Earlier this week, I wrote that the major problem with the Internet of Things (IoT) is that it was mostly done as the “Internet of Thing” not the Internet of Things, as was promised. After I posted that, I was briefed by a company called Stringify, which actually has a fix to this problem. I’ll be pretty surprised if it isn't either partnered with or bought outright to create a competitive advantage for either a consumer- or business-focused solution.
What I argued earlier was that the world needed something that connected the dots, kind of like a Rosetta Stone, but for IoT devices. That’s what Stringify is.
Because, currently, many connected devices don’t communicate, what is needed to achieve the promise of the IoT is some kind of fast translation and easy scripting application. With this, you can then have users create programs that execute relatively complex commands, given identified conditions, and get these unintegrated products to integrate.
That is what Stringify does. Currently, the app connects over 600 devices in a way where they can be scripted, and the result, from a blend of manufacturers, actually works as a solution. Now, the downside to this approach is that if the vendor changes its protocol, the script may not function. But Stringify uses a relatively simple coding base, which allows it to adapt to changes like this far more quickly than others in this segment. Fortunately, because there are increasing dependencies between connected devices from the same vendor, Stringify is heavily motivated to not change APIs often because that breaks its own stuff, as well.
The business/enterprise and consumer space are very different. At least the consumer companies seem to get that they need to work with products like Amazon Echo, so they’re opening up their interfaces. Firms that build HVAC, electrical switches and elevators are still mostly locked into the idea that interoperation opens them up to account infringement. And that lock-in is still a brilliant strategy.
However, large companies and governments can often, and do, build into bids a requirement that interfaces, even proprietary ones, be opened up in order to at least enable future integration into a smart building solution. Technology firms like IBM have been particularly successful in this regard and often perform the role of kingmaker in bids because of their own smart building and smart city efforts.
The end result is that, while not as convenient as many consumer solutions, you can still get to the control interfaces of most current generation automated systems. That means a tool like Stringify, which can be made to rapidly connect to these diverse systems, is a viable solution. Granted, it may mean you have to contract with the company to create the interface, but the cost should be relatively trivial to that of having to do it yourself. And you should have access to prior integration efforts.
Because Stringify isn’t connected to any hardware vendor, it could make an ideal partner. Given its size and value, I wonder how long it will be before someone gobbles it up. It’s pulling a lot of ink and awards at the moment because it fills a critical need that vendors are quickly coming around to understanding. Unless you can connect to other things, your Internet thing won’t sell well or at all.
But as long as Stringify remains independent, it makes a good partner for creating diverse solutions that span platforms. And that is actually what most IoT solutions lack. So Stringify makes both a good reference for what must be created to make a viable IoT solution and, at least for now, a good partner for a vendor that doesn’t want to take the risk or incur the cost of creating interoperation from scratch.
There are other vendors in this class of offering including IFTTT, Muzzley and Yonomi but, while some are older, I have yet to run into anyone else that has a more complete solution. And, when it comes to the concept of IoT, complete is king. Regardless of whether you use Stringify to create your IoT solution, it forms a good benchmark for where the market wants to go and how far most still need to go to realize the IoT promise. Currently, Stringify’s only working control client is IOS; Android is coming by year end, and, I expect, as it moves to the enterprise, it will find it needs to support Windows.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+.