Identifiers play an important role in Internet of Things (IoT). Identification of the Thing itself comes immediately into my mind. Also the use of identifiers as communication addresses like IP and Ethernet MAC addresses is an obvious application. However when you dive deeper into IoT systems you will recognize many more applications for identifiers. For the design, but also for the use of IoT solutions it is therefore important to know the various usages of identifiers, the related requirements, interoperability, security and privacy issues and which standards are available for them.

These topics came up in AIOTI WG03 on IoT Standards late 2016 and we decided to analyse them further and provide a report about our findings. The starting point of our activity was a survey that we performed in spring 2017. The survey asked questions about IoT use cases, the specific purpose of identifiers, related requirements, standards and standardization gaps. It was sent to standardisation bodies, industry alliances, research projects and individual companies around the world and we received back over eighty responses. These responses were a significant input to our report, along with research and standardisation documents. They showed that identifiers are used in IoT to identify various types of entities for many purposes and within different contexts. The figure below shows an example for the different identifiers used in a fitness tracking use case.

This use case includes identifiers for:

  •     Things
  •     Communication
  •     User
  •     Data
  •    Location
  •    and Services & Applications


With the classification of identifiers and the categorization of requirements we tried to provide a structure that may help system architects and developers to understand the type of identifiers that they need for their solution and guide them in selecting the specific identifier schemes. In general no single identification scheme fits all needs. Furthermore many identification are already standardized and in use. We therefore do not define or recommend specific solutions and standards, but provide examples and summaries in order to indicate what has to be taken into account when considering identifiers in IoT.

The full AIOTI WG03 report “Identifiers in IoT” is available at