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Workshop on Internet of Things - Trends and Challenges in Standardization

​Geneva, Switzerland, 19 February 2014

Opening Address

Ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to this workshop on the Internet of Things (IoT).

ITU’s role in this field goes back to 2005 when ITU published a report looking towards the future of this technology and first named it the “Internet of Things”.

Indeed, as with so many other disruptive fields of technology, ITU was quick to understand the potential of IoT and put in place mechanisms to expedite the development of the standards to allow the IoT to flourish.

Connecting things is one challenge… ensuring that they can all talk to one another and interoperate is a different level of complexity. Taken at this simplistic level it is clear that standards have a crucial role to play in paving the way for a smoothly operating IoT.

Two IoT statistics are widely quoted:

Cisco’s prediction that there will be 10 billion Internet-connected devices by 2016, and Ericssons’ that there will be 50 billion by 2020.

No matter how you look at it, if all these devices are to be connected to the Internet, global standards that define the common communication protocols and functional frameworks are fundamental.

Without them today’s fragmented IoT market will continue to experience interoperability issues, a lack of scalability, and costs too high to achieve significant growth.

IoT brings a whole new set of industry verticals into play, from utilities to banking, transport, healthcare and more.

This is one of the major challenges facing the traditional model of standardization. It’s why WTSA-12 charged a Review Committee to look at ways ITU-T can better collaborate with these vertical sectors to contribute to this important work.

Collaboration is a big challenge but given ITU’s unique public-private membership model and the wealth of experience in defining  new-technology landscapes through the publication of the requisite protocols, ITU is the ideal place to forge these standards.

Voltaire is reputed to have said: “Before we converse we must define our terms” and that was what happened in the early stages of ITU’s IoT work.

A series of Recommendations published in 2012 provides an agreed overview of the IoT, clarifying the concept and scope and identifiying its fundamental characteristics and high-level requirements.

This first step was critically important. The Recommendations allowed all the global players, across the broad spectrum of activities and requirements, to agree on the terminology and basic requirements for IoT – and that is no mean feat. This material will be employed to start internal dialog in various countries and enable an environment that operates within the relevant regulatory frameworks.

Following agreement on these core Recommendations the more detailed work is well underway with a raft of Recommendations already approved that will enable a globally coordinated rollout of the IoT. Indeed we expect to see some key Recommendations emerge from the IoT-GSI meeting this week, including “Common requirements and capabilities of gateways for IoT applications”.

There are many other relevant areas of ITU-T study including work in the fields of intelligent transport; e-health; smart cities; big data; digital object architecture; cloud; identity management; and M2M. In fact, we have already started processing applications for shared numbering resources for M2M, and a Focus Group looking at M2M applications for eHealth is due to report on its deliverables very soon.

Today’s event is an opportunity to define some next steps. We have a very representative group of participants, including other standards bodies and academia. I am particularly pleased to see the open-source community so well represented here. You are all very welcome!

As you may have seen on your way in, there is an exhibition showcasing a number of different IoT products and scenarios. I encourage you all to take the time to visit the different exhibits and get a feel for some of the remarkable IoT initiatives already underway.

There will be an opportunity to do so during the coffee break, which I am pleased to announce is sponsored by one of the newest members of ITU-T: SAP. We are very grateful for this contribution and glad to have such a significant new member contributing to our work.

A representative of another new member has been instrumental in realizing today’s event. Alain Louchez from the Georgia Institute of Technology, an ITU-T Academia Member, chaired the steering committee for the event and put a great deal of work into designing the programme, for which I am very grateful.

This workshop is followed by back-to-back meetings of the IoT-Global Standards Initiative-IoT (IoT-GSI), 19-25 February and the Joint Coordination Activity-IoT (JCA-IoT), 25 Feb. These are the meetings where standards are coordinated and elaborated. While they are open to members only, it is possible for other experts to participate as observers, so please let us know if you are interested. We aim to hear as many voices as possible in the development of these fundamental – standardized – building blocks.

I believe there is a grwoing awareness of the importance of international standards: they have enabled and underpinned the two biggest machines in the world: public wireline and wireless telecommunication networks. Now that same spirit of innovation and collaboration is needed to connect to this network things such as parking meters, thermostats, cardiac monitors, tyres, roads, cars, supermarket shelves, and maybe even cattle!

This work is accelerating in ITU and we look forward to your recommendations on actions that might further advance this work. It is such a major and complex area that I believe it would be useful to have annual events such as this to check on progress and identify next steps.

I wish you all a most interesting and productive event.