“I am working on topics that link real world scenarios with solutions that IoT technologies, particularly the use of oneM2M, are set up to address”

May 2024 - In this interview, Dr Luigi Liquori, Research Director at Inria, France, describes his research interests, opportunities in the field of IoT and activities with oneM2M. He links everyday requirements to standards-based technical capabilities and explains his work by reference to smart home, smart city, and pandemic-related contact tracing use cases.

Q: Would you begin with by introducing yourself to our readers?

LL: I am a former computer scientist who then switched to academia and research. I worked at the Centro Studi e Laboratori Telecomunicazioni (CSELT) of Telecom Italia and the École Normale Supérieure of Lyon. I then went on to become a Lecturer at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines of Nancy. In 2001, I moved to Inria, the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Technology.

My current research interests focus on the semantics and logics of computation, semantics of programming languages and IoT protocol standardization. I also have a strong interest in protocols for overlay networks, in particular Peer-to-Peer protocols, Content-based Networks, applied to IoT, and especially to oneM2M, Smart Contract and Blockchain, and Decentralized Social Networks.

I recently supported the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in a Standardization effort with the ETSI SmartM2M Technical Committee (TC) in improving the new oneM2M standard release. I also worked with ETSI’s eHEALTH TC in defining a novel IoT-based Digital Contact Tracing for use during the Covid-19 pandemic, and in ETSI’s ESI TC in defining blockchain DLT and languages for Smart Contracts to be proposed to the EU in the setting of the forthcoming eIDAS2.

Q: Would you tell our readers something about Inria and its role in the French and European landscape?

LL: Inria was set up in 1967 to act as a bridge between the academic world and industry, linking new frontiers in digital research. It is the only public research body fully dedicated to computational sciences. There are about 3,400 researchers who have contributed to 270 active patents and 110 start-ups.

Inria is a pioneer in promoting new disciplines with roots in applied mathematics and IT and in supporting technology start-ups both in France and across Europe. Today, Inria continues to support the digital transformation of science, the economy and society. With “software taking over the world”, scientists face new challenges, and these provide technology entrepreneurs with fresh opportunities which makes it more important than ever to enter into dialogue with society to “make sense of the digital world”.

Last, but not least, one of the pillars of Inria’s mission's is "Contribution à la standardisation et à la normalisation" which needs no translation.

Q: What IoT issues and research topics are you currently working on?

LL: I am currently working on two main topics that link real world scenarios with solutions that IoT technologies, particularly the use of oneM2M, are set up to address. For the first topic, think about the lights in a house and an external garage. Depending on how this system is designed, a controller application looking for a light might only discover lights in the house because the garage is configured as a separate system. You can visualise this as a tree structure for the resources in the house and another resource tree for the garage. Another scenario might be the location of defibrillator units in a town. If the town is split up into several districts or the units are managed by different agencies, then a search might only reveal available units inside the resource ‘tree’ being searched, which is obviously limiting. If we think about scaling up the native oneM2M tree topology, this will inevitably involve a mesh-like structure in the context of moving from the IoT today to a future with many more IoE (aka Internet of Everything) applications.

Thinking about this as an IoT challenge, oneM2M’s current native discovery capabilities work properly only if the search is related to specific known sources of information (e.g. searching for the values of a known set of containers) or if the discovery is well scoped and designed (e.g. the lights in a house). When oneM2M is used to discover wide sets of data or unknown sets of data (e.g. exchange and discover pandemic/pollution data, registered via IoT sensors) across a future European eHealth Service, then this functionality is typically integrated by ad hoc applications that expand oneM2M’s functionality. This means that this core function may be implemented with different flavours which is not ideal for interworking and interoperability. This leads us to work in oneM2M on the topic of Advanced Semantic Discovery (ASD). This is where several IoT platforms, or CSEs in oneM2M terminology, can apply routing concepts to widen resource discovery. In our earlier example, an IoT application in the house would be able to discover and control lights and other smart elements in the garage. ASD will be included in oneM2M Release 5.

The second area where I have been active relates to Asynchronous Contact Tracing (ACT) and https://act.inria.fr/ (demo available under server activation). Most people are familiar with the contact tracing Apps that were rolled out in Europe during the pandemic. These looked for contagious people who were close to other people, within a 2-meter distance and for 15 minutes, to send alerts that they might be infected. However, we know that the virus could remain on surfaces and present a risk of infection. I spoke to large food retailers about shopping carts and automated, floor-cleaning machines that could present a risk for periods of 1 or 2 days. There was also no standardized way to analyse data across smartphones, connected devices and time.

I, with other ETSI colleagues, introduced the ACT concept as a means of identifying contacts with IoT connected objects that have been contaminated by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It works in synergy with solutions designed for manual and digital contact tracing to identify and alert people who may have been infected by the virus. This shifts the paradigm from synchronously tracing the contacts of the people infected by Covid-19 to asynchronously tracing of contacts of materials such as infected surfaces, wastewater, air-conditioning filters, that might be hosting the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This enables people who have come into contact asynchronously with those materials to be alerted of a potential Covid-19 contagion. At the same time, it signals that one or more persons have been in contact with the material which is now spreading the SARS-CoV-2 virus. ACT makes intensive use of the oneM2M IoT standard. I like the slogan "catch the virus [via oneM2M inter-connected IoT] before the virus catches you".

Q: You recently joined the committee that oneM2M set up to address the needs of the academic sector. What are the committee’s aims?

LL: oneM2M members set up the Academic Relations Group (ACR) to foster the relationship of oneM2M with universities, public and private Research Centers, Educational organizations and Public Communities potentially using oneM2M, and Industry with a particular focus on start-ups. The ACR’s main objectives are:

  1. to promote teaching and research about the oneM2M standard;
  2. to establish closest connections & partnership between groups in Academia and Research centers involved in oneM2M applications and facilitate the emergence of new ones;
  3. to increase awareness of oneM2M standards in Academia and Research centers at large;
  4. to foster development of oneM2M-based applications and implementations;
  5. to foster development of oneM2M open-source implementations by Academia, Research Centers, and Industry.

I am the convenor from Europe. My colleagues Professor Kwanghyun Ro, Hansung University (South Korea) and Professor Kyusun Choi, Penn State University (USA) volunteered as the convenors for S. Korea and North America, respectively.

Q: What initiatives is the Committee aiming to launch?

LL: A couple of the educational challenges with oneM2M are about the availability of learning materials and the challenges in reading the technical documents that oneM2M publishes. If you look at the published document, the list is long, and the page count is high. It is difficult for students and professors to know where to start and what is the best way to read documents that are highly structured and written in formal language. This reflects the world of standardization; students, researchers, experimenters and IoT developers are not familiar with reading such documents and one of our aims is to make the process easier. oneM2M offers other resources, such as open-source tools and developer guides, some of which are local initiatives in the countries that are adopting oneM2M. Our early steps in the ACR will be to catalogue educational resources and expertise to share among our educational communities and with the IoT ecosystem.

Q: Do you have any closing thoughts for organizations, developers or students looking into IoT?

LL: ETSI should engage more and more to involve Research and Academia institutions in the Standardization business, that is driven by the well-known slogan "publish or perish".