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Symbiosis of smart objects across IoT environments

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Cutting-edge middleware for interoperable IoT services, new revenue streams and lower market entry costs

With hundreds of companies offering Internet of things (IoT) platforms and about 7 billion connected IoT devices at the end of 2018, both the size and fragmentation of the IoT market is on full display. An EU initiative has devised a simplified interoperability framework across existing and future IoT platforms.

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Modern IoT solutions are typically vertical and target one specific domain like smart homes. They can get even more specialised, such as smart lighting solutions for smart cities. Moreover, these vertical solutions are normally siloed, meaning that third-party systems or applications aren’t allowed to access and build on the devices, data or services offered by these solutions. The EU-funded symbIoTe project “comes to address the IoT interoperability challenge by allowing IoT solutions to expose, in a controlled and unified manner, IoT resources that could benefit third-party stakeholders,” says coordinator Dr Sergios Soursos. New software solution for interoperable IoT environments The project team created an open-source IoT interoperability middleware. It enables modern IoT platforms to share IoT resources (sensors, actuators, services) with other platforms or third-party systems in order to collaborate and benefit from each other’s offerings. The middleware supports three modes of operation. The first is a portal for IoT platforms to register their resources, applications and systems, and to search and access advertised resources in a unified and secure manner using semantic web technologies. The second is the formation of IoT platform federations to facilitate partnerships between IoT solution providers by offering secure collaboration and exchange of resources in a decentralised manner. The third is a secure interworking protocol between the IoT gateways and smart devices for local interactions and decision-making. A dedicated site for the middleware provides tips on getting started with the open-source code and its documentation, and step-by-step instructions for installing, deploying and experimenting with the software. Project partners employed the middleware in several heterogeneous use cases, ranging from smart homes and smart buildings (campuses and stadiums) to smart yachting and smart cities. Through cascade funding, 15 additional partners, mainly start-ups and SMEs, had the opportunity to use the middleware with their own platforms or build cross-platform/domain applications. As a result, external project parties validated the middleware. Their feedback contributed to improving symbIoTe’s offerings. Ecosystem for creating added value IoT services For IoT stakeholders, the middleware offers several benefits. IoT platform operators can choose to open IoT resources to third-party systems and create new revenue streams. IoT application developers can easily access IoT resources from multiple platforms and create innovative cross-domain applications. IoT solutions providers can smoothly form partnerships to enhance their offerings, expand customer bases and develop new services. End users have a unified way to interact with smart environments, avoiding the complexity of switching devices and applications. Dr Soursos explains the wide-ranging impact of symbIoTe. “IoT solution providers and platform operators will see their costs drop by using shared resources from other platforms without having to invest too much in acquiring new infrastructure. In the same sense, the entry barriers for new companies in the IoT market are lowered since reusability of existing IoT resources is now possible.” He continues: “IoT application developers can expand their offerings and offer innovative cross-domain/platform applications that more efficiently address end-user needs. Consumers will enjoy lower expenses for acquiring smart solutions because existing infrastructure can be exploited, and their user experience will be improved since they can use fewer applications to interact with more smart environments.”

Keywords

symbIoTe, IoT, middleware, IoT resources, IoT platforms, IoT solutions, third-party systems, IoT interoperability, smart environments

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