IoT Interoperability Requires Security

By Walter Pienciak, Senior Manager, Strategic Programs, IEEE Standards Association

As Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives spin up around the globe, the race is on. And building from a foundation that isn’t going to require short-term retooling is critical for continued success of your effort.

Privacy and security have emerged as key requirements for IoT. The cost of not protecting data—both inside a closed environment and end-to-end through the Internet—is too high. Sensor networks such as those envisioned for IoT raise the specter of early-generation SCADA system build-outs, which taught us many lessons. Nobody wants a repeat build-out of early-generation, unprotected infrastructure controls.

The US government is paying close attention. For example, “Security Tenets for Life Critical Embedded Systems” is a draft document from the US Department of Homeland Security currently open for comments. The opening paragraphs include:

“Designing security into life critical embedded systems is increasingly important as more and more devices are becoming Internet connected smart things in the Internet of Things (IoT). . . . These devices have the potential to better mankind, but also the potential to be co-opted by malicious parties and do grave harm.”

Interoperability of IoT devices depends on widely accepted standards. Who’s putting out standards with security in the core?

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is soliciting final comments for “TLS/DTLS Profiles for the Internet of Things” and should be making a decision on approval in a few weeks. The content of the document “defines a Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Datagram TLS (DTLS) 1.2 profile that offers communications security for this data exchange thereby preventing eavesdropping, tampering, and message forgery. The lack of communication security is a common vulnerability in Internet of Things products that can easily be solved by using these well-researched and widely deployed Internet security protocols.”

As we have seen again and again, existing well-designed standards can be applied in emerging areas. This allows quick development that leverages widely accepted solutions already supported in the market. Those building blocks are visible in this solid IETF effort in the security area.

IEEE has a blockbuster IoT initiative that brings together academia and industry for a full-spectrum approach and understanding. There are now hundreds of IEEE standards applicable to the IoT already developed and supported in the marketplace. IEEE also has a specific IoT framework in development with IEEE P2413, “Draft Standard for an Architectural Framework for the Internet of Things,” which has seen steadily increasing buy-in and participation. Finally, IEEE routinely cooperates with its Open Stand partners, and P2413 adds collaborations with other industry organizations, such as SAE and the Industrial Internet Consortium. More collaborations are in development.  It’s a powerful effort that explicitly includes protection, security, privacy, and safety as goals.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN agency, is now forming an IoT study group (ITU-T SG20). The nascent group may work at coordinating IoT build-outs in developing countries that use best-of-breed solutions based on standards developed with wide participation following Open Stand principles, or it may put its effort into frameworks and standards it would develop primarily at the ITU. It remains to be seen what the group views as its goal.

In any case, with the need for privacy and security critical to IoT success, it is encouraging to see strong solutions coming out from established standards organizations. When security is built in from the start, many problems can be avoided.

Let’s get this right the first time! Is your organization willing to bet it’ll get a second chance in a market headed to warp speed? Be sure to share your comments and feedback.


Utilities & Augmented Reality: Challenges, Opportunities and Standards

By Rudi Schubert, Director, New Initiatives, IEEE Standards Association

Interest in Augmented Reality (AR) solutions continues to grow across many industry segments. The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) recently co-sponsored the Augmented Reality in Leading Utilities (ARLU) workshop hosted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) at their Charlotte, NC facilities on 27-28 July 2015. ARLU was organized in collaboration between EPRI, IEEE-SA, and AREA (Augmented Reality Enterprise Alliance). With a focus on the electric power utility industry, the workshop drew a range of participants representing a number of utilities, EPRI researchers across several technology domains, government, and vendors of AR solutions.

Utilities view AR solutions as having potential to provide value as a complementary tool for enhancing the functions involved in electricity delivery. While compelling use cases for the utility environment are in their early stages, two key applications resonate with both utility participants and researchers:

  • Enhancing field worker performance through AR tools
  • Enhancing storm restoration capabilities to address and minimize storm related power outages

Worker performance opportunities build on applications being advocated for manufacturing floor environments and take those out into the field where the electric distribution infrastructure is found. Broad field visualization of underground and aerial plants can accelerate installation and repair times. Instructional aids using AR can support more rapid troubleshooting and, in some cases, provide remote access to distributed experts for consultation as needed. These capabilities can be even more powerful in storm restoration scenarios where rapid response is expected. Storm response can also be aided with solutions that look at triage to identify specific critical failure locations and quickly inventory the required asset needed for repair. Syncing this information through the supply chain can accelerate routing of required hardware for repair to the right location, thus reducing the time to restoration. A number of utilities are involved with in-house projects looking at warehouse case studies, which provide real time information for asset inventory and tracking to support as-needed hardware to address field issues and other needs. AR is increasingly being considered by utilities for use in operations, maintenance optimization, predictive maintenance, and as a means to connect field personnel to centralized experts for support.

IEEE-SA put the event participants to work with an interactive mini-workshop where attendees were split into two breakout groups to address cross cutting issues, priorities, and standards. One breakout group focused on augmented reality devices (e.g., smart glasses) by identifying utility expectations and concerns for adoption such as user acceptance, usage environment constraints, safety considerations, and other topics as identified by the group. The second breakout group focused on augmented reality applications and support infrastructure.

Both groups were presented with the same set of three questions. They were asked to discuss each question, build a list of responses, and reach consensus on the priority issues for each question. The three questions were:

  • What are the drivers in a utility to introduce AR solutions?
  • What are the obstacles and challenges to overcome in introducing AR solutions for utilities?
  • What technology standards (or related work) are needed to drive AR adoption in the utility environment?

The focus issues and priorities for utilities were highly informative. Safety issues were the dominant theme, consistent with the high priority on safety emphasized by utilities. It was discussed that AR solutions will need to be demonstrated as enhancing worker safety and not be perceived as introducing distractions that can lead to unsafe situations. Hardware communications and security were also key issues influencing utility purchasing decisions. A need for compatibility with existing infrastructure and an ability to use existing digital asset information will be drivers in assuring that AR solutions provide an acceptable return on investment. Barriers to adoption were also discussed with respect to the unique utility regulatory requirements, as well as acceptance from organized labor. These considerations, more specific to the utility environment, are not found in many other industries considering AR solutions and are often not at the forefront of consideration by AR hardware and application developers.

Relative to standards, a high priority issue was standards for safety (as expected). It’s an open question on how well existing safety standards for similar electronics are applicable or whether new and modified standards will be needed to meet industry expectations. Wireless communications standards were also high on the list. Will existing standards apply directly, enabling utilities to maintain consistency with existing infrastructure? Will AR solutions coexist in a utility communications environment? Will interference issues need to be addressed? These issues will all need to be addressed in driving adoption.

Other important standardization considerations include device physical connection standards and power management. Hardware ruggedness for sometimes harsh field conditions must also be considered. A general need to move towards plug and play interoperability has also been cited to assure seamless integration of AR solutions into the utility environment. Beyond the traditional realm of standards, there is also a critical need to address internal utility process standards (e.g., work instructions, work flows) and compatibility with the Common Information Model (CIM) used in the utility industry.

Augmented reality solutions clearly have potential benefits for application in the utility environment. However, many issues remain to be addressed to build the business case, as well as to gain the acceptance and adoption by the utility community. Compelling use cases, standards, education, and the unique utility regulatory environment will all need to be pursued to implement AR solutions into the utility industry.

See what IEEE-SA is doing in the AR space.

What do you think? Share your point of view on the growth and challenges of AR.

IEEE 1264™ Guides Utilities in Mitigating Animal Intrusions to Increase Grid Reliability

By John Randolph, Chair, IEEE 1264 Working Group

Many people may not realize that animals can be a leading cause of electricity outages, which has an adverse impact on overall electric grid reliability. In fact, most electric utilities have experienced the problem of animal intrusions into electric supply substations, which has resulted in equipment damage, interruption or loss of service to customers, and safety problems for operating personnel.

For example, on July 13, 2015 a squirrel worked its way into a transformer and caused an outage that affected more than 6,000 Nashville Electric Service customers in Hendersonville, Tennessee. In early June 2015, Pacific Gas & Electric Company experienced a substation outage in El Cerrito, California impacting 45,000 customers. In this instance, a squirrel caused a flashover on a key circuit breaker linked to multiple transformer sources.

To address these intrusions from the animal kingdom, IEEE has created the standard IEEE 1264™ to guide utilities in deterring animals from causing problems inside substations. This recently revised standard identifies various troublesome animals and the problems caused by their behaviors, while also outlining mitigation methods. What’s more, the standard provides criteria for applying mitigation methods, documentation methods, and recommendations for evaluating effectiveness after the method is applied.

From an earlier survey, North American utilities responded that the top 2 primary sources for animal-related outages are squirrels and birds. Other secondary sources include raccoons, opossums, snakes, cats, mice and rats. Yet there are a number of other rodents, insects, mammals and reptiles that can also cause problems, albeit these are less endemic overall.

The variety of animals and their behavior presents a broad challenge to overcome, and it is further complicated by differing geographies and seasonal weather patterns. Some animals seek the warmth and shelter substations can provide and “homestead” in structures or equipment. As a result, larger predator animals are then attracted to the substation as well. Typical problems that occur include animal contact with energized equipment or conductors, animal waste contamination, gnawing damage to wires or covers, and birds carrying in conductive nesting material.

For utility personnel, animal waste can cause unsanitary conditions, while snakes, bees, wasps, and spiders can also be a serious safety concern. On the other hand, utility personnel can unwittingly contribute to the problem by feeding animals, not properly disposing of food-waste, or leaving boxes, crates or containers outside too long and increasing the likelihood of animal intrusions.

When experiencing an unacceptable level of animal-related problems, a utility should establish a mitigation program. The design of the program can vary, yet is best supported by tracking details such as outage records, frequency of occurrence, animal type, customer impact, damage severity and cost. Monitoring the effectiveness of the program is important, as well as making improvements and adjustments over time. IEEE 1264 advises utilities to consider the impact on adjacent property owners and the community, and to research applicable governmental regulations and laws regarding chemicals or trapping.

Traditional preventive methods include providing cover for energized parts, installing physical climbing barriers and other various deterrents, and increasing electrical insulation levels. Substation layouts and equipment designs vary widely, so a trial-and-error approach employing numerous methods may be necessary to find an effective solution.

Fence designs should prevent animal access from under, over or through the fence by using smaller mesh fabric, smooth barrier sheets, and minimized space gaps. The fence effectiveness can be complicated or compromised by adjacent landscaping and trees, or also by stored material that provides a climbing aid. Line barriers are installed on the energized or guy wires before they cross over protective fences to discourage acrobatic animals from an aerial bypass of the fence. Where a fencing solution isn’t possible, barriers can instead be installed on substation structures to prevent climbing up into the energized equipment.

Some repelling methods involve installing fake predatory animals, such as owls, or deploying disturbing noise generators, chemical repellents, or perching and climbing spikes. More recent deterrents include electric fences and electrostatic shields, snake barriers, insulating coatings, and covers that provide a tighter secure fit on varying connection shapes.  There has also been an increased onus on vendors to design more animal-resistant equipment, such as transformers, breakers, switches and structures, and to eliminate or minimize small openings that can attract birds and other nesting animals.

Now that the IEEE 1264 has recently been updated, the IEEE working group is shifting its efforts to craft a tutorial that will be offered at future industry meetings, and sending out an updated utility survey. These and other efforts will further encourage utilities and vendors to participate in the standardization effort to eradicate animal-caused electricity outages and the problems they create for utilities and consumers.

Join the Discussion: Standards Innovation at IEEE SIIT 2015

Since 1999, standardization researchers from various professional disciplines have been gathering every two years at the IEEE SIIT conference to exchange insights on standards and standardization. From 6 – 8 October 2015, the 9th International Conference on Standardization and Innovation in Information Technology (IEEE SIIT) will be held in California’s Silicon Valley with the theme of Interoperability, Intellectual Property, and Standards.

Attendees at IEEE SIIT 2015 will include IT practitioners, policy makers, academics, and, of course, standards developers and users. Through interactive panel sessions and paper presentations, participants will be offered information covering a variety of topics and will be encouraged to appreciate and share different perspectives. Key panel sessions will cover IPR and Standardization, Standardization, International Trade, and Government Policy, Standardization as a Practice, Economics of Standardization, and Future of Standardization.

Synopsys, the IEEE SIIT 2015 host patron, welcomes attendees to their Sunnyvale, California campus, where all of the conference sessions will be held. San Jose State University is assisting with directional and logistical support as the conference’s visionary patron.

Charles River Associates is the patron of the welcome reception on 6 October, and Intel, Qualcomm, and Huawei are each sponsoring the three conference luncheons. Generous support of IEEE SIIT 2015 has also been provided by Adobe, the conference dinner patron, which will welcome dinner and a tour at the Computer History Museum on October 7.

Registration for IEEE SIIT 2015 opens in early July. For more information about the conference, and to register, please visit


New Book on Modern Standardization Provides Insight into Technical, Political, and Economic Crossroads of Engineering

8. RSBehind many published global technical standards, remarkable tales are waiting to be discovered. Themes of groundbreaking technological innovation, international “coopetition,” and consensus-building as diverse as the standards participants and technologies they represent explain why and in what ways standards came to be the norms that shape how much of the world works, communicates, and plays.

These interesting stories often go untold to the engineers, business executives, professors, and students who are not directly involved in standards development. Until now.

Author Ron Schneiderman found, spoke with, and contacted some of the most involved participants in standards development and includes their stories and related insights in his new book Modern Standardization: Case Studies at the Crossroads of Technology, Economics, and Politics, published in March 2015 by Wiley & Sons.

Modern Standardization includes a collection of nine standards-specific case studies. Although each case study addresses different standards and technologies, all of the highlighted standards and stories are discussed with students and professors of engineering, business, or law in mind. The case studies provide real-world insight into the technical, political, and economic crossroads of engineering and global technical standards, as well as encourage readers to think critically about standards development and technology solutions. They reinforce the usage of standards as an impetus for innovation and help readers understand their dynamic and impact.

For professors and instructors interested in adopting Modern Standardization for academic courses, a curriculum guide is also available. The curriculum guide includes classroom activities, discussion questions, further study projects, and short quizzes. Those interested in obtaining the curriculum guide should send a request to:

For more information about Modern Standardization: Case Studies at the Crossroads of Technology, Economics, and Politics or to order a copy, visit or search for the book on Amazon. For more information about standards education at IEEE, visit

And we’d like to hear from you! What tools do you need to help educate your students on standards? Leave your comments below!

Enjoy Summer Vacation with IEEE Standards

BSTL_transport_CarouselThis summer, how can you and your family get from a connected home or office to the beach safely and efficiently? With vehicles that include IEEE transportation standards, you can worry less and relax more.

IEEE standards enable “intelligent” transportation systems that can safely deliver you to your summer destinations by connecting your vehicles to other vehicles, devices, cloud services, infrastructure, points of interest, traffic conditions, and more.

Take Martha and Jim, who are driving with two of their children, and picking up their oldest son along the way, to visit their grandmother in Connecticut.

While on the road, IEEE 802.11™ and IEEE 1609™ standards supply a wide range of applications that include an in-dash navigation system. The system provides road conditions, accident avoidance, and other driving assistance, enabling them to arrive on time to meet their son at the train station.

His trip is supported by IEEE 1473™, a family of standards that are related to communication for rail transit systems, allowing him to arrive safely as well.

In the near future, Martha and Jim can expect their driving experience to be enabled by the IEEE P2040™ series for connected, automated, and intelligent vehicles. That’s when they can relinquish the burden of driving altogether and enjoy the car ride with their children.

IEEE standardization activities for connected vehicle technologies related to transportation include:

  • Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Cooperative, Autonomous and Automated Driving
  • Smart Rail
  • Traffic Safety
  • Electric Vehicles and Transportation Electrification

View more information on related standards that support your travel plans and Bring Standards to Life.

The Internet of Things and the Connected Vehicle

By Bill Ash, Strategic Technology Program Director, IEEE Standards Association

We have all heard claims that in the near future there will be at least 50 billion connected devices. These devices will exchange data in some form or another, whether it’s via wired or wireless technology, or whether it’s autonomously or intelligently sent.

We have also heard many definitions of what the Internet of Things (IoT) is, from data exchange between two devices to many devices connected to an enterprise-wide IT network. In many instances, smart grid, smart cities, eHealth, cloud computing, and the connected vehicle are all examples of IoT.

We are seeing more deployments of renewable energy systems to meet the growing demand of energy consumption and the reduction of carbon emissions. With these larger deployments and higher penetration of renewables comes the demand for better communication and control systems to maintain a stable environment for providing energy.

In the same regard, there has also been an increase in the deployment of electric vehicles (EV), both fully electric and plug-in hybrids. There are continuing discussions around the charging of these vehicles, the power grid infrastructure, and the use of these vehicles as a means to feed back into the power grid as a generation source. In consideration of larger deployments of these vehicles and their use, similar to the renewables, a need for better communications and control systems is evident.

If we look at the technology being used to connect a device to an information network, or purely to another device, we also need to look at what technologies have survived the test of time. We should consider how the adapting of existing technologies with the integration of the next generation of technologies will coexist and interoperate, especially giving how massive IoT will be.

A prime example of this is IEEE 2030.5™, IEEE Adoption of Smart Energy Profile 2.0 Application Protocol Standard. The standard does not create anything new by means of new technology, but uses technology that has survived the test of time for the integration of new applications and technology. During the creation of IEEE 2030.5, the Working Group wanted to be link layer agnostic, allow for internetworking, and to take advantage of other consumer technology already available such as smart phones, tablets, and other connected consumer devices.

Three main components were leveraged to achieve this goal. The first was deciding on the use of internet protocol (IP). The use of IP allowed for the mixing of various link layer technologies (wired or wireless) and is used by many connected consumer devices and routers to ease convergence and architecture changes. This allows for smart phones to use IEEE wireless area network (IEEE 802.11™) to speak to both a smart meter using low data rate wireless smart metering (IEEE 802.15.4g™) and a connected charging vehicle using PLC (IEEE 1901™).

The second component was the use of the web protocol HTTP. This has a large ecosystem of users and developers, which lends itself to a strong knowledge base and ease of implementation and adaptations. This lowers the likelihood of existing technology being left behind as new technology is developed and deployed.

The last component was the use of TLS 1.2 (HTTPS). Using TLS1.2 allowed for end to end security to be facilitated. In addition, it has a proven record from use in the banking industry.

So what does this all mean? Because IEEE 2030.5 leveraged existing standardized technology, the application for energy management for EV/PHEV, homes, and renewable energy systems becomes a lot less onerous and the application and use by other control systems environments becomes possible. And although the term IoT was not around during the initial development of IEEE 2030.5, the applicability to IoT and its verticals, like the connected vehicle, are clear.

While no one has a crystal ball, we can use lessons learned and experience gained from the past to move into the future. As we experience the evolution of IoT and its verticals, like connected vehicles, leveraging existing time-tested technology for the application of new technology can ease the implementation and adaption into new markets.

What are your thoughts and ideas on the intersections between IoT and other time-tested technologies? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below.