New TIA Standards Focus on M2M, Cloud Computing

By Ariel Jones — December 28, 2011

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) recently released its Smart Device Communications Reference Architecture standard, the first standard to address machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies and markets.

Developed by TIA's TR-50.1 Smart Device Communications, Requirements, and Architecture Engineering Subcommittee, the standards document outlines reference architecture specifications and interoperability requirements for smart devices across all industries. TIA developers believe it will lay the foundation for future standards on M2M and universal adoption of IP-enabled applications across vertical markets.

The standard (named TIA -4940 Smart Device Communications Reference Architecture) will work across both wired and wireless transport layers, and also takes into account security, end-to-end performance and scalability of equipment and networks, and device management.

Standards Focus on M2M in the Enterprise

As Herb Congdon, TIA's Associate Vice President of Technology and Standards, noted, the TIA-4940 standard is designed with the enterprise needs in mind. "It's groundbreaking from TIA's perspective because these are the first two documents that we’ve produced in the end-to-end or the M2M space.... The M2M side of the world is the B2B model, devices inside the business model communicating with other devices in the business, and that's usually how you can establish for the business-to-consumer model down the road, and I think that's also part of why it's innovative."

The TIA 4940 document is essentially a table of contents, Congdon explained. In the future, as new requirements and issues arise, more components can be added to the standard. The TIA 4940 was published in conjunction with the TIA 4940.005, the reference architecture, which was used to establish the framework for the use of mobile technology in the M2M space.

"There's lots of different ways you can communicate, and a lot of what's expected in the M2M world is the IP-ethernet type of communications," Congdon stated. "When we start seeing and enabling those kinds of technologies, in the M2M world, that enables us to get to thing like smart metering - a B2B application, remote patient monitoring, intelligent traffic systems... All of this kind of information, including even more of the green-focused ideas like building automation systems, can be enabled under the M2M framework."

Cloud Computing Standards

In response to the growing use of cloud computing for the mobile enterprise, TIA committee also sought to establish standards for this market. An engineering committee was also set up to define how users in the industry engage with the cloud; their recommendations were also incorporated into the TIA 4940 documents.

"The number of standards in the cloud computing market is low, but the demand is very high," said George Ivanov, Manager of Technology Initiatives in Technology and Standards at TIA. One of the key recommendations was to strictly focus on improving redundancy, essentially backups of the data.

"The cloud computing model specifically requires that you use multiple data centers, so we asked that committee to look at and address how the data can be handled across multiple data centers, and how cabling and network cabling would work across multiple data centers," Ivanov explained. The final product was the creation of a data fabrics task group that would essentially create new network cabling models for the cloud.

M2M-Related Security Concerns

The TR-50.1 subcommittee also recognized security as a major concern for mobile device users in the M2M space; they then worked with an ad-hoc security group, chaired by Chuck Bokath of the Georgia Tech Research Institute, to identify security issues specific to the M2M space. As a result, the TIA 4940 addresses concerns like the protection of data content, authentication of devices, and regulating network traffic and signaling.

Security issues arise whenever communications are being sent between devices, either at the creating device, the receiving device, or somewhere in the middle, Congdon noted. "The philosophy that the 4940 standard is taking is to establish a security framework that would then support many different security models." These models address specific security issues, like authentication, authorization, and accounting.

By establishing a security framework to adhere to, the standard also enables enterprise professionals and developers to design and enforce security policies that can be deployed according to a business' individual specifications.

"I expect we'll come out with a roadmap or a playlist of things to do out of this ad-hoc, and the next steps would be to make sure we get the different engineering committees engaged, and produce the documents that support those initiatives," Congdon predicted.

"We are very pleased that the committee developed this M2M standard quickly with effective collaboration with other international Standards Development Organizations throughout the process," said Cheryl Blum, TIA Vice President for Technology and Standards.

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