Nathalie Mitton will be speaking at CaFFEET’2014 about the integration of the IoT in the supply chain. She is researcher at Inria and the head of the Inria FUN team.

FUN team focuses on self-organization of the Internet of Things and of the physical world (sensor networks, RFID and small wireless robots) and investigates in all mechanisms that allow them to be autonomous.


         We see a lot of different IoT networks & platforms emerging. Some consortiums work on developing a standard (such as AllSeen Alliance), other try to fly solo. In your opinion, how will it end?

In my opinion, if we witness so many different IoT networks, it is because they are mostly application-driven, which in one way, is a good thing since it allows the optimization of the parameters with regards to the given application expectations. But as these platforms bloom more and more, we are starting to see the apparition of additional frameworks on top of them to bridge some of them since in some particular cases, some data coming from a platform could be useful to another one.

Standardization is thus a mandatory mean to homogenize all these items and allows the data and platform sharing between all users. But this is a long-term process since it includes many different aspects ranging from the radio frequency (which is regulated in a different way in each country) to the communication protocols and data exchanges. There are thus several standardization initiatives like the one you cite, AllSeenAlliance for the global Internet of Things, mostly driven by industrials, the one from OpenWSN leaded by Thomas Watteyne for wireless sensor networks, the EPCGlobal standards for RFID and barcodes and so many others.

To achieve a whole and unique standard, it will take a lot of time and today, I am not sure it would make sense since all these current initiatives focus on different aspects of IoT and are mainly complementary.

Beyond this, the purpose to have a standard is to allow exchanges, reutilization and platform scalability.

Application areas are so various and so heterogeneous that it will be almost impossible to end up on a single standard that encompasses all particularities of every domain in which IoT can be involved.

My guess is that it will end up in many standards related to application domains. Each of this standard will be related to a specific domain that will be able to run as a sub-network of things (intranet of things) and a common layer to enable the communications between these intranets.

Also, for very specific closed applications, I think, we will still have independent platforms to manage some niche applications with specific requirements, probably closed.

         At CaFFEET’14, you will be speaking about how we can integrate IoT into the supply chain. What is the real challenge behind it?

The challenge is multiple. The supply chain is a typical example where the standards are more than needed to ease the flow of products and data between different providers that need to continuously and accurately exchange information about each item.  The IoT used in the supply chain can be of different technology, especially sensors and RFID. A first challenge will be the integration of the devices and their data in the process itself and in the information system without modifying the in place process and chain configuration too much. The integration of the IoT device should not disturb the in place equipments, both physically and wirelessly. I mean, in most companies, there already exist several wireless networks (bluetooth, wifi, etc) and the new IoT system should not disturb these existing links.  Also, the communication quality between IoT devices will greatly depends of the environment where they are deployed (metal, liquid, etc).

         For you, what is the most promising industrial application for the IoT?

Again, I do not think there is one more promising than another. I think that IoT in the industry can have different purposes. Maybe the first outstanding will be the traceability of the full supply chains whatever the different intermediary and providers. This will allow fluent flows, targeted and quicker returns and the fight against counterfeit and black markets.

Other industrial applications of interest are the security of persons. IoT devices can help in minimizing security risks, leveraging alerts and preventing accidents. Finally, another purpose of integrating IoT in industry is to monitor the in place system and ease maintenance (for instance, sensors are deployed to monitor energy consumption of engines or their level of vibrations, allowing an anticipated maintenance operation before a break out. All are promising.

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