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How can we make the Internet of Things (IoT) more interoperable? How can we help ensure that when you buy a light bulb from one IoT vendor it will work with the light bulb from another IoT vendor? How can we avoid getting to a place where we have to use many different apps to control all the different devices in our homes?

As we said in our IoT Overview: Understanding the Issues and Challenges of a More Connected World, "a fragmented environment of proprietary IoT technical implementations will inhibit value for users and industry. While full interoperability across products and services is not always feasible or necessary, purchasers may be hesitant to buy IoT products and services if there is integration inflexibility, high ownership complexity, and concern over vendor lock-in."

So how do we get to an interoperable IoT? There have been many different standards efforts underway at different levels of the IoT's operation and while some at, for instance, the network layer are very solid, others at the application layer are still maturing.

To help with this, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) is holding the Internet of Things Semantic Interoperability (IOTSI) Workshop on March 17 - 18, 2016, in San Jose, California, to explore what is possible in the way of interoperable data models and information models.

THE DEADLINE IS MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22, to submit a position paper to be considered for participation in the workshop.

Space at the venue is limited and so the organizers are asking anyone interested to submit a brief (1-3 pages) paper about why you are interested and what you can contribute to the discussion.  More details about what to submit and where to send the paper can be found on the IOTSI Workshop page.

As noted on the page, the focus of the workshop is around these questions:

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One common problem is the lack of an encoding-independent standardization of the information, the so-called information model. Another problem is the strong relationship with the underlying communication architecture, such as an RPC or a RESTful design. Furthermore, different groups develop similar concepts that only differ slightly, leading to interoperability problems. Finally, some groups favor different encodings for use with various application layer protocols.

This raises a number of questions:

  • What is the state of the art in data and information models? What should an information model look like?
  • What is the role of formal languages, such as schema languages, in describing information and data models?
  • What is the role of metadata, which is attached to data to make it self-describing?
  • How can we achieve interoperability when different organizations, companies and individuals develop extensions?
  • What is the experience with interworking various data models developed from different groups, or with data models that evolved over time?
  • What functionality should online repositories for sharing schemas have?
  • How can existing data models be mapped against each other to offer interworking?
  • Is there room for harmonization, or are the use cases of different groups and organizations so unique that there is no possibility for cooperation?
  • How can organizations better work together to increase awareness and information sharing?

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I encourage any of you who are interested in working on this aspect of IoT interoperability to submit a brief position paper and join with the IAB and others in exploring what can be done.

If you have further questions about this workshop, Hannes Tschofenig, one of the members of the workshop program committee, has provided more information on his blog about the event.

I would also encourage you to read and share our IoT Overview document if you haven't already, as we discuss IoT interoperability as well as a range of other issues related to the IoT.

In the end, the goal we see is to have an interoperable - and secure - Internet of Things that allows all of us to enjoy the many amazing opportunities we are seeing coming out of the world of the IoT.

Image credit: Alex Weber on Flickr - CC BY NC 2.0

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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