“We hope SAREF4LIFTS will help smart lift vendors to standardize data from their devices and build interoperable IoT systems”

In this interview, we hear from Mauro Dragoni about his activities in the IoT industry. He also discusses a current project related to SAREF which stands for Smart Applications REFerence ontology. SAREF provides a shared model of consensus to facilitate the matching of existing assets such as standards, protocols, and data models in the smart applications domain. It provides the foundations for syntactic and semantic interoperability which are important for realizing vendor neutral and interoperable IoT systems.


Q1: Would you begin with some introductory information about yourself and the SAREF project?

MD:  I am a tenured research scientist at the Fondazione Bruno Kessler which is a research centre located in Trento, Italy. I am also an adjunct professor at the University of Trento. My research area is Artificial Intelligence with a specialization in knowledge management, information retrieval, and natural language processing.

I have always wanted to focus on developing real-world prototypes as outcome of my research activities. This is the glue that kept me connected with the ICT industry, ever since my Ph.D. period. Let me say that this is a personal mission to reduce the gap between research and industry.

An example of this is a current project entitled, “SAREF: Industry adoption facilitation and oneM2M ontology alignment”. This is being run as a Special Task Force (STF) under the ETSI framework. STFs are ETSI financed projects that operate under the steering of ETSI’S SmartM2M technical committee.

For this STF, I am the project coordinator for a team that is focused on two activities. The first is to extend the SAREF ontology to address modelling requirements in the Smart Lifts domain. The second is to foster application synergies between the SAREF and oneM2M conceptual models. This involves defining proper alignments between the two core ontologies. You can think of SAREF as a shared model of consensus that facilitates the matching of existing assets in the smart applications domain and oneM2M as the interoperable component for applications that bring different domain ontologies together. The two are highly complementary.

Q2: How does the project relate to oneM2M?

MD:  The STF expert work is supported by ETSI’s SmartM2M Technical Committee which is a partner to oneM2M. We help to produce the specifications that enable users to build platforms by which devices and services can be connected, regardless of the underlying technology used.

Our work enables connected devices to exchange information through SAREF which runs with oneM2M-compliant communication platforms. SmartM2M promotes oneM2M’s Base Ontology with SAREF extensions into many IoT domains.

Q3: What issues does the STF project address and how are these reflected in your scope of work?

MD: Rather than “issue”, I would use the term “needs”. In this STF, our aim is to advance interoperability aspects within the IoT domain. We do this in two ways.

First, we continue the SAREF work that began in 2015. To recap, the SAREF core begins with the concept of device, which is a tangible object that accomplishes one or more functions. Devices might exist in households, in common public buildings or offices. The SAREF ontology offers a list of basic functions, an example being “switching on/off” which is associated with the commands “switch on”, “switch off” and “toggle”. Devices support “services” which represent a “function” to a network, based on a protocol that makes the function discoverable, registerable, and remotely controllable by other devices in the network. These are the basic elements to enable syntactic and semantic interoperability in IoT systems.

This description of SAREF applies to different types of buildings. Over the past seven years, SAREF activities have built on its core conceptual model to define ten extensions for other domains. In our STF, we are working on an eleventh extension which is “SAREF for Smart Lifts”. This is a first step towards proposing the adoption of an interoperable conceptual model within the lifts vertical sector.

The second part of the STF, is an analysis that aligns the SAREF core ontology and the oneM2M Base Ontology. The aim here is to promote interoperability guidelines that will support the adoption of both models within the IoT domain.

Q4: How have you approached the project?

MD: It is important to note that this project is one element of a larger, ontology standardization effort within ETSI that is adding to the body of work on SAREF and oneM2M. This was also a cross-disciplinary effort. It integrated contributions from oneM2M experts, to assure proper integration and contributions to oneM2M, and “Smart Lifts” experts who provided insights to ensure that our work aligned with this vertical sector.

The project team comprised four experts. I was in charge of designing the Smart Lifts extension of SAREF. Maxime Lefrançois of l’Institut Mines-Télécom supported me in the activity related to the design of the SAREF Smart Lifts extension and managed the publishing aspects of the ontology. Bob Flynn of Exacta Global Smart Solutions investigated the interoperability aspects between SAREF and oneM2M. Finally, Raúl García Castro of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid supported the modelling activity for the Smart Lifts extension and supported Bob Flynn in designing the testing scenarios to assess SAREF/oneM2M interoperability.

In general, this project may be considered as a sort of pre-standardisation project given the objectives of creating a new conceptual model - SAREF4LIFT - and aligning the SAREF and oneM2M conceptual models to enable interoperability.

Q5: What are some of the project’s findings and the implications for organizations in the IoT industry?

MD: The project performed pioneering activities in both tasks. We began to disseminate information about the SAREF for Smart Lifts extension around the second quarter of 2022. We have also spoken at industry events organized by OntoCommons, an EU Horizon project on “Ontology-driven data documentation for Industry Commons” and a smart manufacturing event organized under the India-EU Standardization Collaboration. It is still early to predict what impact our project might have. However, the seminars where we participated gave us a lot of positive feedback. What we hope is that in the middle-term, vendors start to rely on our conceptual model to represent data generated by their devices.

For the second part of the project to investigate interoperability between SAREF and oneM2M, we need a bit more time for further work in more real-world scenarios. At this stage, we found that such a conceptual model may be used independently to manage smart devices. We are planning further actions to continue the investigation in this direction.

Q6: How can interested readers find out more about the project?

MD: The interested reader may start from a summary web page about this STF located at https://portal.etsi.org/STF/STFs/STF-Homepages/STF602.

There are three deliverables connected to this STF. These are:

  • TS 103 410-11: SAREF4LIFT, which was published in July 2021
  • TR 103 783: SAREF: SDT interoperability and oneM2M base ontology alignment, which was published in April 2022
  • TS 103 780: SAREF: oneM2M usage guidelines, which will be published in August 2022

The documentation of the SAREF for Smart Lifts extension and the ontology itself have been published as well at the following link: https://saref.etsi.org/saref4lift/v1.1.1/.