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F-Interop: boosting IoT interoperability

Posted 27 Jul 2016

IoT interoperability represents well-known challenges that could hinder growth and expansion of the IoT ecosystem. Michele Nati, Lead Technologist on Personal Data and Trust at Digital Catapult, explains how our recent F-Interop meetup addressed this.

In a recent blog post, we discussed some of the challenges related to IoT interoperability. We also identified some opportunities, offered by the F-Interop project, to lower the barriers to entrance for interoperability testing and bring SMEs’ interoperable IoT solutions to market.

Following our recent F-Interop meetup at the Digital Catapult Centre in London, we will run a funding competition to use and improve the current platform, and also to generate awareness about the upcoming F-Interop Open Call.

Here are a few tips to help anyone submitting ideas as well as an overview of what we learned from the recent meetup.

On 18 July our auditorium hosted an abundance of IoT SMEs, standard representatives (British Standards Institution, Hypercat), large corporates (IBM) and IoTUK partners. We organized the meetup to better engage with participants. One of the ways we did that is by dividing attendees into different groups and asked them the following questions:

What is your definition of interoperability?

It became clear that most of the participants see interoperability as the main challenge in making devices swappable. Others pointed out the need for more data and services exchange.

Hint #1: The heterogeneity of IoT devices and implementations requires us to bind an IoT solution to a specific device. This limits the uptake and possible exploitation of it for SMEs. Providing tools for boosting such device-level interoperability is one of the main objectives of the F-Interop project.

What are the benefits of developing interoperable solutions?

The participants identified various benefits, including:

  • Increased access to data
  • Reduced cost of infrastructure and development
  • More competition and reduced cost of services
  • More business interoperability

These four benefits allow more businesses to work together, developing more advanced end-to-end solutions that span across different sectors and cover the value chain of a new market.

Hint #2: When submitting an entry to F-Interop, always thoroughly describe the business interoperability opportunities that your idea might open.

Developing interoperable solutions could increase access to data and open up new competition

What are the barriers?

The main barriers SMEs face is a lack of time to develop and bring interoperable solutions to market, and the length and complexity of testing/certification processes.

Hint #3: When proposing new tools for the F-Interop platform, always have in mind your customer (yourself if you are an SME), and think how the tools can simplify your work and your ability to develop interoperable solutions.

What communities and protocols are driving IoT interoperability?

Names within the device and connectivity ecosystem, such as OneM2M, MQTT and CoAP/6LoWPAN were mentioned as examples embracing the interoperability challenge. The Thread Group led by Google Nest, and SMETS2 were also highlighted, as well as Hypercat and the Web of Things (WoT) initiative. However, the boundary between platform/data and service level interoperability is not as clear as the boundary between an IoT device and platform.

Hint #4: F-Interop is already working on supporting remote interoperability testing of CoAP/6LoWPAN and OneM2M protocols. Extensions to other identified protocols might be worth exploring, so always think outside the box and explore new sectors and markets.

Hint #5: F-Interop will include some basic functionality to test the interoperability of Web of Things (WoT) implementations. Engaging with communities leading the data, platform and service interoperability is welcome.

Beyond the F-Interop project, it was clear that participants and SMEs are interested to develop interoperable solutions, but they may lack the resources. To help us understand the additional opportunities Digital Catapult can create to help your business solve IoT interoperability challenges, please complete this short survey.