Research

 M2M Communications and the Internet of Things

The development of communications networks allows people to communicate with each other more rapidly and conveniently. It also enables the exchange of information more smoothly. However, only computers, handsets, and some special IT equipment are connected to the communication networks and capable of communicating with each other. Majority of machines, such as home appliances, vehicles, vending machines, and industrial equipment, are not equipped with network connectivity.    

The emerging of M2M technologies will enable all machines with network connectivity and achieve the goal of “network everything”. Forrester, a research firm in the United States, forecasts the value of M2M industry will be 30 times bigger than the value of the Internet and will form the next trillion level of ICT business.

In this area we focus on the research of M2M Communications and the Internet of Things including the following topics:

  • IoT/M2M Communication Protocols
  • IoT/M2M Service Platform
  • IoT/M2M Sensor Platform
  • IoT/M2M Security and Privacy
  • IoT/M2M Cyber-Physical System
  • IoT/M2M Gateway
  • IoT/M2M Architecture & Related International Standards
  • IoT/M2M Core Network Technologies


Outlook for Future Research

IoT/M2M Common Service Platform: Due to the fast development of networking technologies, various appliances and devices have greatly improved their network connectivity capabilities.  As a result, IoT/M2M applications are emerging rapidly and the scope of their applicability is expanding relentlessly ranging from Smart Home to Smart Building, to Smart Campus and eventually to Smart City. Furthermore, the vertical domains of applications are also growing.  For example, the automobile industry promotes “Connected Vehicles”; electricity supplies build “Smart Grid”; hospitals move toward eHealth; farming corporations adopt Agriculture Automation, and manufacturers embrace Smart Factory etc. The IoT/M2M applications have started to penetrate every vertical market in our society. The large number of IoT/M2M applications thus raises the concerns on how to effectively and efficiently develop those applications. In the development of various IoT/M2M applications, the ICT industry gradually discovers many basic, common functions exist across these applications.  Those functions should not be repeatedly specified and designed.  This not only wastes resources but also fails to leverage the experience accumulated in the past. As a result, the research on the IoT/M2M Common Service Platform starts to receive good attention and the push for standardization begins to emerge.  Such standardization is for achieving interoperability, low cost, and universal availability. The research items based on this theme include:

  • IoT/M2M Communication Protocols
  • IoT/M2M Service Platform
  • IoT/M2M Sensor Platform
  • IoT/M2M Gateway

IoT/M2M Cyber-Physical Security: The IoT/M2M network is actually a cyber-physical system. The key property of a cyber-physical system is the close tie between the cyber system and physical system. The IoT/M2M network transforms the state of a physical system in a physical world onto the information model in the cyber system via dense deployment of sensors and actuators and underlying interconnecting networks. Hence any state change in the physical system will be reflected immediately in the information model in the cyber system vis the data collection of sensors. Similarly, any operation and modification on the information model in the cyber system will produce control, change, and operation on the physical system. In such a cyber-physical system where cyber and physical worlds are closely tied, security has become an important consideration and challenge. This is because the attack can come from both physical and cyber sides of the system, especially when there is a large deployment of connected sensors and actuators. From these physical sensors and actuators, hackers will find many good opportunities for the intrusion. On the other hand, the conventional threat from the cyber side still exists. But its consequence will be far more serious, affecting not only computer and communication facility but also the important physical infrastructure of the whole society such as smart grid. The research items based on this theme include:

  • IoT/M2M Cyber-Physical System
  • IoT/M2M Security and Privacy

IoT/M2M Architecture, Core Network, and Related International Standards: The IoT/M2M architecture can be divided roughly into three domains: Network Domain, Device Domain, and Application Domain. Among these domains, the Network Domain focuses on researching how to leverage the existing telecom core networks or reconstruct a brand new core network specifically designed for IoT/M2M applications. The former includes 2G, 3G or 4G LTE standard; the latter includes new potential 5G network technologies such as Sigfox and Neul. On the other hand, the Application Domain focuses on researching IoT/M2M service architecture standards such as those defined by ETSI M2M and oneM2. The research items based on this theme include:

  • IoT/M2M Architecture and related International Standards
  • IoT/M2M Core Network Technologies


Important Ongoing Research

  • Research on IoT/M2M Communication Protocols
    The REpresentational State Transfer (or REST) is the major protocol used for IoT/M2M Communications. In the IoT/M2M architecture defined by both ETSI and oneM2M, REST is the communication protocol used not only between IoT/M2M applications and IoT/M2M networks but also between the components of IoT/M2M networks. As a result, REST will be one of the most important technology enables for the future development of IoT/M2M network information systems. Using REST as the IoT/M2M protocol and for the development of IoT/M2M applications is a new technology trend. Though ETSI has led the effort in defining the IoT/M2M communications based on REST, the training on the application development based on REST is still not widespread. Moreover, how to ensure the efficiency and suitability of REST under large-scale IoT/M2M networks is an issue for further research. We intend to product performance evaluation of REST-style communications under this research item.
  • IoT/M2M Gateway
    The IoT/M2M Gateway is one of the most important network components in IoT/M2M network information systems. It connects to the core network on one side and interfaces with IoT/M2M devices on the other side. Therefore, it has to understand communication protocols on both sides. For example, the 3G and LTE protocols etc. on the M2M core network side and Zigbee and WiFi protocols etc. in the M2M area network. It also has the responsibility of protocol translation from one side to the other. In addition, according to the ESTI M2M architecture, the IoT/M2M gateway further collaborates with the IoT/M2M platform in the core network to support IoT/M2M applications. As a result, it also has part of the functionalities of the IoT/M2M platform. This research item produces the design of high-performance IoT/M2M gateways.
  • IoT/M2M Common Service Functions
    The IoT/M2M common service functions are the most important building blocks for the IoT/M2M common service platforms. According to the IoT/M2M architecture defined by oneM2M standards, there are twelve IoT/M2M Common Service Functions (CSF) including Application and Service Layer Management, Data Management and Repository, Communication Management and Delivery handling, Device Management, Discovery, Group Management, Location, Network Service Exposure, Registration, Security, Service Charging and Accounting, Subscription and Notification. This research item focuses on identifying and defining the essential and common management functions of an ideal IoT/M2M common platform.
  • Evaluation of Current IoT/M2M Security Standards
    A pretty complete and strict IoT/M2M security standard has been defined under ETSI M2M architecture standard which consists of three levels of security mechanism. First, the system will re-compute a “Root Key” and provide it to IoT/M2M devices and servers. Next, the IoT/M2M devices will use this root key to perform mutual authentication with the network server. If the authentication is successful, both parties will compute a “Connection Key” for secure communications. Afterward, if the IoT/M2M system needs to further secure the communications between applications, it will then compute an Application Key for this purpose. ETSI has recommended a number of mechanisms and methods to compute Root Key and Connection Key but it doesn’t offer any evaluation about which method/mechanism is the best and most applicable under a certain particular condition. This research item focuses on developing feasible methodologies to evaluate various methods and mechanisms in computing root key and connection key.
  • New Mechanisms for IoT/M2M Cyber-Physical Security
    The goal of the aforementioned research in evaluating IoT/M2M security standards is to fully investigate under what condition which existing security mechanism is the best fit. But it doesn’t address the development of new security mechanisms in certain special situations. For example, if a constrained IoT/M2M device with very limited computing and storage power needs to set up secure communications with the IoT/M2M server, what method should be researched and developed to allow such a constrained device perform mutual authentication with a high-performance network server and still be able to compute the symmetric secret key required for encryption. In addition, Access Control is also important security and privacy protection mechanism besides authentication and secret keys. Nevertheless, it is still an urgent open issue on how to set the appropriate access rights in the resource tree of the IoT/M2M system in order to achieve the desired security and privacy in system management. This research item focuses on researching and developing new mechanisms for IoT/M2M cyber-physical security.
  • Testing Method for IoT/M2M Cyber-Physical Security
    The IoT/M2M system often involves a large deployment of sensors and actuators. It is thus not feasible to test an IoT/M2M system with the actual deployment of this large number of sensors and actuators. Instead, testing in a simulated environment where a large number of sensors and actuators can be emulated is more practical. This means an IoT/M2M cyber-physical security should be tested first in a simulation environment before its actual deployment. Ideally, such an environment is capable of simulating any kind and any number of sensors and actuators. Building such a testing environment to meet the testing demands is currently a research challenge. Among potential solutions, the Data Streaming Tool such as IBM InfoSphere or Apache Storm has emerged as a good Data Generator tool that can be used to emulate the operations of a large number of sensors and actuators in an ideal testing environment. This research item focuses on researching and developing the simulated testing environment for IoT/M2M cyber-physical security



Research Themes

  • IoT/M2M Communication Protocols
  • IoT/M2M Service Platform
  • IoT/M2M Sensor Platform
  • IoT/M2M Security and Privacy
  • IoT/M2M Cyber-Physical System
  • IoT/M2M Gateway
  • IoT/M2M Architecture and Related International Standards
  • IoT/M2M Core Network Technologies



Research Team