March 2021 - In this interview, we hear from Marianne Mohali who leads IoT standardization activities at Orange.
Q: Let us begin by hearing about your background and professional roles.
MM: After completing a Masters in Networks and Telecommunication at Paris University, I joined the Research and Development department of Orange group, which was known as France Telecom. That was in 2004. I began as Network Engineer, working on Voice over IP solutions.
At that time, standardization was not very stable. So, I started to be an active actor of the standardization world which was for me the best way to create stable, scalable, and interoperable solutions. I attended meetings of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for several years since 2008. Between 2013 and 2018, I contributed in 3GPP groups CT3 then CT1 in addition to being involved in GSMA initiatives.
Over the last couple of years, I have led IoT standardization activities for Orange. Among others industry bodies, I started to attend oneM2M. At oneM2M’s last in-person meeting in February 2020 I was elected as Vice-Chair of the Requirements and Domain Model (RDM) working group.
Q: How does Orange view the IoT market opportunity?
MM: As a network operator, we view the IoT market in two segments, requiring B2C and B2B solutions.
For the B2C market, our home gateway offers to our customer an easy way to manage their connected devices in the home. Our main objectives are to offer a high level of security while supporting a large catalogue of devices and applications.
For the B2B market, we want to help organizations, such as cities and manufacturers, to improve their productivity, to control their costs and, to develop their business operations through services that make best use of the information coming from the "things" they are monitoring. To achieve that goal, we have to make the right technical choices and ensure the sustainability of solutions that build on massive IoT deployments. One obvious step focuses on low power consumption. Strategically, we must also design IoT systems for interoperability as the connectivity options are diverse and changing.
IoT is the world of heterogeneity. That will not change since the range of devices, use-cases and environments is almost infinite. This is why we think that a secured horizontal platform for device management which can be easily customized to address any vertical need is the best way to develop the market.
Q: From your perspective, why should organizations in the IoT industry participate in oneM2M?
MM: IoT ecosystem is still very fragmented. Customers are torn between two approaches. One is to go for a full solution, from the devices to the service application, with limited technology options depending on who is supplying the system. The alternative is to go for different combinations of devices and applications than can address their specific use cases. However, this requires them to manage additional functions that provide the glue between their different solutions (managing different types of objects), potentially giving rise to incompatibility between them. The challenge of designing an IoT solution is like finding a way through a jungle because of complex technical dependencies and interactions.
I like to give the example of gathering temperature information, which is a use case you can see in the home, an office building or an industrial facility. Temperature measurement can come from a variety of devices, such as an air-conditioning unit, a fridge, a smart watch, a thermostat, a thermometer, from cars, from weather stations, containers, trucks and many more. The measurement might be transmitted using different connectivity technologies. There are many possibilities including BLE, LoRa, LwM2M, DECT, Zigbee, Wifi, Thread and, of course, cellular. The data can be used in one vertical or shared across verticals. Finally, what is the temperature? It can be a data point, expressed in Celsius or Fahrenheit formats, and whose measurement accuracy can affect downstream usage and interpretation of the value.
My example shows how many permutations are possible in just a simple use case. In real life, the situation gets a bit more complicated.
Q: How does that thinking influence the way that Orange approaches the IoT market?
MM: I described the first part of an IoT system, which is the capability for a solution to manage connected devices and the information they can send or receive. The second part is to build the capabilities that allow this solution to evolve and ensure remote devices are maintained, potentially for as long as a decade, while maintaining a high level of security. The job of developing an IoT solution is about making technical choices depending on the operational requirements or needs associated with the connected things — payload, latency, interoperability, battery life and other factors. While the general approach is repeatable, each situation and each use case is specific and requires specific decisions to be made.
From our point of view, oneM2M offers the following benefits. One is that the standard addresses the common and general-purpose requirements to manage IoT devices. At the same time, the second benefit is that its neutrality with regards to device connectivity is enabled by this unified service layer. The oneM2M service layer enables solution makers to develop customized and powerful business applications on top.
As a communications network and service provider, we do not specialize in any particular vertical domain. However, our strong expertise in managing connectivity services makes us see the benefit for our customers of having the oneM2M intermediate service layer in their solutions. Orange's Live Objects is working in this direction since we are convinced that generic and open solutions will be the triggers for adoption of IoT solutions. This will be valuable in a fragmented market that consists of a large catalogue of devices where there is a need for ease of integration, a reduction in implementation effort and costs.
Q: What activities are you yourself focusing on in oneM2M?
MM: I mentioned my role in the RDM working group. There, our primary focus is on Release 4 of the standard. We developed the technical specification, TS-0023, which is the Smart Device Template (SDT) based Information Model and Mapping for Vertical Industries. For this release, our target was to introduce device management features that are common to IoT devices and to include security functions such as firmware and software management and device rebooting. These new features will benefit from the SDT capabilities that support inheritance, modularization, and extensibility while maintaining the global system security. Let me describe the practical benefits for an IoT device provider. The provider able to deliver a large number of devices in batches, with potentially evolving configurations, over a period of time. Using standardized SDT capabilities, an IoT service provider can configure them in bulk and create parent-child relations between subsets of them. Then, during the device lifetime, SDT management functions will allow the service provider to upgrade the device security and functions remotely.
We also introduced some optimization on data aggregation and the way the data can be stored by a device with its context (e.g., timestamp) before being sent in a single bundle. That makes it easier to apply oneM2M standards in constrained devices. Our contributions in oneM2M are made concrete through our involvement in the Eclipse OM2M project where you can find open source oneM2M implementation using SDT. By the way, we plan to showcase our platform during the virtual ETSI IoT week in April.
Q: We understand that you are also active outside of oneM2M’s core standardization activities. What is happening there?
MM: Another SDS working group activity is to share knowledge about oneM2M standard with other players of the IoT standard ecosystem. We believe in re-using existing technology and standards wherever possible. There are times when we can show how oneM2M satisfies an emerging need or some application requirements that are not addressed, or only partially addressed today.
Let me give you a concrete example. The GSMA wants to help the mobile ecosystem to prepare for a future with many more connected devices. They want suppliers to build and deploy these devices. At the same time, they want to make sure that these devices are properly designed and configured so that they do not interfere with the safe running of communications networks. oneM2M members are working with some of the GSMA TS.34 "IoT Device Connection Efficiency Guidelines" requirements.
We are also working on the northbound API exposed by a 3GPP networks were the IoT devices will exponentially grow with 5G deployments.