Posted by Joaquin Prado
Industry in general and IoT in particular should learn from the Mother Nature. Our planet is formed by – in some cases extremely complex – ecosystems. Ecosystems are formed by communities of living and non-living organisms that interact as a system with the purpose of surviving and reproducing.
IoT is a complex discipline, where systems of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers transfer data over a set of networks. No company or organization has the capability to develop all the necessary systems (components) that are needed to bring IoT to the market. We should follow Mother Nature’s example and start formatting ecosystems as a good way to approach this vast IoT space.
Device Management Protocol
Analysts have indicated that by 2020 there will be billions of devices interconnected and transferring data. Also, they indicate that the promise of IoT cannot be realized, at least not without achieving interoperability, security and the ability to remotely manage connected devices. Multiple organizations are organizing to tackle these challenges.
The Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) is one of these organizations. OMA is the leading industry forum for developing market driven, interoperable mobile service enablers. Specifically OMA has over 15 years of experience in developing device management systems.
A device management protocol provides a remote Server with the ability to initialize, control, configure, monitor and update the firmware of an already deployed Device.
OMA has developed a device management protocol called LightweightM2M (LwM2M), this protocol aims to support device management capabilities in constrained devices with limited processing power, e.g. few KB of RAM and Flash memory, 40 MHz, low bitrate and with a battery that can last many years.
But a device management protocol is just one of the multiple components to make IoT a reality by itself it cannot achieve the IoT paradigm.
Basic end-to-end components topology diagram for LwM2M device management protocol.
OMA LwM2M Ecosystem
Both new and well-established organizations, from different backgrounds such as Standards Development Organizations (SDO), Alliances, etc., sought an opportunity to realign their technical expertise to service this emerging market. Some of these organizations are approaching this IoT space with an evolution of their previous products or services; some are creating new services/systems from scratch.
OMA is carving out an ecosystem for its device management protocol by reusing components from other organizations and by making available its LwM2M protocol to other groups.
In particular, the mechanism to transport the LwM2M payload is done over a protocol called Constrained Application Protocol, CoAP, developed by IETF; the data model used to represent the network of sensors is provided by a model called IPSO v1.0, developed by IPSO Alliance; the software code that represents the behaviour of the LwM2M Client and Server is provided by two open source projects: Leshan and Wakaama developed by Eclipse Foundation; and finally the technical specifications that are developed by OMA for its LwM2M protocol are incorporated in the specifications created by a group called oneM2M, which is developing an IoT solution for the Telecom Industry.
The benefit of an ecosystem like this is that each organization focuses on its own area of expertise providing technical solutions and addressing specific market needs in their own domain. Then, each organization reuses the components provided by the ecosystem, adds its own value by integrating its know-how and makes it available to the other organizations in the ecosystem to be reused again.
This is how Mother Nature adapts and evolves – by creating ecosystems that meet particular purposes. OMA understand the challenge of taking a single device management protocol to the market, therefore it is reaching out to other partner organizations to make its IoT ecosystem more vibrant and secure, with an evolution path that meets current and future IoT market demands.
LwM2M Protocol Stack
The following image depicts the protocol stack used by LwM2M. The left icons indicate which organizations contribute to create this protocol stack. The blue text boxes represent functional blocks.
In this ecosystem there are other organizations – community partners that add value to the LwM2M protocol by creating tools, products or services that are reused by other companies in the market. For instance, ARM is incorporating LwM2M on its IDE for ARM mbed devices; Microsoft is offering LwM2M as a device management protocol in its Azure IoT Hub proposition; oneM2M uses OMA LwM2M as one of the device management system to control sensor networks; Nokia provides an online Test Service for LwM2M Clients, which uses test cases defined by OMA to offer free testing to LwM2M Clients; Sierra Wireless has developed several constrained platforms that support LwM2M. Additionally, a variety of small and entrepreneurial companies such as IoTerop or Hop Ubiquitous provide specialized services that use or implement LwM2M protocol on constrained devices.