CES, the annual love-fest of all things electronics and technology for consumers, wil hit Vegas, baby! in early January, 2016.
One thing that won’t be staying in Vegas is the debate about Internet of Things standards. There will likely be products on display that incorporate different IoT standards. Who will come out on top? Will there even be a single standard at all, or a selection of standards?
The need for a universal IoT standard is becoming more acute now that consumers are warming up to IoT-enabled devices. The lack of standards and a rush to market to get in on the predicted $1.7 trillion market by 2020 mean the weaknesses in the (lack of) system are beginning to manifest.
Big players, but confusion remains
AllSeen Alliance’s standards solution is AllJoyn, which is an open-source software framework. The group, started in 2013, is a Linux Foundation venture. More than 185 companies are members of the Alliance, including Microsoft, Phillips, Sony, and Honeywell.
OIC started in 2014, and its members also include some heavy-hitters of the tech industry, including Intel, Samsung, Dell, and IBM (and also Honeywell—good to cover all one’s bases). It hit 100 members last month. Also a Linux Foundation collaboration is the organization’s IoTivity project, its open source software framework.
There are other players trying to get standards approved. EVRYTHING is a Web-based smart product platform that recently submitted its standards proposal on Web-based connectivity to the World Wide Web Consortium. One of the founders of the company posits the benefits of Web-based standards, like ease of use, affordability, and familiarity.
There’s also Industrial Internet Consortium, which was founded last year and has some big backers, including the federal government and Google (now Alphabet); Thread, backed by Qualcomm; and probably 5 more by the time this post is published.
Remember the VHS versus Betamax conundrum? (Funnily enough, Sony only officially retired the Betamax format this week—the company will stop selling cassettes in early 2016.) Betamax was on the market a full year before VHS in 1975 and was considered by many a superior technology, but VHS was more accessible and less expensive, and it won out. VHS tapes were also much longer—one tape could hold an entire movie, so of course that format became the dominant for film rentals and locked in the market. And then everyone had a VHS player at home.
These IoT standards organizations aren’t all doing exactly the same thing, of course, but there’s overlap. The one that becomes the most adopted could be the most adaptable, flexible, inexpensive, and accessible.
But workable IoT standards aren’t just about smart doorbells, refrigerators, and lighting systems that play well together. The standard that comes out on top might be the most secure. Some think the IoT standards answer may come from a left-of-field source: the insurance industry. Cyber insurance is a growing segment of the industry that could drive standards that are security-focused as it seeks to mitigate risk.
The lack of standards is one of the biggest hurdles IoT-involved companies must overcome. But once that happens, expect the floodgate to open and IoT sales to take off.
Plenty of challenges remain as companies and consumers tap the IoT’s potential. See Contradictions Abound On The Road To The IoT.