IOTA Standardization Update January 2022

Ecosystem Jan 14, 2022

In the current quarterly cycle for Object Management Group (OMG) standardization, the IOTA Foundation submitted its first substantive standards proposal based on our ground-breaking solution for DLT messaging, IOTA Streams. This blog post summarizes the current status and next steps in standardizing Streams as the basis for the OMG Linked Encrypted Transaction Streams (LETS) standard. Also summarized are other ongoing standards activities that are part of our overall participation in OMG activities; many of these will also directly benefit IOTA further down the line. These include smart contracts, disposable self-sovereign identity and others. Plans for standardization of the IOTA protocol itself remain unchanged, with IOTA 2.0 forming the basis for that standard once it is complete.

The last OMG Quarterly Meeting in December 2021 was a significant milestone for IOTA. We submitted our first standards proposal, a response to the OMG Linked Encrypted Transaction Streams (LETS) request for proposal (RFP) based on the IOTA Streams framework.

Other activities at the OMG Blockchain Platform Special Interest Group (PSIG) are ongoing, including the drafting of a Smart Contracts request for information (RFI), exploration of the potential for an RFP or RFPs in the area of self-sovereign identity (to support disposable Self-sovereign Identity) and others. Separately, the Finance Domain Task Force (FDTF) has been exploring a formal ontology for definitions of money, currency and so on, for use in defining digital currencies, various categories of crypto-based tokens (stablecoins, NFTs, etc.) and central bank digital currencies (CBDC).

The plans for standardization of the overall IOTA protocol remain unchanged: this will be submitted to the OMG under the Request for Comments (RFC) process as soon as the IOTA 2.0 specifications are stable and production-ready.

Linked Encrypted Transaction Streams: The LETS RFP

The IOTA submission was an "Initial Submission" against the Linked Encrypted Transaction Streams (LETS) RFP, filed in November for consideration at the December meeting. The submission was formally reviewed by the relevant OMG task force, the Middleware and Related Services Platform Task Force (MARS PTF), who gave us several valuable pointers and comments for the specification. These comments have been fed back to the IOTA Streams development team and a Revised Specification will be submitted in February for the March 2022 Quarterly Meeting.

RFP, RFP Response, Local Protocol and End-user Application

The diagram above shows the relationships between an OMG RFP, the response to that RFP (in this case, the IOTA Streams-based submission) and the IOTA Local Protocol as defined in that RFP Response. The RFP is in effect a set of requirements for a specification, which in turn is a set of requirements for an application. In the case of the IOTA LETS RFP response, a further layer is added in that the LETS RFP response defines how the reader shall define a Local Protocol for use on specific DLTs or transports, such that end-user applications conform to that local protocol.

The IOTA LETS RFP response defines two kinds of model: a Computationally Independent Model (CIM) at the conceptual level, and a Platform Independent Model (PIM) or logical model design. The rationale behind this is that the IOTA Streams solution is a very specific way of addressing the need for linked encrypted streams of messages, using a 'sponge' function, and we wanted to allow for other design approaches to the same conceptual problem definition (the CIM). An example of this would be the SKALY Freighter solution, which uses a kind of checksum injection method.

The structuring of the LETS RFP response specification in this way was approved by the OMG MARS PTF, with the caveat that it will not be possible for end-user logical designs to assert conformance to the CIM component alone. This means that any standard implementation of the LETS arrangements must follow a logical design described in this specification, i.e. the Sponge-based design used in IOTA Streams or the checksum injection logical design. We intend to write up a separate clause of the specification for the checksum injection-based method used by Freighter, subject to the availability of resources and documentation from SKALY. End-user applications may then assert conformance to that logical design method, for interoperability of solutions based on that technique.

We also sought feedback from the MARS PTF on a second novel feature of the LETS RFP response. As defined for IOTA Streams, the Sponge-based design needs to be extended for use on specific DLTs and transport protocols (such as for use on the Tangle) by the creation of a kind of Local Protocol. This is a kind of Platform Specific Model (PSM). The MARS PTF meeting gave us some valuable pointers on how to specify in more detail how each end-user of the LETS specification is to define this Local Protocol PSM, including how to make use of existing OMG and other standards in defining that physical implementation. There is already some detail on this in the specification and this is to be extended and firmed up for the Revised Submission in February. Designers of end-user Local Protocol PSMs will be given more detailed instructions and guidelines for defining a conformant Local Protocol, and will also be expected to make use of OMG standards such as the Data Distribution Service (DDS) specification to describe channel subscription and publication arrangements, which are not covered in the LETS/Streams specifications.

Based on this and other comments from the MARS PTF, and further review and discussions at the Blockchain Platform-level Special Interest Group (PSIG), the IOTA Streams team will be making additional updates to the Streams specification (that is the internal IOTA documentation) and the OMG LETS RFP Revised Submission specification that is derived from this.

The OMG submission also included more details on how the Keccak sponge function works and how it is used in Streams, since our use of that Keccak standard is innovative in a couple of different ways. Similarly explanatory material is to be added for other aspects of the standard to complete the specification. This will include more detailed descriptions of how and why the various features of the Streams sponge-based logical design are used to achieve the functionality described in the conceptual CIM part of the specification – for example how to subscribe to message streams, how to sign and encrypt messages, and so on.

Other updates being made by the IOTA Streams team include defining the various field structures at a more logical level and writing detailed descriptions of each aspect of the sponge-based logical design including how these meet the requirements for linking, branching, encryption and so on in the conceptual model.

Disposable Self-sovereign Identity

The OMG's Blockchain PSIG completed an RFI on the potential for disposable or context-specific self-sovereign identity in September. At the December meeting, we reviewed the potential for defining one or more RFPs based on our findings.

The responses to the RFI suggested topics for up to three possible RFPs:

  • Context: how to formalize the context in which a temporary SSI is minted and disposed of
  • Object: potential standardization of how the disposable/contextual aspects of an SSI are structured within a W3C DID or VC document structure
  • State: how the end-user interactions are defined

While these are separate aspects of the problem space, the group concluded that the optimum path was to draft an RFP that combined all three aspects of the Disposable SSI proposition in one specification.

This RFP will be drafted during Q1 of 2022, with a review of the draft in March and potential issuance of the RFP in either March or June. Any OMG member firm may respond to that RFP and we expect that the IOTA Identify team will submit a response to this.

Smart Contracts RFI

The OMG Blockchain PSIG has been working on an RFI on smart contracts for some time. Part of this has been gathering new knowledge about this fast-changing area.

We anticipate that the IOTA Foundation will be one of the parties responding to the RFI. We have already incorporated early feedback from IOTA into the overall RFI.

At this meeting, the Smart Contracts RFI was re-scoped to address a narrower and more specific aspect of smart contracts, namely how smart contract code can be generated consistently across different programming languages and platforms, for better interoperability, in a similar way to how IOTA currently does this. The aim of an RFI is to identify the potential for a future OMG RFP and this would be a very specific and we believe valuable RFP. The working title of that RFP would be something like 'Pattern Language for Smart Contracts'.

This new RFI/RFP scope is a very good fit for IOTA's modular and interoperable approach to smart contracts. It is hoped that the Foundation can get closely involved with this standardization initiative as a means to formalize what is already a very strong interoperability proposition.

Distributed Immutable Data Objects (DIDO)

The Blockchain PSIG also considers a broader category of systems, known as Distributed Immutable Data Objects (DIDO), which includes blockchains, other DLTs like the IOTA Tangle, and more general categories such as InterPlanetary File System (IPFS). The DIDO work includes identifying applicable standards for use in these ecosystems, and the definition of test environments, object models, command-line interfaces, and so on. This work includes automated testing, for example being able to set up a closed network of IOTA Wasp and IRI nodes to run automated tests.

The DIDO discussions this time around focused on techniques for visualization of DLT networks and ledger structures.

Finance: Currency etc.

Elsewhere at the OMG, the Finance Domain Task Force (FDTF) has continued work on a kind of concept model for the concepts around money and currency. This uses ontological techniques, for example distinguishing between that which can be used as a means of exchange or store of value (including community tokens, gold coins, even cigarettes) in specific contexts, and that which is designed and built explicitly to perform this function i.e. money issued by central banks. Within this conceptual framework, we hope to then be able to provide more accurate definitions of the precise semantics of different kinds of crypto-currency, including for use by other groups in the OMG who are looking at Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC), which may include but are not limited to cryptographic digital currencies.

This work is ongoing and we hope will be useful to OMG members both in crypto and in finance. For example, new regulations are often drafted by government bodies which can be at odds with whether a given kind of crypto asset is deemed to be a currency, a commodity or a security. This is an area where the words used (e.g. 'currency', 'asset') are not the best guide to the meanings. Having a clear set of definitions of the meanings of things both in the crypto universe and the wider financial world will help both with drafting and with conformance to regulations in this space.

IOTA RFC Process

The IOTA Foundation's own RFC process, the Tangle Improvement Process (TIP), is being updated to make it simpler and more accessible for members of the community to propose and track proposals for improvements to the overall IOTA protocol.


December marked a significant milestone for IOTA in our standards journey, as we submitted our first substantive standards proposal to the OMG. Our relationship with the OMG has proved invaluable in helping us get our written specifications up to the standard required for international standards bodies. As part of our overall OMG membership relationship, we continue to drive the agenda for standardization in distributed ledgers, with ongoing work on smart contracts, self-sovereign identity and DLT interoperability, and we anticipate that this will have a direct effect on IOTA products, interoperability and adoption. Our commitment to standards remains a key differentiator when proposing IOTA for use in industry and transnational initiatives.

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Mike Bennett

Mike is the Standards Liaison for IOTA, working with the Object Management Group (OMG) and other standards bodies. Chair of OMG Blockchain SIG and Finance Domain Task Force.

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