Smart Homes, Microsoft and the Networks Beyond

    The smart home market is important for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is the value of the sector: Linking home health, office, entertainment, environment and appliances in an intelligent network will be a money machine. Perhaps even more importantly, smart homes and smart cities undoubtedly seek to use standards and technology that are related. Thus, companies that control the home have a leg up on towns and cities, which represent an even bigger prize.

    The two should be thought of as separate but related endeavors. It’s interesting to note, for instance, that Verizon, which of course has feet in both the home and the telecom network, has introduced a service to help consumers with their connected devices.

    It, therefore, makes sense that companies are trying to move into your home. And mine. And everyone else’s. Microsoft, which of course already is in most homes, is seen as a beneficiary of an agreement between the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and the Thread Group that is designed to simplify the interconnection of smart home and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This, according to ITWorld, will increase Microsoft’s influence:

    Microsoft’s plan is to integrate OCF protocols — which are due to be released in 2017 — into Windows 10. The integration will ultimately bring the Thread Group protocols and network transports to Windows 10.

    There is a lot of money on the table and a lot of powerful companies, in addition to Microsoft, vying for it. The Thread Group uses technology developed by Nest Labs, which is owned by Google owner Alphabet. ReadWrite points out that OFC and Thread work at different levels of the stack necessary for smart home networks. Companies in both groups include Samsung and Qualcomm. Thread competes with other IoT consortia, including the ZigBee Alliance and Bluetooth.

    Home networking is a complex area because there are so many companies and unique agendas. It will be a long time before winners and losers emerge. Some companies therefore are hedging their bets. For instance, Nortek Security & Control, which is in the smart home, security and wellness markets, last month joined the ZigBee Alliance. It already has membership in the OFC and Thread Group.

    The IoT and smart home technology are deeply related. It will be hard to realize the full vision of the smart home without the IoT. The IoT, in turn, will not reach its full potential without a significant presence in the home. They are, however, different. The ways in which consortia and the companies that comprise them create seamless interoperability will go a long way toward determining the winners, both in the home and the towns and cities outside the front door.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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