Are we there yet? A journey towards standardisation

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Posted by John Kennedy, Senior Researcher, Intel Labs Europe


When the mF2C project was first conceived during 2015, cloud computing was establishing itself as a very serious product offering, whilst the worlds of fog and edge computing were much more nebulous. The spheres of industry, academia and politics realised that interoperability would have a critical role to play in securing a rich and sustainable ecosystem of technology providers, service providers, and service consumers. Significant efforts have thus been put into standardisation. We have summarised early standardisation activities in a previous blog post available here. Below we present an update on various active standardisation efforts relevant to the cloud, edge and fog computing domains.

The OpenFog Consortium was founded in November 2015 to address technical challenges in Fog computing. A key publication was issued in January 2017 when the OpenFog Reference Architecture Technical Paper was released. In August 2018 a milestone with their collaboration with the IEEE was reached when the IEEE published IEEE 1934-2018, the IEEE standard for Adoption of OpenFog Reference Architecture for Fog Computing.  This standard is “intended to address the need for an end-to-end, interoperable solution that is positioned along the things-to-cloud continuum. The new standard supports multiple industry verticals and application domains and is designed to enable services and applications to be distributed closer to the data-producing sources and/or the information-consuming users”.

At the end of January 2019, the OpenFog Consortium joined forces with the Industrial Internet Consortium, and all OpenFog Consortium activities have since been integrated into the IIC Working Group activities. The IIC has, in June 2019, published their Industrial Internet of Things Volume G1: Reference Architecture v1.9. This forms a bedrock upon which a rich suite of technical publications have been organised. These documents describe how heterogenous devices may interoperate, from sensors and actuators at the industrial edge through various levels of gateways and hubs out to the Wide Area Network and beyond to the cloud.

The Alliance for the Internet of Things Innovation was launched in March 2015 by the European Commission and Internet of Things stakeholders. Today, the Alliance is a European Association based in Brussels. The overall goal of this initiative was the creation of a dynamic European IoT ecosystem to unleash the potential of IoT. This ecosystem, built on the work of the IoT Research Cluster, encourages innovation across industries and business sectors of IoT, by transforming ideas into solutions and business models. There are now at least thirteen Working Groups that deal with the main pillars of the IoT ecosystem. Horizontally these cover topics such as IoT Research, Innovation Ecosystems, Standardization, and Policy. Vertically, domains addressed include Smart Ageing, Farming, Wearables, Cities, Water Management and Manufacturing. AOITI provides a European forum to coordinate interests and activities and stakeholder collaboration in this space.

The Open Connectivity Foundation has created an extensive and growing reference set of models to enable the discovery and control of arbitrary devices. These models include definitions of the interfaces to these devices, and are published at The OCF continues to sponsor IoTivity, an open-source reference implementation, published under the Apache 2.0 license, now at version v2.0.1.

On a related note, the Linux Foundation has recently evolved its EdgeX Foundry into the broader LF Edge Foundation. This open-source project was launched in January 2019 with significant industry backing. It is building an open source framework for the edge and its revised charter has recently been adopted. It includes numerous open-source projects within its framework including the Akraino Edge Stack (first release June 2019), and EVE, the Edge Virtualization Engine.

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute continues to be very active in numerous areas relevant to this space. As well as a suite of standards that enable 5G, ETSI also has a Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) Industry Specification Group which is developing a suite of standards to enable cloud-computing and an IT service network at the network edge.

ISO/IEC JTC1 continues to be the body responsible for defining technical standards at a formal international level. It continues to refine its set of working groups and sub-committees, the most relevant sub-committees now including SC38 and SC41. Insights and perspectives are fed into the ISO/IEC JTC1 standardisation processes via the national standards organisations of participating countries. It should be noted that the standards authored by ISO / IEC JTC1 are often high-level and descriptive in nature. Technical specifications of APIs are often developed within Industry Groups. If appropriate measures are taken they may then be ratified by the relevant ISO/IEC JTC1 sub-committee.

ISO/IEC JTC1 SC38 is dedicated to Cloud Computing and Distributed Platforms. Although focusing on centralised cloud systems in the past, SC38 is now pursuing a broader work programme with explicit references to Edge Computing in particular. Recently published standards include:

  • ISO / IEC 19941:2017 – Interoperability and Portability
  • ISO / IEC 19944:2017 – Cloud services and devices: Data flow, Data categories and data use

Standards and technical reports being actively developed include:

  • ISO/IEC CD22123 – Cloud Computing – Concepts and terminology
  • ISO/IEC PDTS 23167 – Cloud Computing – Common Technologies and Techniques
  • ISO/IEC PDTR 23188 – Cloud Computing – Edge computing landscape

ISO/IEC JTC1 SC41 – Internet of Things and related technologies was inaugurated during 2017 and to date has published two documents of particular relevance to mF2C:

  • ISO/IEC 20924:2018 – Internet of Things (IoT) – Vocabulary
  • ISO/IEC 30141:2018 – Reference Architecture

It is working on a suite of relevant standards including:

  • ISO/IEC NP 30149 – Trustworthiness framework
  • ISO/IEC NP 30161 – Requirements of IoT data exchange platform for various IoT services
  • ISO/IEC NP 30162 – Compatibility requirements and model for devices within industrial IoT systems
  • ISO/IEC NP TR 30164 – Edge Computing

An agreement has also been reached between SC41 and SC38: standards related to Edge computing are being developed in cooperation with each other.

This list of standardisation efforts is not exhaustive, but does illustrate that significant progress has been made towards standardisation of this fast-changing domain. The trend towards consolidation and collaboration between standards organisations also demonstrates a growing maturity in this space.

Regarding the journey towards standardisation it seems clear that no, we are not there yet. However, it is also clear that we are now well on the way…and as the traditional Irish expression goes: go n-éirí an bóthar linn – May the road rise to meet us.