Overview of the Internet of Things — Recommendation

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ITU-T, Overview of the Internet of Things — Recommendation, Y.2060, June 2012

Type Paper
Legal context International
Abstract Recommendation ITU-T Y.2060 provides an overview of the Internet of things (IoT). It clarifies the

concept and scope of the IoT, identifies the fundamental characteristics and high-level requirements of the IoT and describes the IoT reference model. The ecosystem and business models are also provided in an informative appendix.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency in the field of telecommunications, information and communication technologies (ICTs). The ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) is a permanent organ of ITU. ITU-T is responsible for studying technical, operating and tariff questions and issuing Recommendations on them with a view to standardizing telecommunications on a worldwide basis.

Link https://www.itu.int/rec/T-REC-Y.2060-201206-I
Topics Business Model, Miscellaneous, Technology


"From the perspective of technical standardization, the IoT can be viewed as a global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving interoperable information and communication technologies (ICT). Through the exploitation of identification, data capture, processing and communication capabilities, the IoT makes full use of "things" to offer services to all kinds of applications, whilst ensuring that security and privacy requirements are fulfilled" (page 2).

"Regarding the IoT, things are objects of the physical world (physical things) or of the information world (virtual world) which are capable of being identified and integrated into communication networks. Things have associated information, which can be static and dynamic. Physical things exist in the physical world and are capable of being sensed, actuated and connected. Examples of physical things include the surrounding environment, industrial robots, goods and electrical equipment. Virtual things exist in the information world and are capable of being stored, processed and accessed. Examples of virtual things include multimedia content and application software" (page 3).

"A device is a piece of equipment with the mandatory capabilities of communication and optional capabilities of sensing, actuation, data capture, data storage and data processing. The devices collect various kinds of information and provide it to the information and communication networks for further processing. Some devices also execute operations based on information received from the information and communication networks. Devices communicate with other devices: they communicate through the communication network via a gateway (case a), through the communication network without a gateway (case b) or directly, that is without using the communication network (case c). Also, combinations of cases a and c, and cases b and c are possible; for example, devices can communicate with other devices using direct communication through a local network (i.e., a network providing local connectivity between devices and between devices and a gateway, such as an ad-hoc network) (case c) and then communication through the communication network via a local network gateway (case a)" (page 3). All devices should have communication capabilities, and they could be categorized as follows (pp. 4-5):

  • data-carrying devices (they are attached to a physical thing in order to indirectly connect it to the communication network);
  • data-capturing devices: read/writer devices which can interact with the physical thing (indirectly via data-carrying devices, or directly if the data carriers are attached to the physical thing);
  • sensing and actuating devices (they detect or measure information related to the surrounding environment and convert it into digital electronic signals; they may also convert digital electronic signals from the information networks to operation);
  • general devices (they have embedded processing and communication capabilities; e.g. smartphones).

The IoT adds the "any thing" communication dimension (between computers; human to human, not using computers; human to thing, using generic equipment; thing to thing) to the already existing "any time" and any place" communication dimensions (pp. 2-3).

If we ask what the Iot products are, what characteristics they do own in order to be considered IoT products, the sensing and actuating capacities are not necessary for every component (in the Internet of Things — Preliminary Report 2014 it is stated that in an IoT system the term device is synonymous with component: p. 5; actually, if we adopt the definition of the ITU-T of "device", every component of the IoT may be either a device, either a thing; they may also be both at the same time when the device is also an entity of interest, according to The Things in the Internet of Things; in any case, they can be attached one to another, forming a complex component): what is necessary for every component is to be integrated in the communication network: characteristics as being uniquely identifiable, sensing, actuating, capturing, storing and processing are required to exist in the system, but they are not essential for EVERY element of the system (some doubts may exist on the uniquely identifiable feature: it is required for the things, but not for the devices: however, if the device want to be also a thing, it needs to be uniquely identifiable).

Business roles (pages 10-11):

  • device provider
  • network provider
  • platform provider
  • application provider
  • application customer

The application can be given when device, network and platform are combined (p. 10), even if the platform seems not to be always necessary (p. 12).

Business models (pages 11-13):

  • "player A operates the device, network, platform and applications and serves the application customer directly"; "(i)n general, telecom operators and some vertically integrated businesses (such as smart grid and intelligent transport systems (ITS) businesses) act as player A"
  • "player A operates the device, network, and platform, and player B operates the application and serves the application customers"; "(i)n general, telecom operators act as player A, other service providers as player B"
  • "player A operates the network and platform, player B operates the device and applications and serves the application customers"; "(i)n general, telecom operators act as player A and other service providers act as player B"
  • "player A only operates the network and player B operates the device and platform, providing applications to the application customers"; "(i)n general, telecom operators act as player A, other service providers and vertically integrated businesses act as player B"; "(a) variation of this model does not include a platform provider and associated platform functionalities (player B only provides applications)"
  • "player A only operates the network, player B operates the platform, and player C operates devices and provides applications to the application customers"; "(i)n general, telecom operators act as player A, other service providers act as player B, and vertically integrated businesses act as player C"