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W3C Finalizes Web of Things (WoT) Recommendations

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The W3C recently announced two new W3C Recommendations, Web of Things (WoT) Architecture and Web of Things (WoT) Thing Description (TD), for web integration across IoT platforms and applications.

The primary objective of these recommendations, according to the W3C press release, is to enhance interoperability and counter fragmentation in IoT:

With the diversity of technologies used in Internet of Things (IoT), such as protocols and data models, information technology users are increasingly facing high integration and maintenance costs in IoT projects as well as the need to avoid isolated silos that often leave them stuck with obsolete software and falling behind in innovation. The W3C Web of Things keeps the promise to counter the fragmentation of the Internet of Things by defining a Web-based abstraction layer for existing platforms, devices, gateways and services. By complementing existing standards, it enhances interoperability, thereby reducing the risk for investors and customers. This will also enable the rapid growth of open markets for devices and services.

Several solutions leveraging these standards already exist, from Siemens leveraging WoT for their Desigo CC Building Management Station, to Mozilla's WebThings and the OpenJS Foundation's Node-RED project.

The WoT Architecture recommendation separates concepts into several key areas:

  • Application domains: consumer smart homes, oil and gas, and smart cities, buildings, cars, and more
  • Patterns: controllers, access, and other connectivity models
  • Requirements: networking, deployment, etc.
  • Architecture: Web Thing, interaction models, hypermedia controls, protocol bindings, other forms of communication

WoT Architecture has several building blocks, including Things, Binding Templates, an ECMAScript-based API, and Security and Privacy guidelines. The WoT architecture itself is not a set of APIs, but rather a collection of architectural principles.

The WoT Thing Description recommendation provides a TD Information Model for core capabilities, data schema, security, and hyperlinking. For example, the Link API is very similar to the HTML anchor element.

WoT Thing Description also includes a JSON-based representation format, information on serializing data from other formats, and a variety of other features.

Overall the approach feels consistent with other web APIs, potentially bridging the gap from IoT approaches and the web ecosystem.

Helmut Macht, chief technology officer, Siemens explains their motivation in participating in the WoT standardization process:

The new WoT standard enables Siemens to better combine and analyze data from different systems and domains in a very simple yet meaningful way. We use WoT e.g. to integrate devices and subsystems into our flagship building management station Desigo CC and from there to the cloud. Heterogenous and proprietary OT and IoT solutions caused in the past significant engineering and maintenance effort, e.g. if you wanted to analyze holistically data from different sources in a building. Using WoT we can quickly integrate data from different devices into a data pool and use that pool for further value creation, e.g. analytics, engineering, validation, energy optimization.

Beyond the WoT Architecture and WoT Thing Description, the W3C WoT Working Group is looking at several other areas for future WoT recommendations:

  • secure minimum-effort onboarding of Things
  • interoperability profiles
  • vocabulary support for new protocols and additional standard metadata
  • security schemes to support evolving security mechanisms
  • links relation type specifications
  • standardized discovery mechanisms
  • improvements to Thing Description Templates

WoT Overview Diagram

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