Internet of Things Gets Real, Now Has Its Own Consortium

The Industrial Internet Consortium will establish common blueprints machines can use to share information and move data from one place to another.

The so-called Internet of things, or IoT for short, is officially a trend. We know this because it now has its own industry consortium.

A group of household-name industrial giants that include Intel, IBM, AT&T, Cisco Systems and General Electric -- along with the U.S. government -- revealed March 26 that they are going to work together to establish engineering standards so that the IoT will work optimally for users and vendors alike.

The Industrial Internet Consortium will establish common blueprints that machines can use to share information and move data from one place to another -- or from one location to several locations. These standards will include not only Internet protocol standards but also metrics such as power levels within connected or non-connected machines, data storage capacity in IT systems, and data traffic control in large networks.

These standards, which almost certainly will take three to five years or more to create and approve, will help software and hardware developers create products with a maximum of efficiency in order to connect the IoT. This means tying together sensors, networks, personal computers, cloud systems, vehicles, retail businesses, large enterprise systems and thousands of other entities.

White House Will Play Key Role

The White House and several other federal offices are also helping to build the consortium, which certainly will strive to attract many other companies and organizations.

Another clue as to why the IoT is fast earning legitimacy is that it also has its own conference, the Internet of Things World Forum. Cisco Systems, which has hitched its star to the concept, hosted the event last fall in Barcelona.

The Internet of things refers to the rapid growth in the number of smart devices—from industrial machines to cars to appliances to mobile devices—that currently are or will be connected to the Internet, communicating with each other and generating massive amounts of data.

In a report last year, Cisco forecast that by 2017, there will be 3.6 billion Internet users and more than 19 billion network connections—both fixed and mobile—as well as machine-to-machine (M2M) connections. By 2020, there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet.

Today, there are about 12.5 billion devices connected, according to Inbar Lasser-Raab, senior director of enterprise networking marketing at Cisco. In the IoT scenario, Cisco will build on its networking strengths.

'Sweeping Industrial Cooperation'

"I don't think anything this big has been tried before, in terms of sweeping industrial cooperation," GE Vice President William Ruh, who runs the company's global software center, told The New York Times. "This is how we will make machines, people and data work together."

If the Industrial Internet Consortium had been started, say, five or six years ago, there already might be answers to a current mystery that has stymied scientists, military and government experts for three weeks: The fate of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

The group's first executive director, Richard Soley, is the chief executive of the Object Management Group, a global technology standards group. He told The Times that the new consortium was already seeing interest from overseas companies, including Fujitsu (Japan), Siemens (Germany) and Huawei (China).

"What we have got to do is get all of the standards working together," Soley said. "If Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 had had full interoperability with the world's tracking systems, we'd know where it is to a square meter."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...