GSMA offers guidelines for M2M developers

The so-called Internet of Things is is it its early stages, with a long list of promised benefits. But unless there’s some order the expected torrent of data will cause chaos, particularly on mobile networks that don’t have the capacity of wired networks.

That’s why the GSMA, a group that represents most mobile operators around the world, has issued guidelines for the IoT/M2M hardware and application developers  outlining how devices and apps should communicate over mobile networks efficiently to prevent overload.

Already poorly-configured systems are causing trouble. In one case listed in the document, a wireless operator’s roaming network in six countries was brought down for 48 hours.  The problem was with an unnamed European customer’s 375,000 IoT devices (the document doesn’t say, but it sounds like a utility with home water or power monitors) that normally sent device status reports over fixed lines to a server. When the server when down the devices switched to the backup wireless network, which overloaded when all 375,000 devices kept rebooting.

In another case a hacker was able to break into 59 devices being used to monitor wind and solar power generators because the default passwords hadn’t been changed. After changing the IP addresses the devices made some 17,000 international calls before the operator caught on.

Among those who immediately endorsed the guidelines are AT&T, China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, KT Corporation, Orange (France), NTT DOCOMO (Japan), Tata Teleservices Ltd. (India), Telefónica, Telenor Connexion and VimpelCom.

Also backing the 73-page document is British Columbia’s Sierra Wireless, whose wireless modules can be found in a number of data transmitting devices in everything from oil wells to vehicles.

The guidelines include a number of best practice areas such as data aggregation within devices, non-synchronous network access, application scalability and guidance on how to manage signalling traffic from de-activated or out-of-subscription SIMs.

The GSMA said it is also trying to develop a common set of acceptance tests for IoT devices and applications to ensure best practices are being followed. The project will establish a single, standard set of connection efficiency tests for IoT devices and applications, enabling players across the industry to develop and deploy IoT services with confidence.

“It is imperative that the IoT market develops with the right standards and best practices in place, reducing undue pressure on mobile networks across the world and allowing the Internet of Things to grow unimpeded,” Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer of the GSMA, said in a statement. “The GSMA has worked closely with its operator members to develop connection efficiency guidelines that ensure that IoT device and application makers can follow a common approach to create efficient, reliable services that can scale as the market grows and we encourage all parties to adopt these moving forward.”

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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