

However, he says, “It hasn’t been able to slow down the IoT adoption to a great extent. Presently, there are hundreds of standards already in use on IoT and this number is ever increasing. There are lot of efforts being made to arrive at common standard.”

“According to me, agreement on a standard, which is universally acceptable, will be a challenge,” he adds.

But Gupta opines that a common standard will make IoT solution integration involving various devices quicker, thus saving on effort and time significantly. In addition, he says, it will also enable deeper analysis of data insights from cross-domain industries to realise full potential of IoT.

Echoing the same thoughts, a few other industry people share that adoption of IoT will continue despite the lack of standards and growth in IoT deployment will, in turn, lead to setting up of standards. Mohan Kumar Sundar, Director at LyfeNet Solutions, says, “Considering IoT as a single piece of technology is an oversimplification of what it actually is. It is a combination of myriad blocks of technologies that works like cogs of a wheel. I believe we are still in the early stages of evolution of standards in each of these areas.”

He continues, “There are areas where there are reasonably well-established standards in place, for example, industrial interfaces and in others, there is a multitude of competing standards, each trying for a dominant space. The growth of adoption of IoT is because of the new capabilities it brings to table. Standards will follow suit.”

Proper enforcement of standards

It’s true that there is a lack of well-defined standards and protocols in the IoT domain, but the already existing standards are also not being enforced properly.

Ravi Shastri, CTO at Techolution, states that currently there are some IoT standards, such as IEEE. However, due to the limited large-scale implementation, these standards have not been enforced properly.

Shastri further says, “For instance, there are many standards for handling unstructured data, multiple protocols for data exchange, security (device & data), etc. When you have many options, people get confused and hence there are variants in the adoption of these standards. Concerns related to security weigh particularly heavily in the consumer IoT space. Enterprise IoT, on the other hand, has identified interoperability as a top barrier. So, a holistic regulatory movement will probably stabilise most of the turbulence in the standardisation half.”

Scalability issue

According to IOhertz Technologies Co-founder Gulshan Sharma, standards in IoT have been less defined due to “the diversity of things we are looking to connect which have varied power, connectivity, latency, bandwidth and maintenance requirements.”

There has been no repeatable business model or technical head start for IoT projects unlike other IT domains, he says.

Moreover, the multiple layers involved increases the cost, he says and explains: “As we have observed being in the IoT industry, the projects overshoot their budgets and cost to value ratio is less. Despite the innovation, the adoption has been linear rather than exponential. There is a concern that IoT is not well adopted but the fact is that huge money is being put into project by enterprises internally. Though its effects are not on the surface yet, it’s just a matter of time.”

“However, these challenges drove the industry towards acknowledging them, understanding them and defining some loose standards. The IoT solutions in the market now offer minimal upfront cost, flexible architectures, end-to-end accountability and an instant value addition to the whole ecosystem,” he adds.

Sameer Patnaik, Co-founder and CEO, Machstatz also agrees and says, “IoT has been in the market for almost 5-6 years but its adoption rate is very low. If we talk about development standards, the solutions being deployed are not scalable.”

However, with the increasing emergence of IoT devices and their deployment, the standards are evolving around certain IoT domains. As Ravinder Pal Singh, Director, Dell EMC puts in, “Initially, we had no standards or policies relating to adoption of IoT. But over time, standards started evolving especially around IoT device connectivity, data acquisition, security and protocols.  IEEE, ISO and few other global standards have led to the adoption and real use case implementation easier, especially in critical sectors like Utilities, Defence and Aviation.”

“Overall, standards make it easier for product manufacturers to position their devices for customers. But sometimes these also lead to blockades. Blockades take place in absence of local interpretation of standards,” he adds.

Right time

The industry is also hoping that with faster development of devices around IoT, this is the right to time to focus on the standardisation. Mohan Raju, CMO at Danlaw for India and emerging markets, says, “What IoT promises is that all of your ‘things’ like refrigerators, ACs, light bulbs, washing machines, even cars will become ‘smart connected devices’ and will be able to talk to each other using some sort of technology.”

This diversity of communications between diverse things needs standards/rules and regulations to interoperate efficiently, he continues noting that “there are some groups which have tried to tackle the standardisation issue, but there is no single body which is responsible for setting up IoT standards.”

He hopes that the ecosystem will develop faster and a lot of innovative ideas and integrations will be coming to fruition sooner.

“It’s high time the bigger industry players realise this and agree on focusing their energy at standardisation to push the industry forward on the right track,” adds Raju.

Conclusion

The crux of the matter is that industry needs a proper standardisation for IoT domain as there is a huge cost involved in creating and deploying IoT devices and services. The lack of standardisation is becoming a challenge, impacting the acceleration of IoT implementation. With industry and other bodies now realising the need for common standards/protocols for IoT, many are focusing their resources on this to push the industry forward.

However, it is to be seen when these efforts come to fruition. Meanwhile, IoT market continues its growth trajectory.

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