It’s On: The IoT Standards Games

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

How the Internet of Things Will Change Our Lives

Standards battles inevitable emerge whenever there’s new technology.

Recent tech headlines suggest the Internet of Things (IoT) standards games began in earnest this month. Unlike past technologies, the IoT is attracting contenders from Internet giants such as Google and Cisco; technology kingpins such as Microsoft, IBM and Apple; and telecommunication and appliances behemoths such as AT&T, GE and Philips.

When it comes to battling standards, you ideally want an open standard that will support interoperability so that you can easily share data from your thermostat with your router.


That’s the ideal. The reality can be much less efficient and brutal. As Jason Bloomberg recently wrote at Intellyx:

“Don’t be fooled. Sure, all the IoT techies may be talking about open standards, in the hopes that all my doohickeys can seamlessly interoperate with all of your gewgaws. But open standards are nothing more than big sticks for beating weaker ecosystems into submission – and that turns us, the poor consumer, into collateral damage.”

It will come, but despite a host of headlines such as, “Comment: IoT could be killed by too many standards,” I’m not quite sure we’re there yet.

CBR has the best summary of the IoT emerging six standards. But upon reading through the list, it seems like the approaches are so different at this point, it’s hard to even say they're competing.

Thread has captured a ton of attention, probably because Google’s Nest Labs developed it along with ARM and Samsung. It uses existing standards, which is always a good start to any standards problem, but it’s designed to use a low-power mesh network rather than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, according to PC World. It operates on the 2.4GHz unlicensed spectrum.

It’s not hard to see the appeal of putting your appliances and security system on different networks—especially for those of us already taxing our Wi-Fi connections.

AllJoyn is being developed by the AllSeen Alliance, which includes Cisco, Microsoft, LG and HTC, among others. It leverages open source protocol for mobile developed by Qualcomm, but turned over to the Linux Foundation last year, according to ComputerWorld. The group is targeting the standard for manufacturers who want to create custom apps and deploy over Wi-Fi.

I can see how those standards would compete, since they deal with connectivity — although I’m not sure why a device couldn’t support both, because it seems like each has its place.

Other standards listed as “competing” don’t seem to be playing in the same game at all. As I shared in a prior post, HyperCat is a thin interoperability layer that supports sharing the data between devices. I would think sharing the data is even more important than how the device connects to the Internet, but what do I know?

The bottom line: These standards are in the early stages of development. I’m not seeing a lot of discussion yet about the pros and cons of each. But give it time. Like taxes and death, it will come, or, as Re/Code's Ina Fried put it, “If this works out at all like past format wars, heavyweights will line up behind each different approach and issue lots of announcements about how much momentum theirs are getting.”

Until then, for those battling in the standards games, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”



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