APIcon 2014: Using XMPP to Create an Internet for Things

There’s simply no getting around the fact that when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), there’s very little in the way of standards or, for that matter, anything that could be considered a widely adopted platform.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of IoT activity; it just means that most of it is occurring over a large number of silos that don’t naturally interoperate with one another.

To address that specific issue, some proponents of IoT have been promoting the adoption of the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), managed by the XMPP Standards Foundation.

At the APIcon 2014 conference last week, Rikard Strid, co-founder of Clayster, a social network for devices connected to the Internet that makes use of XMPP, said one of the best things about XMPP is that as a lightweight peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol, XMPP inherently provides real-time identity using encryption in a way that scales. Rather than relying on external platforms to provide services, Strid said that the P2P capabilities provided by XMPP mean that back-end services are essentially baked into the protocol.

Based on technology developed for the open source Jabber instant messaging project, XMPP provides mechanisms for interoperability, discovery, security, provisioning, life cycle management, access and ownership control, protocol bridging, the handling of resource-constrained devices and environments, communication patterns, semantic web technologies and grid computing. Encryption is provided by support for Transport Layer Security.

Rather than thinking in terms of an Internet of Things, Strid said, the proper approach would be to think in terms of an Internet for Things. As such, he said the future of Internet for Things does not lie in centralizing more intelligence in the cloud, but rather in making use of P2P to distribute intelligence across the network.

While XMPP has been around for a while, Strid said XMPP is ideally suited to IoT environments where, he contended, ongoing protocol wars are hindering IoT from evolving into a true platform.

Instead of relying on protocols that were developed to support legacy machine-to-machine environments, a new approach to IoT is required to support billions of devices, Strid said. In the case of XMPP, one of its best attributes is the ability it provides to send a simple friend request to establish connectivity between devices.

Of course, Strid conceded that XMPP leaves much to be desired in terms of the tools provided to invoke it and the number of vendors that are building services on it. But with support from vendors such as Google and Voxeo, Strid said it’s only a matter of time before the XMPP community addresses these and other issues to create an Internet for Things.

Michael Vizard