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Tech Standards Loom as Last Big Hurdle to Internet of Things

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Technology companies say that a consensus on technical standards is the key to the successful commercialization of the Internet of Things (IoT), a next-generation Web in which billions of digital-enabled objects are networked. "If you think about connecting billions or trillions of objects together on the Internet, you really need to have the right standards," says Cisco Systems chief technology officer Padmasree Warrior.

Twenty-five tech companies formed the Internet Protocol for Smart Objects (IPSO) Alliance in September to accelerate the development of IoT standards. The success of the Internet hinged on its founders' decision to base its communications protocols on free and open standards, and Google's Vint Cerf says "there's a strong incentive to do something that works with other people's stuff rather than build a closed, proprietary system."

Developing standards to enable communication between radio-frequency identification (RFID), non-RFID, and Internet networks is a major challenge. Observers say the IoT needs lead users to spearhead innovation, the catch being that such pioneers might create customized solutions to fulfill their own requirements.

IBM's Bernie Meyerson says no one company has the sway to reign over the IoT, and adds that the IoT can expand with multiple standards being established worldwide.

The IPSO Alliance is promoting an Internet protocol-based strategy to link sensor networks and objects to the Web, but Meyerson says IBM intends to primarily focus on "the international engineering organizations that perform the actual technical work on industry standards."

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