SWITCH creates a base for a strong IoT environment

The first SWITCH IoT Day in February 2018 was all about building knowledge and swapping experiences regarding the Internet of Things (IoT). Representatives of IT services, research-focused organisations and researchers discussed the role of the SWITCH foundation and the Open Network Infrastructure Association (ONIA), and what their collaboration could mean for the community.

Testo: Kurt Baumann, pubblicato il 28.03.2018

The term ‘IoT’ refers to a wide range of different disciplines and technologies. IoT is associated with the production of intelligent devices and clothes (wearables), the control of buildings (smart homes), efficient maintenance and resource management for cities (smart cities), the use of artificial intelligence in agriculture (smart agriculture), the networking of methods of transportation (connected cars), support for public health, and the optimised use of energy resources (smart energy).

In contrast to mobile networks (3G, 4G, LTE-A, etc.) and wifi, the Internet of Things does not connect people with services and/or applications: machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is the central focus here. This transformation is supported by technological advances in sensors, which are becoming ever smaller, cheaper and better-networked.

The field of applications for the IoT can currently be summed up through three key factors that will become ever more prominent in future: 

  • middleware, which can be programmed via APIs;
  • network management capacities, which are important for the monitoring and management of IoT systems;
  • and the self-management and self-optimisation of each individual component of a system.

In the future, autonomous behaviour within ever more complex IoT systems will be the norm. The security and privacy of IoT systems will play a key role, as these systems will generate or be involved with personal information. Application development and business models will be based on these secure and flexible infrastructures. IoT systems will, of course, also have an impact on the sociopolitical behaviour of individuals and society.

Das Internet der Dinge ist ein System von miteinander verbundenen Computern, also mechanische und digitale Maschinen, sowie Objekte oder Personen, die in eindeutiger Kennung (engl. Identity) Daten über das Netzwerk übertragen, ohne dass eine Mensch-zu-Mensch Kommunikation notwendig ist.

In Zukunft wird autonomes Verhalten in immer komplexeren IoT-Systemen die Norm sein. Weiter wird Security und Privacy von IoT-Systemen eine wichtige Rolle spielen, da solche Systeme personifizierte Informationen erzeugen oder damit einhergehen. Die Applikationsentwicklung und Geschäftsmodelle werden auf solch sicheren und flexiblen Infrastrukturen aufgebaut. Natürlich haben die IoT-Systeme auch Einfluss auf das sozialpolitische Verhalten der Leute und somit auf die Gesellschaft. 

We can define the IoT as follows: The Internet of Things is a system of interconnected computers (i.e. mechanical and digital machines), objects and people, which transmit data over the network using unique identities, without the need for person-to-person communication.

Strong partners: SWITCH and ONIA

SWITCH’s involvement with the IoT began at the Network/Security Working Group Meeting in St. Gallen in June 2017. Representatives from ONIA, introduced The Things Network. They demonstrated The Things Network’s function at the World Café using a temperature sensor as a data collector, and gave an initial introduction to the IoT.

At the ICT Focus Meeting in Lugano in November 2017, Professor Peter Affolter of the Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH) gave a precise report on his research activities. In the language of TTN, BFH operates an open, LoRa-based IoT infrastructure for its researchers and students. This enables them to test new applications and test cases under real conditions, with real users, in a real environment. Security was, of course, also a topic of discussion; however, as M2M communications (sensors communicating with applications and vice versa) over the TTN network are encrypted, these questions are relativised for TTN network operators.

SWITCH as a trusted entity

Group work at the SWITCH IoT Day revolved around four questions, which the 40 participants answered as follows.

  • What is the IoT?

The IT service providers, researchers and research-focused organisations see the Internet of Things as M2M communication. The sensors are capable of communicating autonomously and securely with their applications via the internet, and vice versa.

  • What does the IoT offer universities?

Various answers were provided to this question. The IT service providers saw the value of the IoT as lying primarily in activating researchers and their organisations. Researchers viewed it as important for the acquisition of distributed data in the public interest (data management), which could then be accessed via SWITCH edu-ID. They also see themselves as providers of this data for the purposes of research and innovation, including for industry (data lifecycle management). Research-focused organisations, meanwhile, wanted to introduce new topics into the community, make available a collection of use cases and maintain the diversity of the IoT – LoRaWAN is not identical to the IoT. 

  • What role should SWITCH play in relation to the IoT?

The SWITCH foundation’s role in the community was described by the service providers as that of a trusted entity. The researchers saw its role as involving the transformation of research activities in industry. The research-focused organisations saw SWITCH as an infrastructure provider – SWITCH operates a TTN back end.

  • How does the community view a collaboration with ONIA?

The service providers, researchers and research-focused organisations viewed a collaboration with ONIA as very fruitful. SWITCH and ONIA should come together as a legal entity. The participants see a significant opportunity to cover the whole value creation chain, from infrastructure providers and knowledge distribution to full service providers, through a collaboration with ONIA. They laid stress on SWITCH’s core competencies as a network provider in this regard.

Looking forward

The above statements indicate that the relationship between SWITCH and ONIA provides a foundation for a successful IoT environment. A memorandum of understanding between SWITCH and OINA will be signed as a result of this, and the interplay of relationships between TTN, OINA and SWITCH clarified. The roles of SWITCH and ONIA will be derived from this memorandum. It is therefore possible that the SWITCH foundation may take on the role of operating a TTN back end for Switzerland. The image of a trusted entity needs to be introduced and established. With regard to the provision of services, SWITCH could follow the principle of being a one-stop shop for Swiss universities and research institutions. ONIA would maintain contact with the open-source scene and the economy, and, together with SWITCH, expedite the development of a community. ONIA would also provide a link between SWITCH and the TTN foundation, promoting TTN at a global level, and would ensure compliance with the TTN Manifesto within Switzerland.


Kurt   Baumann

Kurt Baumann

Nel 2001 Kurt Baumann ha conseguito il master in matematica presso l’Università di Zurigo. Dopo aver lavorato per IBM, nel 2005 è passato a SWITCH. È membro del team Network e rappresenta gli interessi di SWITCH nell’ambito di GÉANT.


Definition of Internet of Things (IoT)

The IEEE defines the IoT as ‘A network of items – each embedded with sensors – which are connected to the Internet.’ (IEEE, Special Report Internet of Things, 2014)

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