By Huang Xin
IOT (internet of things) is evolving from a concept into a reality: swipe your mobile phone across the coffee machine, and you can get a hot coffee instantly; you don’t have to stop in a toll gate, because when you pass it, the electronic ID in your car could deduct the toll automatically; when you buy a piece of pork in the marketplace, you can view the whole process from the breeding, slaughtering, to the circulation and sales of the whole pig through the food safety query machine…
The core of these seemingly magical internet-of-things technologies is a RFID (commonly known as electronic ID). Information connection between the mobile phone and coffee, and between the car and the toll gate, is established through three parts: a radio-frequency ID, a reader, and a background data processing system. The RFID technology has been extensively used in industrial application and mobile payment, such as animal and food source tracing and books management.
Why IOT can set up information exchange and communication between things? Simply put, the technology is achieved jointly by the sensing level, transmitting level, and processing level. These three parts are the main components of IOT technology. Of these three, sensing technology is the foundation, and sensors and near-field wireless communication technology are hot spots and difficult points of technology study for breakthroughs in IOT. “Currently, in the sensing field, China’s low-frequency and high-frequency RFID technologies are maturing; the RD, production and application of sensors begin to form scale of significance; and breakthroughs have also been made in technology RD. However, in ultra high-frequency and microwave-frequency, China still lags greatly behind foreign standard”, Li Li, deputy director of the Science Technology Department of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, told the reporter.
On the sensing level of IOT, another core technology and key support besides RFID is two-dimensional barcode. At present, China’s Newland Group has developed the 2-D barcode decoding chip. “This chip, which is a global initiative, is faster in its reading speed and cheaper in its cost compared with similar products in foreign countries. Besides, it possesses strict patent protection. Most RFID patents are in the U.S.A, but we have complete independent intellectual property rights in barcode technology”, said Wang Jing, president of Newland Group.
Moreover, China Mobile and other Chinese operators are making vigorous efforts in promoting the application of M2M (communication between machines and machines). By implanting communication modules into machines, M2M achieves the purposes of remote control and surveillance through the communication among machines.
Nonetheless, compared with the rudimentary application of RFID and M2M, advanced applications, such as wireless transmitter network, are still awaiting technical breakthroughs. Generally speaking, China’s key technologies of the essential parts of IOT are of various maturity levels. “We are still weak in sensors chips and intelligent information processing software”, said Ye Tianchun, director of Institute of Microelectronics of Chinese Academy of Sciences, with frankness.
In order to achieve rapid breakthroughs in core technologies of IOT, China has included promotion of RD and application of IOT into the government’s work report and the outline of the 12th Five-year Plan, establishing a reserved fund for the development of IOT since 2011, with focus on supporting China’s IOT in such aspects as technology RD, industrialization, and standards study and formulation.
Presently, China has made progress in the study of technology standards in such fields as sensor network interface, ID, and security, integrated development of the sensor network and communication network, and ubiquitous network architecture. In July this year, China Standardization working Group on Sensor Networks published the exposure draft of the first 6 standards of sensor networks that have been completed in China. However, there is still missing a universal standard internationally in the construction of the overall standard system of IOT. For government-led IOT standard system, such as overall architecture, ID system, information safety, and data interface, it would take at least 2 years to formulate such standards.
As pointed out by Miao Wei, minister of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the core technologies in most aspects of IOT in China are still in the development process. Most technologies and product interfaces, from the core architecture to all levels of IOT, have not yet been standardized. Conditions and market needed for mass application still require a long-term and gradual process.