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IPSO Alliance puts IoT privacy at the heart of its agenda

The IPSO Alliance has been one of the most important groups addressing the increasingly vital issue of IP connectivity for objects. It has focused on some of the key challenges in scaling up protocols to cope with dense networks of many thousands of end-points, as envisaged in the Internet of Things. These include IPv6 addressing and wireless personal area connectivity, usually around 802.15.4-based technologies. Now it is making the thorniest issues of all, security and privacy, the heart of its mission.

“Historically, our focus has been to promote ‘why’ and ‘how’ to use Internet Protocol,” said Geoff Mulligan, executive director of the IPSO Alliance. “With broad adoption of IP for IoT devices and the recent publication of our Smart Object models, we are turning our efforts to ensuring that smart objects have identity, privacy and security attributes. Addressing these issues is critical to securing the IoT, and all of its data.”

The shift in focus comes with the publication of the Alliance’s updated charter. This pledges to develop and establish the IPSO Platform, which will define smart objects and their environment – in particular, identity and privacy technologies, as well as their ability to interoperate at protocol and data layers. The Alliance will build libraries, design kits and respositories around this platform, as well as creating awareness campaigns.

The overall aim, like that of other IoT initiatives, is to ease the ability of connected ‘things’ to discover one another, and to connect, interoperate and share data securely. But the focus on identity and privacy, as well as the emphasis on usable tools and resources, should set IPSO’s efforts apart, it insists.

To support its revised agenda, it has appointed two co-chairs to lead its Technical Advisory Board (TAB) – which will see ARM and Intel in rare cooperation in the IoT, since each is providing one of the chairs (Hannes Tschofenig from the former, Milan Milenkovic from the latter). ARM has also signed up for the board of directors, joining Eaton, Ericsson, Intel, Micrium, Oracle, Proto6 and STMicro. Additional members of the TAB will soon be announced. This group is taking on the tasks of defining and developing the reference framework for interoperability of all Smart Object models; well as defining use cases and overseeing all the committees.

The IPSO Alliance was founded in 2008 to work on standards for running IPv6 on personal area networks and sensor meshes, creating a unifying layer of APIs and protocols which can work across many connectivity standards in applications such as home automation. It publishes reference architectures, rather than a homogeneous stack, to give engineers implementation flexibility, and also issues smart object software modules for handling specific functions such as lighting control. Among the standard components of its layer are higher level transports, including HTTP; the IBM-backed MQTT protocol for device-to-device messaging; and COAP (constrained application protocol) which enables connected devices to talk to cloud-based servers.

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