Whether you trace the beginning of the Internet of Things (IoT) to ARPANET in 1969 or John Romkey’s toaster that turned on and off over the Internet at the October 1989 INTEROP conference or the coining of the Internet of Things term by Kevin Ashton in 1999, it’s clear that here in 2019, the IoT industry has progressed far beyond its early promise.
Today, we have voice-controlled smart-home devices, early versions of autonomous vehicles including flying taxis and even self-driving luggage and a growing range of sophisticated enterprise IoT and industrial IoT (IIoT) products. Retailers and product brands are jumping on the IoT bandwagon, and telecommunications and communications service providers are taking consumer IoT to the next level.
The new IoT trends, technologies and channels are driving tremendous excitement. Everyone wants in on the game. We’re officially neck-deep in the hype phase of IoT.
But the evolution of IoT also points to a looming problem: all these diverse sources for IoT solutions are competing to become the center of the IoT universe. Differentiating themselves from one another means settling into distinct silos. And silos are the enemy of IoT adoption. After all, the user expectation is that IoT is one single, interconnected and all-encompassing experience with every connected device connected to every other connected device. It’s not an unreasonable expectation, given the promises made about seamless IoT operations.
The Gap Between Integrated Solutions and a Single Internet of Things
Let’s take a look at what’s happening in the consumer IoT world. For example, service providers are investing heavily to offer consumers more integrated and turnkey smart home solutions.
But even within the service-provider ranks, there’s confusion and disagreement about what technologies and protocols to deploy for their connected home offerings. Should they rely on WiFi, which most modern homes have already installed? Or should they turn to cellular channels, which offer greater range and can work where Wi-Fi signals can’t reach? And what’s their stance toward the whole panoply of wireless communications options, from Bluetooth and Zigbee to various low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) protocols?
Beyond the communications domain, what about support for the protocols controlling device identification and discovery, data transmission and device management? Which multi-layer frameworks (e.g., Apple HomeKit, Alljoyn, IoTivity, Weave, Thread) should any particular turnkey smart home solution support if any?
These considerations don’t even touch on how to handle technologies and protocols that have yet to be invented and launched to the marketplace.
Clearly, there’s a pretty wide chasm separating the dream of a seamless, interconnected IoT and the reality of today’s silos and incompatibilities.
How an Agnostic, Platform-Based Approach Can Help
One way that IoT could achieve that seamless interconnectivity is through universal agreement on a single set of standards that every manufacturer, service provider and retailer would adhere to. Given the inherent fragmentation and competitiveness in IoT, that’s an essentially impossible goal.
Instead, the path to a seamless IoT future lies at the IoT platform level. Imagine a comprehensive IoT platform traversing the entire IoT ecosystem, one that supports not only all the currently important standards and protocols but also commits to incorporating future technologies as they arise. Such a comprehensive platform would handle the fundamental, horizontal IoT functionality that all connected solutions require, such as security, connectivity, data capture, privacy, firmware updates and device onboarding and management.
Connecting to the IoT platform means that any company designing, manufacturing, delivering, managing or maintaining connected solutions could focus on differentiating their own offerings, rather than on agonizing over protocol, chipset and compatibility decisions that will inevitably fail to result in a comprehensive, seamless connected experience for users.
Fortunately, IoT platforms are already here and ready to help organizations across the chasm to seamless IoT.