Much has been written about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it promises to eclipse the Internet of today by extending connectivity to billions of objects (“things”) that have been equipped with embedded sensors or robotics. In fact, based on the current media buzz around connected lifestyles and connected homes, it would appear that the leap from smart phones to smart everything is just around the corner.
In reality, however, the IoT industry is in a period of turbulence, and the technology standards required for mass-market deployments are emerging only very slowly, with standards debates on-going around the virtues of ETSI Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) versus IETF IPv6 over Low Power Wireless Personal Area Networks (6LoWPAN) or IEE Zig Bee, to name just a few!
What is abundantly clear, however, is the fact that a dramatic rise in the number of IoT connected devices in the coming years will create unprecedented demand for both fixed and mobile network connectivity. For telecom network operators, the Internet of Things represents an opportunity to secure new sources of profitable revenue by moving up the value chain from basic connectivity services to premium priced service level agreements (SLA’s).
To be clear, for basic IoT applications such as oil well telemetry or smart street lamps, commodity priced bit-pipe services may suffice. However, for the newly emerging real-time-sensitive applications such as connected cars, a low latency and high availability network fabric will be mandatory – and this fabric could very effectively be provided by IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) networks.
In the IMS architecture, there are three distinct layers: the access layer, the session control layer, and the application layer. Based on this partitioning of functionality, any IoT application could be connected to any smart device across both fixed and mobile networks. Additionally, IMS specifies a standardized Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) that facilitates global interoperability among networks and enables the establishment of real-time low latency sessions between end point devices and application servers.
As the Internet of Things grows in scope and complexity, the potential for security vulnerabilities will also increase. However, Service Providers will be well positioned to extend security assurances to both businesses and consumers by utilizing an IMS user profile server to authenticate and manage IoT end devices on a massive scale. And where the Internet of Things aspires to “connect everything”, IMS offers the perfect solution in terms of its ability to “name everything” with IPv6 and Universal Resource Identifier (uri) naming schemes.
Although the Internet of Things is still in an early stage of development, it clearly has the potential to increase productivity and improve quality of life. IMS core networks provide the ideal platform for authenticating, managing, and connecting smart devices. By playing to their strengths and delivering real-time quality-of-service guarantees, IMS network operators will be uniquely positioned to secure not only a central role in this emerging industry, but also a new source of profitable revenue.